FA Cup


Wilshere dedicates FA Cup win to fans

Jack Wilshere dedicated Arsenal’s FA Cup victory to the club’s fans during Sunday’s open-top bus parade through the streets of Islington.

Aaron Ramsey scored an extra-time winner at Wembley on Saturday to defeat Hull City 3-2, having gone two down inside eight minutes, and seal Arsenal’s first trophy in nine years.

And Wilshere feels it was just reward for the supporters who have stuck by the team through their infamous barren run.

“It’s hard to put into words (what this victory means to me),” he told Sky Sports News. “It’s been nine years now – we’ve waited a long time for this.

“We’ve worked hard and the manager has worked hard but most of all this is for the fans who fill the stadium every week. This one is for them.

“It was a bad start (in the final). We’ve done that a few times this season and been punished but we knew if we got a goal before half-time we could go on and win it.

“We’re a fit team and we’ve got quality as well. That’s a good mixture and we showed that.

“We had a hard run (in the competition) as well so you can’t say that we didn’t deserve it. We showed the character that we’ve shown all season in the final and fair play to the boys.

“Now that we have got the first hurdle out of the way hopefully it will give us a boost for the seasons to come.

“We’ve shown character for the last couple of years but (Saturday) was a testament to the players.

“We overcame a big hurdle and we’re very proud of that. We’re very proud of how far we came in the competition and we did it for all these people.”

Sun 18 May, 2014
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FA Cup: Arsenal 3 Hull City 2 (aet)

Arsenal’s nine-year wait for silverware is over after Aaron Ramsey scored an extra-time winner to beat Hull City 3-2 in the FA Cup final.

Arsene Wenger’s men came into Saturday’s clash as heavy favourites to end their infamous barren run, but found themselves two goals down inside the opening eight minutes.

James Chester diverted the ball beyond goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski from a Tom Huddlestone strike to send fans in the Hull end of the ground into raptures four minutes in.

The outlook began to look even bleaker for Arsenal when Curtis Davies powered home from a tight angle.

A sensational Santi Cazorla free-kick 10 minutes later gave the 10-time winners hope, before Laurent Koscielny’s 71st-minute leveller forced the game into extra time.

Arsenal’s comeback was completed in the 19th minute of extra time when Ramsey – the man whose absence through injury so hurt his side’s Premier League hopes – prodded home with a first-time strike from a sublime Olivier Giroud back-heel.

Fabianski kept his regular cup berth between the posts, despite doubts over his future with the Emirates Stadium club, while Chester recovered from a hamstring injury in time to step into a new-look Hull back line.

Chester’s inclusion proved to be an inspired decision from manager Steve Bruce as the defender stunned Arsenal fans into silence by breaking the deadlock in the fourth minute.

A low 20-yard strike by Huddlestone fizzed towards Chester’s feet, and his touch in the centre of the penalty area was enough to send the ball beyond an outstretched Fabianski, finding its way in off the left-hand upright.

In the absence of cup-tied forward pairing Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic, it was Hull’s defenders running riot in the opening stages.

Fabianski leapt to his left to keep out an Alex Bruce header, before fellow centre-back Davies rifled home from a tight angle, though question marks were raised over the positioning of the free-kick that led to the goal.

Another Alex Bruce header from a corner threatened to make it a defensive hat-trick for the underdogs, but Kieran Gibbs came to Arsenal’s rescue on the goalline.

There was no let-up in the action, and Arsenal were right back in the tie in the 18th minute.

Cazorla curled a 25-yard free-kick into the top right-hand corner of the net – Hull keeper Allan McGregor wrong-footed by the Spaniard’s stunning strike.

There was a nervous edge to the match after the break, and Giroud felt he should have been awarded a penalty in the 58th minute after having his shoulder held by Huddlestone.

Further penalty shouts followed as Jake Livermore appeared to handle from a Yaya Sanogo header and Cazorla was felled by Davies, but referee Lee Probert was unmoved by the appeals.

After looking the more likely to find the net in the second period, Arsenal finally pulled level, Koscielny turning the ball in from close range in the aftermath of a contentious corner.

An unmarked Gibbs should have sealed the trophy for Arsenal in the 79th minute, but the full-back blazed over from close range when it appeared easier to score, and McGregor got down well to deny Giroud from 18 yards three minutes later.

