Pep Guardiola refuses to take any credit for lower division sides playing in the style of his all-conquering Manchester City team.

A greater number of clubs beneath the Premier League are now looking to play out from the back, dominate possession and pass their way through opponents in the manner at which City have excelled.

That could be testament to Guardiola’s extraordinary success in his near-eight years at the Etihad Stadium, but it is not something he is aware of.

“I don’t have time to see other teams,” said Guardiola, whose treble-winning side begin their FA Cup defence against Championship outfit Huddersfield at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

“Always I believe teams play what the manager believes in, first for the players they have and they adapt.

“If one team plays high pressing it is because the manager believes in that, if a team play long balls it is because the manager believes in that. This is the most important thing but I don’t know.

“I have watched Leicester a little bit because in their last game they played Huddersfield and because (former assistant) Enzo (Maresca) is there, and I am curious and happy for how incredible he’s doing but, the rest, I don’t have time.”

Guardiola intends to make the most of City’s lighter schedule this month by getting through extra work on the training field, including at a warm-weather camp in Abu Dhabi.

After playing nine games in December, including two in Saudi Arabia for the Club World Cup, City have just three fixtures in January, although that will increase to four if they beat the Terriers in their third-round tie.

Guardiola said: “The Premier League took a great decision to make Boxing Day and Christmastime intense, like it always has been, and then to take a break in January.

“It helps a lot to arrive in February fresh mentally. It’s good now to have the FA Cup, to try to retain the title or go as far as possible, and after that we have a really important game at Newcastle.

“Then after that two weeks to refresh our minds. We will have more time to train in Abu Dhabi, to remember things that you cannot do normally.

“You have to try to do things you don’t have time to do in the busy schedule. We can refresh concepts we maybe forgot because we don’t have time to train.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admits he cannot afford to take too many risks with his team selection for the FA Cup third round tie at Arsenal.

Even though his side are already just two matches away from Wembley with a Carabao Cup semi-final first-leg at home to Fulham on Wednesday the Reds boss said he could not make huge changes against the Gunners.

Three will be enforced with forward Mohamed Salah and Wataru Endo at the African Nations Cup and Asian Cup respectively while fellow midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai has been ruled out for at least two matches with a hamstring problem.

The return of Alexis Mac Allister, out for a month with a knee injury, and Ryan Gravenberch are likely to fill the gaps in the middle of the pitch but the troublesome spot is Salah’s right-wing berth.

Harvey Elliott played there in the League Cup quarter-final with West Ham and the 19-year-old Kaide Gordon did the job in the Europa League defeat to Union Saint Gilloise but it seems unlikely the teenager will be pitched straight in at the Emirates.

“If you bring a boy who didn’t play for five or six weeks, it’s very rare he can play to his best. That’s why so far I think we did that quite well,” said Klopp of his rotation policy this season.

“But actually I am not sure if Arsenal is now a game to rotate. I don’t know 100 percent if we have the opportunity to do so to be honest.

“We have players available and we can line a good team up. If that looks then afterwards like rotation, I don’t know yet.

“We’ve had six days between the games (since Newcastle on New Year’s Day) and there’s no need for rotation.

“You can say, ‘OK, three days later we have another game’. Yes, that’s true, but we can think about that when the other game is over. That’s what we do usually.

“And both have the same importance, there is nothing in between. We want to win these games, we want to go to the final but we want to go to the next round as well but it is probably the most tricky draw you can get.”

Liverpool recalled Owen Beck, nephew of all-time top goalscorer Ian Rush, from a loan spell at Dundee as both left-backs Andy Robertson and Kostas Tsimikas are injured, although the former is expected to be back by the end of the month.

The 21-year-old cannot feature against Arsenal due to an existing Scottish League Cup ban but should help to give Joe Gomez, standing in at left-back a break, with Klopp saying: “In Dundee he made big steps, and now the situation here is clear: we lose two of our left-backs so we think it makes sense if a boy we like is available for us.”

While December was busy Liverpool could have seven matches this month if they progress on Sunday.

And the nightmare scenario would be a draw which forces a replay and interrupts what should be the weekend of their scheduled Premier League break.

“I think a rematch against Arsenal would really not be helpful because it just doesn’t fit in, would kill the winter break,” added Klopp.

“We have the most busy month you can imagine in December and then some teams obviously don’t play that often in January. We don’t have that.

