Liverpool lie in wait to stop Arsenal hat-trick

Last team to stop Gunners lifting trophy can earn chance to stop record-equalling third consecutive final
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The Independent Football

Arsenal will visit either Liverpool or Portsmouth in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup next month as they seek a record-equalling third successive win in the tournament.

Yesterday's sixth-round draw, which saw Manchester United handed a home tie against Fulham or West Ham and an all-Nationwide League pairing of Millwall and Tranmere, also introduced a new dimension to the concept of FA Cup romance. Karren Brady, the managing director of Birmingham, could see her club pitted against Sheffield United, for whom her husband, Paul Peschisolido, plays as a striker. Birmingham need to overcome Sunderland in their fifth-round replay to confirm that particular love match.

"I hope it's not Birmingham," Peschisolido had said before the draw. "I can't stand the thought of being asked loads of stupid questions about it by the press." His manager, Neil Warnock, acted swiftly to ensure that scenario will not unfold. "I'll be telling Paul he won't be doing any interviews," Warnock said after the draw. "We will be banning him from doing them because every Tom, Dick and Harry will be trying to get hold of him and we want him focused on the match."

Dennis Bergkamp insisted that focus will not be a problem whoever Arsenal play. The winners of Liverpool's fifth-round replay with Portsmouth next week will be Arsenal's fourth consecutive Premiership opponents in the Cup this season. The holders have already eliminated Leeds, Middlesbrough and Chelsea.

"Whichever team we play in the next round, we've got the confidence to go on," Bergkamp said. "It would have been nice to have another home game but having beaten three Premiership teams in a row already, that shows we're performing at a high standard. With these draws, nobody could then say we didn't deserve it if we went on to win the competition."

Arsenal are used to navigating tough routes to victory, having overcome Manchester United, Chelsea and Southampton on the way to last season's success. Liverpool, Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Chelsea fell victim to them the previous year.

Liverpool were the last team to beat Arsenal in the competition when they came from behind to win 2-1 in the 2001 final in Cardiff. Arsenal have won the Cup twice since and have now gone 17 matches without defeat in the competition. The Gunners are aiming to become the first team since Blackburn Rovers in the 1880s to lift the Cup in three successive years and the first in history to appear in four successive finals.

They have had 15 previous Cup meetings with Liverpool, winning six, including in the finals of 1950 and 1971. Their last meeting was in the fourth round in 2002 when Arsenal won 1-0 at Highbury thanks to a Bergkamp goal. Bergkamp was later sent off, as were his team-mate Martin Keown and Liverpool's Jamie Carragher, who became embroiled in the infamous "coin gate" saga for returning a hurled £1 coin into the crowd during the game.

FA CUP SIXTH ROUND DRAW
Millwall v Tranmere Rovers
Manchester United v Fulham or West Ham United
Sunderland or Birmingham City v Sheffield United
Liverpool or Portsmouth v Arsenal

Ties to be played on 6 and 7 March.

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