Substitute Sanogo sent a strike whistling wide of the left-hand post before the end of 90 minutes, and Giroud rattled the crossbar in the opening stages of the additional period.

The match looked to be heading for penalties as the tempo of the game dropped, but Ramsey popped up to end nine years of hurt for Arsenal and Wenger, though Fabianski’s late charge off the line had many a heart in mouth as Sone Aluko’s effort drifted agonisingly across the face of goal.

Sat 17 May, 2014
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Lukas Podolski 13/8 to score against Hull in FA Cup final

soccernews fooball-betting-tips pic

Competition: FA Cup
Market: Podolski to score against Hull
Odds: 13/8 @ Bet 365

Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski is hoping to get on the score sheet in today’s FA Cup final against Hull City. The German international, 28, has enjoyed an upturn in form at the tail-end of season, scoring 12 goals in 28 games in all competitions for the Gunners.

He’s scored three in the FA Cup, and would love to net again against Hull City this afternoon to help his side to their first FA Cup in nine years.

As a result, Bet 365 are backing Podolski to get on the score sheet anytime in the final today. He’s bagged four goals in his previous five in the league, and would love to cap a decent campaign off in style this afternoon.

Arsenal are the big favourites to win this afternoon, and they haven’t lost a game in any competition that Lukas Podolski has scored in, so the German forward is a good omen for the club this season.

Bet: Arsenal’s Lukas Podolski to score anytime against Hull City in this afternoon’s FA Cup final @ 13/8 with Bet 365 >>

Sat 17 May, 2014
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Prediction: Arsenal vs Hull City

Arsenal take to Wembley hoping to end the nine-year wait for a major trophy with Hull City the final obstacle on their road to the FA Cup title. The Tigers are clearly the underdogs here, but given that Steve Bruce’s side have nothing to lose, they can be trusted to make life difficult for their more illustrious opponents.

What started as a very promising season threatened to turn into an utter disappointment for Arsenal as the Gunners were on the verge of losing the FA Cup semi-final against Wigan Athletic, while the top 4 finish in the Premier League appeared to be slipping out of their reach. Nevertheless, the Gunners showed a great deal of character to come from behind against the Latics and win the tie against penalties, before enjoying five straight victories in the Premiership to secure Champions League qualification and finish mere seven points behind champions Manchester City. This is enough to suggest Arsenal are not that far away from mounting a serious title challenge and everybody at the club is aware that the FA Cup trophy could provide just the boost they need to turn things around. The Gunners go into the clash at Wembley in very good form and with most key men available, with Jack Wilshere returning into action against Norwich. Thomas Vermaelen and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain face fitness tests though, but they are unlikely to start such an important match. Mathieu Flamini should be recalled, while it remains to be seen if Lukasz Fabianski will continue his FA Cup campaign.

Hull City have enjoyed a dream season this term, avoiding the Premier League relegation tussle altogether while qualifying for the FA Cup final. Seasoned manager Steve Bruce hit the nail on the head with his summer signings, as the likes of Charlie Davies, Tom Huddlestone, Maynor Figueroa and Jake Livermore all developed into important players, while January additions Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long seriously improved team’s attacking record. The Tigers managed to pick up just enough points to ensure the poor finish of the season do not see them drop into the danger zone, with the team ending the season four points above the bottom three despite picking up just one point from last five league fixtures. There are no doubts Steve Bruce and his men were constantly thinking about the FA Cup final clash against Arsenal during these past few weeks, and the time has come for them to try and spring a major surprise and lift the coveted title. Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic are both cup-tied, and while Sone Aluko, Robbie Brady, James Chester and Paul McShane are back in contention, none of them is expected to start at Wembley.

Conclusion

Hull City have often proved to be tough nut to crack this season, but with Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic missing, they will struggle to match in-form Arsenal. The Gunners will be almost at full strength and their superior experience in these kinds of matches could prove to be the difference between the two sides.

Verdict: Home win Arsenal (1)

Best Odds: 1/2

Bookmaker: bet365

Fri 16 May, 2014
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Cup success can strengthen Arsenal, claims Flamini

Arsenal’s Mathieu Flamini believes that victory in the FA Cup final could foster a winning mentality within the club once again.

