London – A wounded Arsenal will be looking to the FA Cup for redemption this weekend as the 16 remaining teams bid for a place in the last eight.
Arsene Wenger's side travel to Sunderland under growing pressure to salvage something from the season after their midweek 4-0 humbling away to AC Milan in the Champions League.
The Frenchman admitted that their result in Milan means their European hopes are out and though they are chasing a place in next season's competition through the league, they are in a four-way fight for fourth spot.
Wenger described the defeat in Milan as his side's worst-ever European performance and he will have to lift his team for a tricky match at Sunderland.
“We have to keep fighting, pick ourselves up, get the confidence back and challenge in the other competitions,” goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny said.
With Thierry Henry having completed his loan spell from Major League Soccer in the United States, Wenger will hope that Gervinho is fit to play having just returned from the Africa Cup of Nations.
Sunderland have been a side transformed since the arrival of Martin O'Neill as manager in December, climbing into the top half of the league.
The one good omen for Arsenal, though, could be last weekend's win at the Stadium of Light when they came from behind to clinch a last-minute victory.
But Sunderland midfielder Sebastian Larsson said the hosts were determined not to miss a second chance.
“It was a game we shouldn't have lost, but we did, so we need to pick ourselves up and make sure we beat them in the FA Cup,” he said.
“Hopefully they will be a bit more tired next week than we are.”
While Arsenal's fortunes have ebbed and flowed, their north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur have been going from strength to strength.
Last weekend's 5-0 hammering of Newcastle was one of their best performances of the season and even the talk that their manager Harry Redknapp could be the next man in charge at England has not knocked them out of their stride.
As they prepare to travel to League One side Stevenage on Saturday, defender Michael Dawson hailed the work of Redknapp.
“He has lifted everyone, so of course the fans are going to be happy when we are putting on performances like we did on Saturday and when they see where we are in the league table,” Dawson said.
Chelsea, the most successful side in the competition over the past decade, will be favoured to beat Birmingham at Stamford Bridge while Liverpool host Brighton, having knocked out Manchester United in the previous round.
Liverpool's Jamie Carragher said the Premier League side will be wary of going out to a side who pushed them hard when they met in the Carling Cup earlier this season.
But the defender said beating Brighton was imperative if they are to maintain their momentum, especially with the Carling Cup final to come next weekend.
“We've had some bad results against lower league opposition, but that's what makes the FA Cup what it is,” he said. “That's why it's so special when you do win it because you realise the pitfalls along the way.
“It would be disappointing if we were to go out having knocked Manchester United out of the last round. It's a massive game for us and if we win we'll be into the quarter-finals, and if you do well there then you're at Wembley. It certainly keeps the season going.”
League Two side Crawley will be out to continue their dream run by knocking out a faltering Stoke City side while Everton host Blackpool at Goodison.
Millwall entertain Bolton and Norwich City host Leicester City in the other two last-16 matches. – Sapa-dpa