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League giants look for cup salvation


LONDON Premier League heavyweights Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool will look to draw a line under a week to forget by booking their places in the FA Cup quarter-finals this weekend.

Arsenal crashed to their heaviest-ever European defeat in mid-week, a 4-0 thrashing by AC Milan that has all but extinguished the clubs chances of progressing to the last eight of the Champions League.

The Gunners must now pick themselves up from that traumatic trouncing as they prepare for a tricky trip to Sunderland, exactly one week after scrambling a last-gasp 2-1 win over the Black Cats in the league.

The celebratory mood that accompanied last weekends league win clinched by a farewell goal from Thierry Henry evaporated during the course of Wednesdays mauling at San Siro.

A downcast Arsene Wenger described the result as a disaster and voiced concern it could send Arsenals season into an irretrievable nosedive unless his players responded swiftly.

We have a big game on Saturday (today) and its an opportunity to show we have character and mental strength, and that we can respond after such a shocking defeat, Wenger said.

A big disappointment like that has consequences on your belief. We have a lot of work to regroup and not a lot of time to prepare for Saturdays (todays) game. We need to show something completely different on Saturday (today).

Chelsea, meanwhile, face a potentially awkward home tie against Birmingham City today, with manager Andre Villas-Boas struggling to maintain control of his squad after last weekends 2-0 league reverse at Everton.

Villas-Boas reportedly faced an open revolt during a training ground bust-up last Sunday, when Chelsea players were ordered to report for work on their day off as punishment for the performance at Goodison Park.

With billionaire Russian owner Roman Abramovich looking on, several senior Chelsea players are reported to have challenged Villas-Boas over his team selections, tactics and inability to respond to pressure.

Villas-Boas admitted this week there had been a difference of opinion, but denied strong words had been exchanged.

That is normal, Villas-Boas said. They dont have to back my project. Its the owner who backs my project.

Liverpool will aim to move on from last weekends Luis Suarez controversy when they entertain Championship (second tier) side Brighton at Anfield tomorrow.

In the other tie this weekend, Stevenage Borough will aim to pull off the shock of the round when they entertain high-flying Tottenham Hotspur tomorrow.

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