'Cup tie will help us to stay focused'

Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger

The do-or-die nature of the FA Cup will help focus Arsenal minds this weekend, according to Arsene Wenger.

Blackburn Rovers' visit to Emirates Stadium for Saturday's fifth-round tie will be closely followed by the first leg of an eagerly-anticipated Champions League encounter with Bayern Munich.

The prestige of Arsenal's midweek game could be seen as a distraction from the immediate task and that's why Wenger believes a knockout game is welcome this weekend.

"It's less difficult [to stay focused] if you play a cup game than if you play a championship game," he said.

"If you play a cup game you know if you win you are through. But if you play a championship game it's just the usual thing and you could already have your mind on Tuesday night. I don't think in a cup game it pays a big part in it.

"There is an opportunity there - if we go through we are in the quarter-finals and the players don't want to miss that"

Arsene Wenger

"The players are focused on Blackburn completely. They know as well there is an opportunity there - if we go through we are in the quarter-finals and they don't want to miss that."

Wenger accepts that the Premier League title is beyond his team this season but he is convinced that they can juggle their quest a top-four finish with the desire to win a trophy or two.

"I think the important thing is to focus on the two," he said. "To be in the Champions League every year is vital for us.

"It's Bayern, I believe we have a chance to beat them and we have to take it. We want to be at our best. When we went to Real Madrid a few years ago they had Zidane, Beckham, Raul, Guti and we beat them over there in Madrid. We were fourth or fifth in the league so it's just down to us to believe we can do it."

Arsenal's regular appearances at the business end of competitions mean that their fixtures invariably pile up from February onwards. It didn't work out for them in 2011 when a Carling Cup final defeat to Birmingham was followed quickly by FA Cup and Champions League exits.

"Yes, but we were a bit unlucky," reflected Wenger. "Before the Carling Cup final we had to play against Stoke, they cancelled the game between Everton and Birmingham on the same night.

"We lost two players on the night, Walcott and Fabregas, who could not play in the final. After that we went to Barcelona where we were unlucky again because we lost Van Persie [to a red card].

"Three days later we played at Manchester United in the FA Cup. Nobody complained that we played Wednesday night in Barcelona and Saturday afternoon in Manchester at the time. We had all that to do in 12 days. When you see that Manchester United played at Real Madrid but they play on Monday night against Reading, it's not the same."


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