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Top-flight top four set to meet in FA Cup fifth-round combat

By RupertMetcalf  |  Posted: January 26, 2014

Chelsea's Oscar celebrates his decisive goal against Stoke City. Picture: PA

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The Premier League’s top four will all face off in the fifth round of the FA Cup, with Manchester City hosting Chelsea and Arsenal taking on Liverpool.

Manuel Pellegrini’s City, winners in 2011 and runners-up to Wigan Athletic last year, recovered from two goals down to beat Watford in the fourth round on Saturday and will meet Chelsea, following the Blues’ slender 1-0 victory over Stoke City on Sunday.

Ten-time winners Arsenal are currently out in front in the Premier League and tackle Brendan Rodgers’ ambitious Liverpool, after the top-flight sides ousted Coventry City and Bournemouth respectively.

Holders Wigan produced the shock of the fourth round by beating Crystal Palace 2-1 and next face Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Cardiff City in a match set to take place on the weekend of February 15-16.

The two lowest-ranking teams remaining in the competition, Sheffield United and Preston North End of League One, could face each other in the quarter-finals if they can get through respective replays against Fulham and Nottingham Forest.

The Blades held Fulham to a 1-1 draw and go to Craven Cottage on February 4 while Preston invite Nottingham Forest to Deepdale for a decider following Friday night’s stalemate.

Two remaining all-Premier League clashes will see Sunderland – fourth-round victors over non-League side Kidderminster Harriers – entertain Southampton and 1995 winners Everton tackle Swansea City at Goodison Park.

Hull City’s victory over Southend United earned them a return trip south, this time to Brighton and Hove Albion, while two Championship sides will go head-to-head at Hillsborough as Sheffield Wednesday host Charlton Athletic.

In yesterday's fourth-round action, Oscar, Jose Mourinho’s 'chosen one', struck a match-winning free-kick as Chelsea celebrated a 1-0 victory over Stoke on their manager’s 51st birthday.

Mourinho’s preferred number ten, the man he chose for the role ahead of the now-departed Juan Mata, fired Chelsea ahead with a delightful 28th-minute set-piece and hit a post before Andre Schurrle also hit the woodwork.

Chelsea struggled to finish off a stubborn Stoke side, despite the efforts of Oscar and Eden Hazard, and Samuel Eto’o spooned a glorious chance wide after Hazard’s direct run and cross.

The slender advantage did not ease Mourinho’s concern, with the Portuguese wary of the December Barclays Premier League clash at Stoke, when Oussama Assaidi scored a last-gasp winner for the Potters.

But on this occasion Chelsea held on to take their place in the fifth round of the Cup, a trophy they have won in four of the last seven attempts, including in 2007 under Mourinho.

Hugo Rodallega spared Fulham’s blushes as the Premier League strugglers narrowly averted a humbling Cup exit at the hands of ten-man Sheffield United.

The Cottagers' boss, Rene Meulensteen, made his priorities clear with 11 changes for the game but he would still have hoped for better than a laboured 1-1 draw against a side who are not yet safe in League One.

On a sodden Bramall Lane pitch that made life hard on all concerned, the Blades went ahead through Chris Porter’s 31st-minute finish and looked likely to hold on even after Michael Doyle’s needless red card eight minutes into the second half. But Rodallega’s fourth of the season forced a replay, the Colombian drilling home from the edge of the area in the 75th minute.

Both sides were denied penalties, Rodallega and Ryan Flynn both apparently fouled in the area only for referee Andre Marriner to wave play on each time.

Fulham might have saved themselves a replay in the closing stages as Philippe Senderos headed against the crossbar and Darren Bent flashed wide from a yard, but the Blades were well worth a second chance.

FA Cup fifth-round draw: Manchester City v Chelsea, Sheffield United or Fulham v Nottingham Forest or Preston North End, Arsenal v Liverpool, Brighton & Hove Albion v Hull City, Cardiff City v Wigan Athletic, Sheffield Wednesday v Charlton Athletic, Sunderland v Southampton, Everton v Swansea City. (Ties to be played on the weekend of February 15-16).

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