“For us it is a normal month: busy but not crazy busy like December where there were five games in 13 days. That just makes no sense, but that’s how it is.

“I think rhythm helps but in the end we will see that.”

Ange Postecoglou insisted Eric Dier’s absence from Tottenham’s 1-0 win over Burnley was down to injury and not linked to speculation over a potential move to Bayern Munich.

Dier was not involved as Pedro Porro’s superb 78th-minute strike sent Spurs into the FA Cup fourth-round after a hard-fought victory over the Clarets.

England international Dier was conspicuous by his absence but Postecoglou took umbrage at any suggestions it was linked to rumours over his future.

Dier has entered the final six months of his deal at Tottenham and Bayern Munich are interested in signing the versatile defender, the PA news agency understands.

While Spurs are willing to listen to offers for Dier, Postecoglou snapped back when repeatedly quizzed on the fitness of the 29-year-old.

“Yeah he’s injured,” Postecoglou said of Dier.

“He just pulled up sore and didn’t train yesterday.”

Asked if it was linked to reports regarding Bayern, Postecoglou snapped back: “Separate issue mate but don’t question my integrity.

“When I say he’s injured, he’s injured. He didn’t train yesterday.

“It’s got nothing to do with anything else.

“I’ve got no idea (about Bayern). When you ask me whether he’s injured, he’s injured. I didn’t make that up.

“If he wasn’t injured, I’d say he wasn’t selected. It’s easy for me to say. He’s injured and in terms of anything else that’s happening, not on my radar.

“Not that I’ve heard of. If there is something I’m sure I’ll hear of it, but fair to say in the last 24 hours we’ve been focusing on the game and the guys that are available.”

Spurs, who were without captain Son Heung-min due to his South Korea commitments, created plenty of chances against Burnley, but lacked fluency in attack with Brennan Johnson testing Arijanet Muric on several occasions.

The visitors also had their moments with Zeki Amdouni firing over in the first half, but a replay looked on the cards until Porro let fly from 25-yards and found the top corner with a sensational strike.

Amdouni volleyed wide late on as Tottenham held on to reach round four, but suffered a further injury blow with Ben Davies limping off.

Postecoglou was asked if he could afford to lose Dier if Davies’ injury was serious and he replied: “Yes.”

On Davies, he added: “Ben looks like he done his hamstring. So, it looks like he will be out and Gio (Lo Celso) has a bit of tightness but hoping it is nothing.”

Meanwhile, opposite number Vincent Kompany was pleased with the progress made by Burnley since their 5-2 humbling to Spurs in September.

“It was a battle for 97 minutes and right until the end,” Kompany insisted.

“For us, that is a clear sign of improvement. The game we played against Spurs at Turf Moor is probably the story of our first 10 games and the game today is probably the story of our last 12 games if I count cup games.

“Every game has been undeniably a performance with effort, moments and chances, but in key moments you can get undone.”

Marco Silva lauded “top professional” Bobby De Cordova-Reid and said he deserves his recent success after he scored the only goal during Fulham’s 1-0 win over Rotherham in the FA Cup third round.

De Cordova-Reid’s 24th-minute long-range stunner was the difference on the night and marked his second in as many games after his winner in Fulham’s 2-1 victory over Arsenal in the Premier League.

And Silva, who previously hailed De Cordova-Reid’s leadership, believes his goal will lift his confidence after he netted his fifth of the season.

Silva said: “He deserves it because he’s a top professional, he’s a vocal guy and one of the great examples we have at the club in terms of focus, able to play in any position and he’s always there.

“He deserves all the credit and he deserves these good moments and good weeks.

“It’s important for us and him because he needs these type of moments to lift his confidence and he needs the confidence to keep going in the direction we want him to be.

“Bobby has the capacity to score and tonight it was a great strike from him.”

Fulham played eight matches in December and they will also have a busy January schedule with a Carabao Cup semi-final against Liverpool coming later this month.

Silva credited his side’s effort in recent weeks and acknowledged the busy weeks ahead.

Fulham will also play west London rivals Chelsea and Everton in the Premier League.

Silva added: “It’s a great sign for us as a football club and our fans should be proud of us that we’ve started (the season) well.

“We have kept the club in all the competitions, it was a tough and busy December and we will have another tough month for us.

“It is really important for us to win tonight and not have a possible replay.”

Rotherham boss Leam Richardson believes his side, who sit bottom of the Championship, will grow after the defeat.