Arsene Wenger’s men take on Hull City at Wembley on Saturday as they go in search of a first piece of silverware since 2005.

Having seen their Premier League title challenge fade away and their UEFA Champions League hopes extinguished by Bayern Munich, the Frenchman hopes that a win this weekend will signify a change in approach.

Flamini was part of the last Arsenal squad to win a trophy – the FA Cup in 2005 – and, in his second stint with the club, wants to help build a new mentality at the Emirates Stadium.

“Winning titles and trophies is important – for the future, it will build a mentality,” he said.

“It is important to get into your head that you need to meet the objectives you set at the start of a season.

“When Arsenal had their (previous) success, they had a winning mentality. Once you win one, it is in your head. It becomes part of you. You start with one and then your objectives become higher and higher.

“Arsenal have always had quality but now we have a team of competitors, who want to win and hate losing. We have a team with more personality and that is important.”

Fri 16 May, 2014
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Bruce to play it safe against Arsenal

Hull City manager Steve Bruce will not take any risks with his team selection for the FA Cup final against Arsenal on Saturday.

Bruce has question marks over the fitness of a host of players ahead of the game at Wembley on Saturday, including strikers Robbie Brady and Sone Aluko, as well as defensive pair James Chester and Paul McShane.

Despite being handed a boost by Brady’s return to training and seeing everyone come through their final Premier League clash with Everton unscathed, Bruce will not leave anything to chance.

He feels his Hull side, who have won just two of their last nine games in all competitions, must be at full throttle if they are to cause an upset against Arsenal.

“I will not risk anyone, I can’t. We’ve got to be right across the side,” he told The Hull Daily Mail.

“The players I select to start have to be 100 per cent. I can’t have anyone undercooked with everything that’s at stake.

“It’s the FA Cup final against Arsenal, we can’t risk players who aren’t quite right.

“It looks like it will be a hot day on a big Wembley pitch so you’ll soon get found out if you’re not 100 per cent.”

Hull were beaten twice by Arsenal in the league this season, shipping five goals in the process, with Arsene Wenger’s men going in search of their first piece of silverware since 2005.

In what will be Hull’s first FA Cup final appearance, Bruce believes his charges must look to frustrate Arsenal, in the early stages of the game at least.

“We have to come up with a game plan to stay with them to start with,” he added.

“We’ve got to make it difficult for them. There’s no disputing the fact they’ve got better players than us. They’re the mighty Arsenal.

“So we’ve got to come up with something which can unhinge them, and the longer we stay in it the better.

“If the scores are level with an hour played then the game is in the balance. We have to make sure we’re still in with a shout of winning the game.”

Fri 16 May, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Arsenal v Hull City

Arsenal have the opportunity to end nine years of hurt when they face Hull City in Saturday’s FA Cup final at Wembley.

Arsene Wenger will need no reminding that his side have not lifted any silverware since winning the competition in 2005, having come in for severe criticism at times during the club’s barren spell.

Messrs Pires, Vieira and Bergkamp were among the Arsenal side that triumphed over Manchester United on penalties in Cardiff, but the onus now falls on the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud to take a first step on the path to emulating those club legends.

Victory on Saturday would make it five FA Cup titles for Wenger, and see Arsenal equal United’s record for most Cup wins with 11, but the Frenchman stopped short of labelling this weekend’s clash a must-win encounter.

“No matter what the result will be, this club – and this is always most important – can deal with the consequences of any game,” he said.

“What is important is that we come out of the game and have the feeling that we gave absolutely our best, our total energy to play at our best and then you always accept the consequences.

“No matter how much we talk about it, you can win and lose but you want to come out of the game feeling you have done the maximum to win and that is what we want to achieve.”

Wenger’s opposite number Steve Bruce comes with his own FA Cup pedigree, having won the trophy three times as a player with United, but is yet to climb Wembley’s famous steps as a manager.

This will be Hull’s first appearance in the FA Cup final, and Bruce admits it has been difficult to retain a sense of normality in the build-up.

“We’ve tried to keep it normal, but you can tell it’s not normal,” said Bruce. “You can tell from watching the players train that it’s not a normal week.

“For the first time in three or four weeks, there is a real spring in the step of the players. You can detect that and it will build as the week goes on, and so it should.

“When you’re growing up and playing for your junior team, your district team, whoever – you want to do one thing and that is play in an FA Cup final.”

