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The next installment of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho’s mind games with Manchester City’s Manuel Pellegrini and Arsenal’s chance for redemption against Liverpool provide the backdrop to a mouth-watering FA Cup fifth round.
The Premier League’s top four clubs meet in the world’s oldest domestic cup competition this weekend while holders Wigan Athletic, now in the Championship, visit relegation-threatened Cardiff City on Saturday. Chelsea and Arsenal are chasing an FA Cup-Premier League-Champions League treble while City can go one better as they will also contest the Capital One Cup final against Sunderland next month.
City host Chelsea on Saturday, their second meeting inside a fortnight after Mourinho produced a tactical masterclass to end the 100 percent home league record of Pellegrini’s team this season. Mourinho, disappointed to see his side concede a late goal to draw 1-1 at West Bromwich Albion in the league on Tuesday, has been in a war of words with Pellegrini over their respective title chances, Financial Fair Play, transfers and an off-the-ball incident involving Yaya Toure.
City, who had their game with Sunderland on Wednesday called off due to bad weather, have suffered a dip in form in recent weeks. Despite being the fresher of the two sides, they will be without Brazil midfielder Fernandinho and Argentina striker Sergio Aguero against Chelsea.
Other than one outburst last week, City manager Pellegrini has tried to remain silent in the face of Mourinho’s public pronouncements although he did acknowledge “the team with the strongest mentality is the one that will win the title”.
‘Lazio player 17 not 41’
Lazio president Claudio Lotito has backed youth-team player Joseph Minala after reports questioning the Cameroonian midfielder’s declared age of 17. Lazio had threatened legal action against anyone disputing Minala’s age after African website senego.net reported that he had told them that he was 41 years old, something the player denied in a statement on the Serie A club’s website.
“Minala deserves respect as a human being, first and foremost. Everything that has been said about him is false,” Lotito said to Italian papers.
“They say he looks 40, but how can they say that? How many people have a baby face but are actually older than they seem? “And tell me how a 40-year-old could play in a Primavera (youth team) game and last the distance? The system has been poisoned by those looking to exploit creatively written news.”
FA Cup Fixtures: Manchester City v Chelsea (10.45 pm, Saturday), Arsenal v Liverpool (9.30 pm, Sunday)