The Millers had little to show for their efforts on the night but came close when Jordan Hugill’s attempt was ruled out for offside.

Richardson said: “Congratulations to Fulham. We are disappointed when we lose a game but great credit goes to the players, we nullified them in many areas and had a disallowed goal so we will only grow from that as a group.”

Mauricio Pochettino said he was “over the moon” to have Diego Maradona present the day his Tottenham team beat Liverpool 4-1 in 2017 to give him his fondest memory of Wembley.

Spurs played for over a season and a half at the national stadium after White Hart Lane was demolished at the end of the 2016-17 season to make way for the club’s new ground.

On Saturday, the manager leads his current side Chelsea on the first step to a possible return when Preston visit Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup third round.

In all Pochettino managed Tottenham in 33 Premier League matches at Wembley as well as the greater part of three Champions League campaigns.

But he said it was a thumping win against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in October 2017 that gave him his finest day at the stadium.

“One of the best memories was the 4-1 victory against Liverpool,” he said. “Diego Maradona was in the dressing room before the game. I wanted to introduce the team because it was a great opportunity.

“That was a special day, we had Kobe Bryant with us as well. When you feel special people with you, with the energy and the charisma. They helped us to win the game and perform really well.

“I was over the moon. To have Maradona, to play in the way that we played, it was an amazing afternoon.”

The win against the Reds, earned via two goals from Harry Kane and one each from Dele Alli and Son Heung-min, was Spurs’ fourth in a row in the league and saw them consolidate their place in the top four.

They went on to finish third before embarking the following season on a memorable run to the Champions League final in Madrid, where Klopp’s side got revenge for their Wembley loss with a 2-0 victory.

Yet Pochettino retains a nostalgia for the stadium, in part thanks to a further meeting for himself and assistant Jesus Perez with Maradona the night after the win in 2017, where they reminisced about their brief time together playing for Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina.

“Afterwards (the next day) we had the FIFA Best awards (in London),” he said. “After the gala, (former Spurs players and Argentina international) Ossie Ardiles said ‘Diego wants a Tottenham jacket’. We asked the club and I put it in the boot of the car with the driver.

“Diego called me and said ‘where are you – come to my hotel’. I said no it’s late, tomorrow we have training. Jesus said it was his only opportunity to see Diego.

“We went to the hotel and arrived with the jacket. He said to Jesus ‘sit with me – when I was at Newel’s Old Boys, he (Pochettino) was a kid, 17 years old, he was like my slave. I asked for water, he brought me water’.

“I said Diego, it wasn’t like this,” Pochettino joked.

“It was really special. We finished at one, two o’clock talking about football. Always we are going to miss Maradona. He was the best.”

Pedro Porro’s 25-yard special helped Tottenham stumble into the FA Cup fourth round with a hard-fought 1-0 home win over Burnley.

Spurs were far from vintage and a replay at Turf Moor appeared on the cards until Ange Postecoglou watched full-back Porro make the breakthrough with a superb strike in the 78th minute.

It earned Tottenham a deserved fourth win from five matches, but Clarets boss Vincent Kompany could take positives after a solid display and they will now concentrate fully on staying in the Premier League.

Spurs had already beaten Burnley 5-2 this season, but they were missing their hat-trick hero from that sunny September day with Son Heung-min away for the Asian Cup and the visitors started brightly in north London.

Anass Zaroury blazed over early on before Wilson Odobert tested Tottenham goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario with a long-range effort.

Postecoglou had only made two changes for this third-round tie and arguably his strongest available team soon started to click into gear.

Richarlison scuffed wide after a slick move before Brennan Johnson’s curler forced Arijanet Muric into action.

The stadium was united in applause soon after when the clock struck 16 minutes as a tribute took place for Tottenham fan Harry Pitman, who was killed on New Year’s Eve.

Giovani Lo Celso hooked over at the end of a touching minute’s applause before VAR checked Rodrigo Bentancur’s tackle on Zaroury, but Spurs’ stand-in skipper avoided punishment.

Kompany’s side created their best chance with 27 minutes gone when Zaroury’s scooped pass put Zeki Amdouni through on goal but he fired over, and while the offside flag was raised, it would have counted.

Johnson did flash wide from a Porro centre before half-time, but a drab first 45 ended goalless in N17.