There is no doubting Arsenal have had the tougher road to the Wembley showpiece – the Emirates Stadium outfit have seen off Tottenham, Liverpool, Everton and defending champions Wigan Athletic on their way to this weekend’s showdown, while Hull’s only top-flight opponents were Sunderland in the quarter-finals.

But Arsenal have a cup upset in their locker – losing 2-1 to the eventually relegated Birmingham City in the 2011 League Cup final.

That said, Hull will be without attacking duo Shane Long and Nikica Jalavic, who are cup tied after their respective January moves to the KC Stadium, while a number of key players, including Allan McGregor, Paul McShane and Sone Aluko, have recovered just in time to be involved.

Defender James Chester (hamstring) is Bruce’s only major injury doubt.

Meanwhile, Thomas Vermaelen (knee) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (groin) face a race against time to be fit for Arsenal.

Thu 15 May, 2014
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Bruce surprised by Brady return

Steve Bruce believes the prospect of playing in the FA Cup final ensured Robbie Brady has returned to fitness ahead of schedule.

The Hull City winger has not featured since February after undergoing groin surgery, but he could play a part in Saturday’s showpiece against Arsenal at Wembley.

Bruce had not anticipated having the Republic of Ireland international back in contention to face Arsene Wenger’s side, but the Hull boss is delighted to see Brady staking his claim.

Unexpected returns of Allan McGregor, Sone Aluko and Paul McShane to fitness have sufficiently boosted Bruce’s options – James Chester is expected to be their only doubt ahead of the game with a hamstring issue.

He told The Hull Daily Mail: “Robbie Brady’s come from nowhere in the last couple of weeks. It’s amazing what an FA Cup final does,

“We’ve seen him in training for the first time in six months, so it’s been incredible.

“Everyone’s come through the weekend’s game (against Everton) okay, which is good to see. We’ve got everybody available, who we think should be.”

Former Manchester United man Brady has made only one appearance in Hull’s run to the their first FA Cup final – their fourth-round victory at Southend United.

Wed 14 May, 2014
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McGregor, McShane in contention for FA Cup final

Steve Bruce has revealed that injured duo Allan McGregor and Paul McShane could return in time for Hull City’s FA Cup final against Arsenal.

The duo were expected to be out for the rest of the season, as goalkeeper McGregor broke three ribs and suffered kidney damage in the loss to West Ham last month, while full-back McShane has missed over two months with an ankle ligament injury.

With only three league games remaining before the Wembley encounter on May 17, time is running out for the pair to be back in time, yet Bruce is willing to allow the pair every opportunity to put themselves in contention.

“Allan is jogging on the training ground and he’s making a desperate effort to be fit,” Bruce said.

“I’m not going to stop it but obviously he’s got three broken ribs and a damaged kidney. Despite that he’s doing his very best to be fit for the FA Cup final.

“If he’s making those strides I’m not going to say ‘whoa, Allan, you’re not going to be playing’. If he can make himself available then great.

“Paul is due to be training on Saturday after nine weeks out with his ankle as well and I’m not going to rule anyone out yet.”

Hull face a visit to Craven Cottage to face relegation-threatened Fulham on Saturday, and three points would all but guarantee safety.

But Fulham have shown drastic improvement under the stewardship of Felix Magath, and Bruce is well aware of the difficulty his side face.

“He’s (Magath) certainly made an impression and given them a chance,” he added. “He’s been positive since he walked in and was adamant they weren’t going down.

“He got a couple of wins back to back, which is huge at the bottom, and they’ve got a chance like everyone else has now. He’s galvanised them a bit and had a response.”

Fri 25 April, 2014
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Szczesny eyes cup final start

Arsenal number one Wojciech Szczesny is hopeful of making his first FA Cup appearance of the season in next month’s final with Hull City.

Szczesny has started each of his club’s 34 Premier League games to date this season, but has been rested for Arsenal’s domestic cup matches, with fellow Pole Lukasz Fabianski taking over between the posts.

The latter has performed well in Szczesny’s absence and saved two Wigan Athletic penalties as Arsenal secured a shootout victory at Wembley last weekend to book a place in the FA Cup final.

However, it remains to be seen whether Fabianski, who is out of contract at the end of the season, will be denied the opportunity to feature against Hull on May 17, with his rival keen to play his part in ending a nine-year trophy drought.

