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Feb 15, 2013

Wenger: Beat Bayern and we can win CL

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has claimed his side will emerge as strong contenders to lift this season's Champions League crown if they can come through their last-16 tie against Bundesliga-leaders Bayern Munich.

• Limbert: Rotating towards Wembley
• Lehmann worried for Gunners

A defiant Wenger has again insisted he would be content to extend his eight-year wait for a trophy if it meant he secured a top-four finish in the Premier League for a 16th successive season.

However, the Gunners boss was quick to dismiss the suggestion that the FA Cup is his side's only realistic hope of silverware in 2013.

"If we go past Bayern Munich, why should we not say we can go further in the competition and win it," Wenger said. "It looks as if the FA Cup is more reachable than any other competition this season, but you don't really know how difficult it could be. If you compare the FA Cup to the Premier League, clearly we have more chances to win the cup as we are too far away, but you never know.

"Our basic target is always the championship. The real consistency of a team is the quality that is judged over 38 games. The priority is the championship, but I told you many times that we take the FA Cup seriously. We prepare for every game like it is a final."

Wenger insisted his team selection for the FA Cup fifth-round tie against Blackburn on Saturday will not be affected by a desire to keep players fresh for the Bayern Munich clash.

The Frenchman also admitted the memories of Arsenal's humiliating Capital One Cup exit at the hands of Bradford last December have refocused minds for games against lower-league opposition.

"In 16 years, I don't think we had upsets against lower-division clubs and then we had one against Bradford," he said. "We took that game seriously and we have analysed what happened afterwards. They have proven since that they are a team of quality and we will take the game (against Blackburn) seriously as well.

"We play a team who have a good chance to go through and they have experience, but we only have big names in our squad, so we will field a team of big names for sure. The players who will not start tomorrow are the players who have played many games recently.

"We are the favourites, they are the outsiders. They have nothing to lose, but many of their players have Premier League experience and that is why they are dangerous outsiders.

"The FA Cup is an important target for us. We always take it very seriously. We are on a good run and we want to continue the run. It is as basic as that. We are in a period now at the end of February and March when every game can decide your season."

Gunners captain Thomas Vermaelen looks set to return to the Arsenal line-up for the Blackburn game, but Jack Wilshere is rated at only 50-50 to play in the FA Cup tie after he picked up a knock in last Saturday's 1-0 win at Sunderland.

"I will not take a risk on Jack," Wenger said. "With the rest of the season in mind and what has happened to him before, we will not risk it."

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