Tottenham were sent out early for the second half and it initially had the desired effect with Dejan Kulusevski driving over, while Lo Celso and Johnson tested Muric.

Spurs were still trying to walk the ball in, though, and groans were audible from the home fans when Kulusevski decided to pass instead of shoot from a promising position.

Lo Celso limped off moments later and Burnley also lost Charlie Taylor to a shoulder injury, which forced Kompany into a triple substitution with Nathan Redmond amongst those introduced.

Johnson had called Muric into action again by this point with a volley into the ground before the hosts had half-hearted penalty appeals waved away when the attacker went down after slight contact by Josh Brownhill.

A replay at Turf Moor seemed to loom large as the seconds ticked away, but Porro had other ideas.

Moments after Richarlison failed to get on the end of Kulusevski’s cross, Porro won back possession from Ameen Al-Dakhil and let fly from 25 yards, with his dipping effort nestling into the corner.

Tottenham substitute Ryan Sessegnon nearly put the game to bed in the 86th minute but Muric saved and Burnley’s goalkeeper almost set up a late leveller from a corner only for Amdouni to volley wide.

Gary O’Neil had no complaints with Joao Gomes’ red card at Brentford but he felt the Bees should have had two players sent off.

A rocket from Tommy Doyle kept Wolves in the FA Cup despite playing with 10 men for 81 minutes at Brentford.

They were trailing to Neal Maupay’s first-half goal when Doyle struck from 20 yards to secure a 1-1 draw.

In a niggly encounter, Gomes was given his marching orders for chopping down Bees captain Christian Norgaard.

But O’Neil pointed to a similar challenge from Mikkel Damsgaard on Doyle which went unpunished.

The Wolves boss also felt Keane Lewis-Potter should have been sent off for grabbing Nelson Semedo in a stoppage-time melee.

“Obviously I know Joao very well. It would look bad slowed down, it’s a nasty place to be kicked with the studs and I hope Norgaard is OK,” said O’Neil.

“But I know Joao has not meant for it to land like that. He’s a bit late. I’ve got no real complaints, it could have been a yellow, it could have been a red.

“But the tackle on Tommy Doyle was equally as bad, a straight leg on Tommy. And Lewis-Potter grabbing Semedo’s throat should have been a red card.

“I can’t believe VAR thought it wasn’t. Now we’ll miss one of our best midfielders for three games and one of our rivals get to keep two of theirs.”

Nevertheless, O’Neil hailed his players for battling back to secure a replay.

“I’m really pleased with performance of the players,” he added. “We played 90-odd minutes with 10 men, with the stoppage time at the end of each half.

“Away from home, going 1-0 down, it would have been easy for the players to let this one go. There was none of that. Everyone gave absolutely everything.”

Bees boss Thomas Frank felt his side had let a chance to progress at the first time of asking slip through their grasp.

“We can only blame ourselves today, there was a lack of quality all over the pitch,” he said.

“Sometimes you can’t always hit a top performance. Sometimes it’s not easy to play 11 against 10. It’s not a miracle by Wolves, although credit to them. But especially after being 1-0 we really should win the game.”

Frank had said before the match that he does not believe there should be replays in the FA Cup.

He added: “This is the worst outcome, in every aspect. I don’t understand why we have a replay.

“I simply don’t understand why no one in the football world has changed this. They need to take some more clever decisions.”

A Bobby De Cordova-Reid stunner saw Fulham beat Rotherham 1-0 in the third round of the FA Cup at Craven Cottage.

The Jamaica international capitalised on a mistake and scored his second in as many games after Sunday’s winner during Fulham’s 2-1 victory over Arsenal in the Premier League.

Victory for Marco Silva’s men has kept them in both cup competitions ahead of Fulham’s Carabao Cup semi-final clash against Liverpool later this month.

A cagey first few minutes in west London saw Andreas Pereira showcase his quick feet before his driven shot cannoned off a defender. Fulham appealed for a handball but referee Simon Hooper waved them away and a corner was given.

Rotherham had little to show for their efforts, and their low defensive line invited pressure in the 20th minute.

Fulham’s De Cordova-Reid threatened with a cross and the Cottagers’ Championship opponents were fortunate to not go a goal down from the following corner when Rodrigo Muniz’s effort was blocked.

De Cordova-Reid opened the scoring in spectacular fashion after 24 minutes.