“I would love to play but it’s the manager’s decision. It’s up to him,” Szczesny told reporters.

“I think Lukasz has done really well and he deserves a lot of credit. I’m an Arsenal fan and I just want us to get the trophy.

“For us, it’s important to get a trophy and hopefully we can appease everyone at the club.”

After helping Arsenal overcome Wigan, Fabianski said he would “definitely be disappointed” if he was overlooked for the final.

Thu 17 April, 2014
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Mixed emotions for Clough after Cup defeat

Nigel Clough was both proud and disappointed following Sheffield United’s 5-3 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Hull City at Wembley on Sunday.

United were much the better side in the first half and led 2-1 at the interval thanks to goals from Jose Baxter and Stefan Scougall.

The League One outfit wilted under fierce Hull pressure after the break, however, as Matty Fryatt, Tom Huddlestone and Stephen Quinn all found the net in an 18-minute period.

Although Jamie Murphy pulled one back in the final minute, David Meyler struck a fifth in stoppage time to end United’s remarkable run in the competition.

“I’m proud of their efforts,” Clough told BT Sport. “But also a little disappointed, we had a chance today.

“I’m proud of the whole club and the support we’ve brought today, and I’m sorry for them that we couldn’t get through.

“It’s been a great Cup run and a great second half of the season and that hasn’t changed.

“It’s disappointing that we’re not there (in the final), but I think we’ll look back with better memories in a week or two.”

Sun 13 April, 2014
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Bruce hails Hull fightback

Hull City boss Steve Bruce praised his side’s response as they booked an FA Cup final place with a 5-3 win over Sheffield United at Wembley.

Hull went in at half-time 2-1 down after goals from Jose Baxter and Stefan Scougall had come either side of Yannick Sagbo’s equaliser.

Bruce made a double change at the break, bringing on Matty Fryatt and Sone Aluko, and it was the former who levelled the scores four minutes after the interval before further goals from Tom Huddlestone and another substitute, Stephen Quinn, put Hull firmly in control.

Although Jamie Murphy pulled one back late on, David Meyler added a fifth on the break as Hull reached the first FA Cup final in their history.

“I’m absolutely delighted,” Bruce told BT Sport. “It needed a hell of a turnaround.

“You have to give credit to Sheffield United, they took care of the ball better than we did.

“It was an awful first 45 minutes, we had to do something about it and thankfully we got it right in the second half.

“A lot has been written about the name change (proposed by club owner Aseem Allem) which has probably overshadowed the players’ performances, but I’m delighted for the owners and everybody concerned.”

Captain Curtis Davies, meanwhile, said reaching the final was a dream come true, regardless of their showing on the day.

“We’ve prided ourselves this season on our defensive performances and that wasn’t one of our better ones,” he said.

“Fair play to Sheffield United – they were much better than us in the first half, but we got the win and that’s all that matters.

“It’s what we dream of when we were kids. Today we all feel like fans when we celebrate and go to the final.”

Sun 13 April, 2014
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Mertesacker pleased with Arsenal character

Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker praised the character of his team-mates after they pipped Wigan Athletic to reach the FA Cup final.

The two sides were locked at 1-1 after extra time, only for Arsenal to beat Wigan 4-2 on penalties.

Mertesacker fouled Callum McManaman just before the hour-mark, allowing Jordi Gomez to give the holders the lead from the penalty spot, but the Germany international atoned for his earlier error.

He equalised with just eight minutes of normal time remaining, and although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hit the bar during the additional period, Arsenal still came away with victory.

Gary Caldwell and Jack Collison had penalties saved by Arsenal’s back-up goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, as Arsene Wenger’s men kept their chances of ending a nine-year trophy drought alive.

Arsenal will face either Hull City or third-tier Sheffield United in the May 17 final and Mertesacker felt the side proved a point on the back of four winless Premier League matches, form that has seen Everton rise above them to fourth.

“In the first half we were a bit timid,” he told ITV.

“In the second half I think we hit the post twice and had a couple of chances so it was a good comeback.

“I think we have great character, even though a lot of people have questioned that.”

Kim Kallstrom came off the bench to join Mikel Arteta, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla among Arsenal’s successful penalty takers.

