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Football | FA Cup

Pablo Zabaleta © Gallo Images

City aim to avoid more misery in Cup



Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta insists his side are determined to avoid becoming the latest high-profile victims of the FA Cup's giant-killing tradition when they face Leeds in the fifth round.

This season's competition has already provided a host of memorable moments with several members of the Premier League's elite suffering shock defeats against lower league opposition.

While the Cup is now regarded by many in the Premier League as something of an inconvenience, it remains a beacon of hope for those outside the lucrative top-flight and Liverpool, Tottenham, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Norwich and QPR have all fallen prey to an uprising from the underdogs this season.

Only seven Premier League teams made it out of the fourth round last month and there are several opportunities for more upsets this weekend.

English champions City look especially vulnerable as they prepare to host Championship club Leeds, winners against Tottenham in the last round, on Sunday.

City's 3-1 defeat at Southampton last weekend left Roberto Mancini's out-of-form side 12 points behind leaders Manchester United in the Premier League title race.

Yet Zabaleta claims the spirit in the camp is still very positive.

"We will learn from the Southampton defeat and use the deflated feeling we had afterwards as an inspiration to maybe try and re-discover the sort of spirit we had last season," Zabaleta said.

"We need to stand together, battle and show what we are really capable of. We will aim and get back to winning ways in the FA Cup and that is our immediate focus now."

Arsenal will also have to be on their guard against Championship side Blackburn.

Arsene Wenger's side have already bowed out of the League Cup against League Two side Bradford this season and, with a Champions League tie against Bayern Munich looming on Tuesday, the Gunners could be distracted.

Wenger's players would do well to heed the words of the club's German defender Per Mertesacker, who cautioned against looking ahead to the Bayern clash.

"Bayern are doing superb this year and that is a big challenge for us," Mertesacker said.

"But we still have an important cup game on Saturday. We absolutely want to advance in the FA Cup and that is why the preparations for Bayern are not that intense yet."

After beating Liverpool in the fourth round, League One strugglers Oldham will aim to complete a rare Merseyside giant-killing double at home to Everton.

Leighton Baines, Everton's England left-back, concedes his team can't afford to be below par against opponents who will be fired up to claim another scalp.

"We saw what a tough game they gave to Liverpool in the last round," Baines said.

"We played them ourselves a few seasons back and they beat us, so we know what those cup ties are all about. It's just about getting through."

Luton, seventh in the fifth-tier National Conference, are also looking to cause another shock after becoming the first non-league side to beat a top-flight team in the FA Cup since Sutton in 1989.

Only six other teams from outside England's Football League have made it this far in the competition since the Second World War and the Hatters host Millwall on Saturday knowing a win over the second-tier side would make them the first non-league outfit to reach the quarter-finals in 99 years.

With Millwall's last FA Cup trip to Luton in 1985 ending in an infamous riot that saw visiting fans ransack Kenilworth Road, both clubs will hope the focus remains on the pitch.

"I think we've moved on as a society, let alone moved on in football," Luton chief executive Gary Sweet said.

Saturday

Arsenal v Blackburn
Luton v Millwall
Milton Keynes Dons v Barnsley
Oldham v Everton

Sunday

Manchester City v Leeds
Huddersfield v Wigan

4th rd replay

Chelsea v Brentford

Monday

Manchester Utd v Reading

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