Rotherham’s attempt to play the ball out from the back ran into trouble when Harry Wilson’s press forced a turnover and De Cordova-Reid’s long-range effort flew past Viktor Johansson into the top left corner.

A lethargic Rotherham rarely ventured into Fulham’s territory but Jordan Hugill’s offside goal from a Tom Eaves cross added to their frustrations.

Fulham nearly doubled their lead in the 42nd minute but Pereira was denied by a post.

Right-back Kenny Tete marauded forward and delivered a dangerous cross to the unmarked Pereira, who struck the ball into the ground before it cannoned off a post and into the path of Harrison Reed, whose close-range shot was deflected behind for a corner.

Fulham continued to be lively after the break. The dangerous Tete surged forward and his drilled cross caused Rotherham keeper Johansson to fumble the ball. The Swedish international’s blushes were saved when he made a stop from six yards out.

The hosts slowed the game down and dominated the ball but the game burst into life through Issa Diop after 76 minutes.

The centre-back picked up the ball and cut through Rotherham’s midfield before a neat combination with Timothy Castagne saw the towering defender’s first-time strike narrowly miss the target.

Fulham countered from a corner during five added minutes but Carlos Vinicius’ shot was saved after Willian squared it to him.

A rocket from Tommy Doyle kept Wolves in the FA Cup despite playing with 10 men for 81 minutes at Brentford.

Wanderers lost Joao Gomes to an early red card and were trailing to Neal Maupay’s first-half goal when Doyle struck from 20 yards to secure a 1-1 draw and a replay.

In a niggly encounter, Gomes was given his marching orders for chopping down Bees captain Christian Norgaard.

But Wolves could easily point to a similar challenge from Mikkel Damsgaard on Doyle which went unpunished.

Brentford were looking for a measure of revenge for the 4-1 defeat they were dealt by the same opposition in the Premier League nine days earlier.

They suffered a collective defensive meltdown in that loss and the nerves were hardly settled when goalkeeper David Strakosha, making only his third appearance of the season, passed the ball straight to Wolves forward Matheus Cunha.

The Brazilian managed to round Strakosha but ran into defender Mathias Jorgensen, who cleared the ball over his own crossbar.

Moments later Wolves found themselves a player light after Gomes caught Norgaard on the heel with his studs and was shown a straight red card by referee Tony Harrington.

It was a further injury blow for already-depleted Brentford with Denmark midfielder Norgaard unable to continue.

Former Wolves defender Nathan Collins, who was directly culpable for two of his old side’s goals in last week’s horror show, almost made amends at the right end of the pitch with a shot which curled narrowly over.

Then Bees midfielder Josh Dasilva, making his first appearance since suffering a hamstring injury in August, tested Wanderers keeper Jose Sa with a low, skidding drive before the hosts went ahead five minutes before half-time.

After Wolves failed to clear a Mathias Jensen free-kick, the ball ricocheted to the feet of Maupay who rifled it home from eight yards for his third goal of the season.

After the break Damsgaard’s shot was well blocked by Sa and Dasilva hit the side-netting before, almost out of nowhere, Wolves equalised.

A short corner was worked by Pedro Neto to Doyle on the edge of the area, with the England Under-21 midfielder taking a touch before lashing the ball left-footed into the top corner.

It was Doyle’s first goal for Wolves and he had a taste for more, only this time he cracked another drive straight into the face of Jensen, who had to go off after a concussion check.

Brentford could have won it late on but substitute Myles Peart-Harris side-footed wide and Sa saved Keane Lewis-Potter’s header from point-blank range.

A melee at the end of the match suggested these two teams are pretty sick of the sight of each other, which could at least make for a spicy replay in just over a week.

Manchester United midfielder Christian Eriksen has urged his team to “go far” in the FA Cup as they begin their campaign against Wigan.

Erik ten Hag’s side make the short trip to the DW Stadium on Monday night to face the League One outfit, who beat York 1-0 to reach the third round.

United have previously won the competition 12 times in their history and as they prepare for their first game of the new year, Eriksen is hoping the team can kick off 2024 with a win.

He told MUTV: “I heard the other day it was the oldest tournament in the world and as I said, I’ve been in England for a long time and the FA Cup has always been something special to the fans and to the players for each club in it.

“It’s definitely a good start of the year, I think we’ll take that very seriously to go through. There’ll be less games in the new year (after being eliminated from European football), it’s up to us to have a lot of better games in the league and go far in the FA Cup.”

