After beating Manchester United in the last round - albeit a somewhat different Manchester United side compared with the one likely to face Manchester City today - it is difficult to believe there will not be some West Bromwich Albion players casting the odd thought ahead to next Tuesday's Carling Cup quarter-final against Arsenal when the Baggies take on Crewe today.
Gary Megson, of course, has warned that the excuse of distraction will not be a valid argument should any of his side fail to perform. Albion are four points clear at the top of the First Division and their manager is anxious that the cushion be seen as a launch pad, not something to fall back on.
Indeed, he has said that anyone thinking of keeping something in reserve against Dario Gradi's side is unlikely to retain his place. "The players all know me well enough that if any was coasting with an eye on Arsenal then they wouldn't be playing," Megson warned. "It is nice to get results in the Cup but the most important results are those in the League. The four-point gap at the top has to be used as a springboard, not as a safety net."
Albion were unconvincing winners at Bradford on Tuesday and their League form at home has been patchy, with only one game won in the last six. Moreover, Crewe arrive on the back of an impressive win at Crystal Palace, achieved with an injury-hit side.
If Crewe have the potential to dent some lofty ambitions, then perhaps so to do Bradford, whose improvement since Bryan Robson and Colin Todd took charge at Valley Parade has not been fully reflected in results. The Bantams came from behind to beat Millwall in Robson's first game in charge and have since lost by a single goal against both Walsall and West Brom.
They remain next to bottom, but that is not fooling the Wigan manager, Paul Jewell, who comes up against his former club for the first time since his resignation three years ago. Wigan, without a win in five matches, have slipped out of the top six and Jewell sees a threat from Bradford. "They still have enough good players to turn it round and having Bryan and Colin there will give them a boost," he said.
Rumours that Wigan are prepared to let Geoff Horsfield go to West Brom to help finance a move for Darren Huckerby have so far come to nothing, although Huckerby is not staying at Norwich after his loan from Manchester City expires after today's game with Cardiff.
Norwich have said they cannot afford Huckerby and have instead agreed terms with the Peterborough striker Leon McKenzie in a move thought to be worth £625,000.Reuse content