Eriksen made his return to the United starting line-up against Aston Villa in the Premier League on Boxing Day following a spell on the sidelines with injury.

The Denmark international had been absent with a knee issue picked up in the Red Devils’ 1-0 win against Luton in November, but has managed to start their last two fixtures.

“It’s always annoying to be on the side, no matter for how long, and definitely now when it takes a little bit longer than you wish for then obviously it’s hard,” Eriksen said.

“But I was eager to come back as soon as I could, obviously it’s up to the manager to choose the team but the first aim is to be back, definitely.”

Eriksen also praised Kobbie Mainoo’s performances as the 18-year-old midfielder continues to make his mark in the United squad since making his first Premier League start against Everton in November.

He added: “I’m very impressed. Luckily I’ve seen him in training and I’ve seen him close by. I really like what I see. I mean, he’s an exceptional player.

“He’s still a very young lad but he’s doing really well and he’s getting his spot in the team.”

A Sunderland fanzine has labelled the club’s decision to decorate a Stadium of Light bar in the colours of arch-rivals Newcastle as a “real schoolboy error”.

The bitter north-east rivals meet on Wearside in the FA Cup third round on Saturday and Sunderland fans reacted furiously when images circulated on Thursday of the Black Cats Bar decked out in banners with the messages: “Keep the Black and White Flying High” and “We are United”. Sunderland’s motto “Ha’way the lads” in red was also replaced with the Geordie spelling “Howay” in black.

Sunderland swiftly apologised for “a serious error in judgment” and announced an immediate review, while chairman Kyril Louis-Dreyfus said he was “disgusted and hurt” by the “inappropriate signs”.

The PA news agency understands Newcastle were invited to submit designs for the bar in December and that they were signed off by a senior member of staff at Sunderland. It is understood the move was intended to lessen the potential for the area to be damaged by rival supporters.

The images added to already-existing tensions among Black Cats fans after season ticket holders were moved from their usual seats in the north stand to accommodate 6,000 travelling Newcastle fans.

Malcolm Dugdale, a contributor to Sunderland fanzine Roker Report, believes the club “haven’t done themselves any favours”.

He told the PA news agency: “For the fans there was the potential that this was really going to cause a hell of a lot of discord, what happened earlier this week and yesterday.

“Now that’s turned around and there’s elements coming out in the media about certain people approved it a number of weeks ago.

“The club have come out, made a couple of statements and backtracked on (the redecoration), which is the right thing to do.

“If we now get a win, I think there’s a chance a certain element of the fanbase will to a certain extent forgive and forget, but if we get spanked then this is prime ammunition for people who might not be fully behind Kyril and the ownership team to really ask some difficult questions.

“Even though it’s kind of an expectation that we might get spanked because of the difference in league positions at the minute, anything other than a really good performance and a close result, I think this could really tear that up.

“The club haven’t done themselves any favours with what’s gone on in the last 48 hours. Real schoolboy errors is the phrase that springs to mind.”

Fanzine A Love Supreme posted on X, formerly Twitter: “At a complete loss for words. What on earth are the club doing?!?!?!

“Let’s hope the players don’t roll over and let the Mags tickle their tummy like the club have.”

Sunderland released a statement on Thursday apologising to fans.

The statement read: “Sunderland AFC acknowledges that a serious error in judgment was made in relation to Black Cats Bar.

“We apologise to our fans for the understandable concern they have fairly voiced in response and this sentiment is shared by the club’s ownership group and board of directors.

“A direct decision has also been taken to return the space to its original state and we once again apologise to our supporters that this was not addressed sooner.”

Mauricio Pochettino hopes Chelsea can use the FA Cup to qualify for Europe next season despite their indifferent Premier League form.

The Blues host Preston at Stamford Bridge in the third round on Saturday and will be looking for respite for what has been a mixed league campaign during the manager’s first six months in charge.

They currently sit 10th, with an 11-point gap to make up on fifth and what would be a guaranteed spot in the Europa League.

A successful cup run culminating in victory in the Wembley final in May would earn them a place in the competition next term, whilst they will also be looking to secure a back-up spot in the Conference League by winning the Carabao Cup.

Pochettino’s side face Middlesbrough in the semi-final of that competition over two legs beginning on Tuesday, with the second leg set for January 23.

But with little sign so far of the consistency that will be required over the second half of the season to qualify via their league position, cup ties during the coming weeks look increasingly critical, starting with Saturday’s meeting with the side currently 14th in the Championship.

“Of course (we can win the FA Cup),” said Pochettino. “The Carabao Cup and the FA Cup are competitions we need to try to go far.

“But we need to build our run step by step and the first step is (Saturday). It’s a really important competition for us, because we are not in Europe.

“In the Premier League, we are in a position that we need to grow and improve a lot if we want to be in Europe next season. Through the FA Cup or Carabao Cup we can achieve that.

“It’s really important because we had three competitions at the beginning (of the season) and we’re still in them.”

Pochettino confirmed there will not be wholesale changes from the team that won 3-2 against Luton last time out.

He hinted at a possible start for striker Armando Broja, with Christopher Nkunku fit only for the bench and Nicolas Jackson having departed for the Africa Cup of Nations.

Long-term absentees Ben Chilwell and Carney Chukwuemeka – out since September and August respectively – are not yet ready to return, whilst Romeo Lavia has suffered yet another injury setback after making his debut in December.

“We are going to treat it like a Premier League game,” said the manager. “Just because it’s the FA Cup and it’s a Championship team, we are going to respect Preston. You will see we are going to put in place a starting XI with all the guarantees to perform.

“Armando is going to be a possibility to play. But Christopher is not going to start. He suffered some issue during the week. We need to be careful with him after the last six months where he didn’t compete.

“We really trust in (Broja). He has an amazing potential and quality. Now he must forget his (ACL) injury from the last year and start to behave normally.

“Chilwell and Carney are not available, we’ll see for Middlesbrough and Fulham (on January 13). They’re doing well, training with the group the last few days. We are happy with their evolution.

“Lavia, we still don’t know when he will be available again.”

Mikel Arteta admitted back-to-back defeats have halted Arsenal’s Premier League momentum but warned against putting his side’s rocky run under the microscope.

Arsenal’s title challenge has faltered in recent matches following a home loss to West Ham on December 28 before they suffered another defeat at Fulham three days later.

The Gunners have slipped to fourth in the table, five points behind leaders Liverpool who they host in the third round of the FA Cup at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

“We were not at the level (against Fulham) and we were not good enough,” said Arteta. “I don’t think we deserved to lose but we didn’t do enough to win it.

“It affects momentum that we had. Until Christmas Day we were top of the league and six days later we are fourth.

“You can be very tempted to look at things with a microscope or take the telescope and look a little bit further ahead and treat things with a little bit more perspective.

“And my job, big time, is to look with the telescope, have perspective, analyse things in a broader way and not get affected by one performance; not results, just one performance.”

Arsenal had 30 attempts on goal in their defeat to West Ham – but it was a different story at Craven Cottage as Arteta’s side failed to create chances.

The club continue to be linked with a new striker, although Brentford manager Thomas Frank said only an “unbelievable” offer would force the Bees to sell Ivan Toney during this month’s transfer window.

“We are open to the transfer market,” added Arteta. “But the emphasis is on making the most of the players we have.

“We will work with the club and see if we have any good options but first, our focus is on the players here.”

Put to Arteta that Arsenal might not sign anyone before the window closes, he replied: “That’s a possibility.”

Arteta is likely to rotate his squad for the visit of Liverpool, with defender Oleksandr Zinchenko possibly back in the frame after missing the defeat against Fulham. Goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale is also set to be handed a rare start in place of David Raya.

And Arteta has challenged the Arsenal supporters to create a difficult environment for Jurgen Klopp’s visiting side.

“There is a big history between the FA Cup and the club and we have a big opportunity (against Liverpool) to start again and make a beautiful journey,” said the Gunners boss.

“We are really happy with the atmosphere that we have created at the Emirates Stadium and on Sunday can we make it even more hostile? I think we can.

“We have to be so grateful for what we are achieving in our home ground and Sunday is going to be a big one again.”

Manchester City could be without midfielder Rodri for Sunday’s FA Cup tie against Huddersfield following the death of his grandmother.

The Spaniard has been granted compassionate leave and is currently back in Madrid.

Manager Pep Guardiola says the player has not definitely been ruled out but he seems unlikely to feature as the holders begin their defence of the trophy in the third-round tie at the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola said at a press conference: “Rodri, unfortunately, his grandmother passed away yesterday and he is in Madrid. Today and tomorrow he will not be here.

“Hopefully he will come back for the game but, if he needs to stay, family issues are the most important thing.”

Guardiola has also revealed a number of his players have suffered from fever this week and are also doubtful.

He said: “Four players have problems. Bernardo (Silva), Scotty (Carson), Kalvin (Phillips) and Matheus Nunes are, like many people at this time, suffering.”

The match could give Kevin De Bruyne the opportunity to get some minutes as he continues his comeback from a hamstring injury but Guardiola insists the Belgian will not be rushed.

De Bruyne, who was an unused substitute for last week’s clash against Sheffield United, has not played since August.

Guardiola said: “Kevin has been (out for a) long time so we have to be patient and give the right minutes for him.

“It was a big injury. What I am concerned with the most is to try and avoid a repeat. This is what we have to be careful with.”

Star striker Erling Haaland and winger Jeremy Doku are still out after injuries but are nearing a return.

Guardiola said: “For Erling, it’s a bit better. He has done two training sessions and he feels good.

“They are improving. I don’t know for Sunday, I don’t know for Newcastle, but for the rest (of the games) they will be ready.”

Defender John Stones is City’s other notable absentee with an ankle injury.

Guardiola said Jack Grealish’s state of mind was improved after a burglary at the England international’s home over Christmas.

Thieves reportedly stole jewellery worth £1million after breaking into the midfielder’s Cheshire mansion while his fiancee and members of his family were present.

Guardiola said: “He’s much better. He’s had time to fix so it won’t happen again and the burglars have to know that there is no more jewellery at home.

“Our chief security man is handling it with Jack, his family and his (fiancee). They’re impacted, which is normal. When you’re at home and you have people come inside, it’s scary.”

The January transfer window is now open but Guardiola would give no clues as to any potential arrivals or departures.

Asked specifically about Phillips, whose future has been the subject of speculation, Guardiola said: “I don’t know, I don’t talk about the transfer window.

“I don’t know if we are going to sign 10 players, get (rid of) 10 players. Maybe one – I don’t think it will happen, but you never know.”

Sunderland approved the signage for a Newcastle-themed decoration of a bar at the Stadium of Light for Saturday’s FA Cup derby last month.

The PA news agency understands the Magpies were invited to submit designs for the Black Cats Bar, which will provide corporate hospitality for travelling fans for the third-round tie, in December and that they were signed off by a senior member of staff at the Wearside club.

It is understood the move was intended to lessen the potential for the area, which normally carries Sunderland’s livery, to be damaged by rival supporters.

Black Cats fans reacted furiously on Thursday when images of banners proclaiming the messages “Keep the Black and White Flying High” and “We are United” emerged on social media. Sunderland’s motto “Ha’way the lads” in red had also been replaced with the Geordie spelling “Howay” in black.

Sunderland swiftly apologised for “a serious error in judgment” and announced an immediate review, and chairman Kyril Louis-Dreyfus said he was “disgusted and hurt” by the “inappropriate signs”, which have since been removed.

There was already disquiet on the banks of the Wear after the hosts confirmed that Newcastle’s 6,000 allocation would be housed in both tiers of the North Stand, meaning some season ticket holders would have to relocate.

The controversy has added fresh spice to a fixture which is one of the stand-out ties of the round, although Magpies boss Eddie Howe played down suggestions that his club’s fans had been handed a head-start.

Howe said: “No, I don’t feel that. Look, these things can happen, it’s up to Sunderland what they do with their stadium. It’s nothing to do with us.”

The game, the first between the sides for almost eight years, represents Howe’s first taste of the Tyne-Wear rivalry, and he is expecting his players to handle the white-hot atmosphere.

Asked if he thought the signage row could further fuel the passion of the home fans, he said: “Regardless of what you’re expecting, you still have to play the match in front of you.

“We’ve just got to blank out any distractions and play the game and use our support – which I’m sure will be incredible – to propel us to a really good performance.”

Howe’s comments came after Louis-Dreyfus had issued a heartfelt apology to Sunderland fans and promised the club would do better in future.

He wrote on Instagram: “I would like to apologise to everyone associated with Sunderland AFC for the events that have unfolded today.

“Like our supporters, I was disgusted and hurt by the pictures circulating online of the inappropriate signs that have been ripped down.

“I take full responsibility for every decision that is taken by the employees of our club and you have my word that I will personally make sure that we make the necessary changes required to improve because it is clear that there are many areas where we need to be better.”

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