The midfielder has suffered an injury nightmare since completing a loan move from Spartak Moscow in January and cut a relieved figure afterwards.

“It was a really tough game,” he told BBC Sport. “They defended really well but we pushed all the way through.

“The semi-final is all about winning. It was tough but we did it. We had to stay strong mentally and at 1-0 down it gets tough. We were focused and even though it was on penalties, we will take it.

“We have been struggling in recent weeks but you have to deal with that, it’s part of the game.

“Hopefully, it’s a great boost of confidence for the rest of the season.”

Sat 12 April, 2014
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Prediction: Wigan Athletic vs Arsenal

FA Cup holders Wigan Athletic aim to claim another major scalp and get closer to defending the coveted trophy, but they still face an uphill task against Premier League giants Arsenal. The Gunners will be under pressure following some disappointing results in the league, but they are aware this is their best chance of lifting a trophy this season.

Wigan produced quite a coup by winning the FA Cup title last term as they defeated Manchester City in the final at Wembley, but nobody believed the Latics could do it all over again, especially having been relegated to the second division. However, the team underwent a real resurgence under Uwe Rosler, with stunning victories over Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Cardiff City and Manchester City seeing them earn a chance to battle Arsenal for a place in the final. After winning nine of ten games in the space of month and a half, the Latics have suffered a dip in form, winning just one of last five matches, but current form is unlikely to play a part in such an important game. The good news is Uwe Rosler has managed to rest some key men in the midweek clash against Milwall and despite losing that game, Wigan’s play-off berth in the Championship did not come into question. The likes of Jordi Gomez, Nick Powell, Callum McManaman and James Perch are set to be recalled, but Ben Watson, Chris McCann, Roger Espinosa, Rob Kiernan and Martyn Waghorn are all unavailable.

This is make or break time for Arsenal as the Gunners hope to end a nine-year wait for a major trophy, but while they are clearly hot favourites to defeat holders Wigan Athletic, Arsene Wenger’s charges will have to overcome a host of problems in order to qualify for the final. Heavy defeats to Premier League rivals Chelsea and Everton acted as a serious blow to the players’ confidence, with the prospect of missing out on the Champions League qualification likely to put extra pressure on the Emirates outfit. Arsenal can, however, draw confidence from their impressive FA Cup run that saw them defeat sides like Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton, with the return of Aaron Ramsey likely to provide additional boost. It’s not all good news on the injury front for Wenger as Mesut Ozil and Laurent Koscielny are not yet ready to return and Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tomas Rosicky are all rated doubtful. Meanwhile, Mathieu Flamini misses out through suspension and Lukasz Fabianski is expected to start having featured in every FA Cup game this season.

Conclusion

Wigan Athletic did really well to come this far, but despite defeating Manchester City on the road in the process, I doubt they can claim another major scalp. Arsenal do have plenty of problems at the moment, but their sheer quality should prove the difference between the two sides at Wembley.

Verdict: Away win Arsenal (2)

Best Odds: 4/9

Bookmaker: William Hill

Fri 11 April, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Hull City v Sheffield United

Nigel Clough will walk in his father’s footsteps when he leads Sheffield United out in the FA Cup semi-finals against Hull City at Wembley.

Brian Clough took his Nottingham Forest side – featuring son Nigel in attack – to the final of this competition in 1991, losing 2-1 to Tottenham thanks to a Des Walker own goal in extra-time.

This Sunday’s semi-final represents Nigel’s chance to claim the national limelight, but the Bramall Lane outfit will need to produce one of the Cup’s most famous upsets to book their place in the final.

United are the first third-tier outfit to reach the last four since Lawrie Sanchez led Wycombe Wanderers to this stage in 2001 – the current League Two outfit losing 2-1 to eventual winners Liverpool. No side from so far down the Football League has ever reached the final.

Having already dumped out the likes of Aston Villa and Fulham, United will not fear taking on a team of similar Premier League standing in the shape of Hull.

United have won this trophy on four occasions, their last coming in 1925, while their opponents this weekend are going in search of their first FA Cup final appearance.

Hull’s form has been mixed of late – losing four of their last seven in all competitions – but a 1-0 win against Swansea City last Saturday will have given them a timely confidence boost.

The KC Stadium side will be without cup-tied strike duo Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long for their first semi-final since 1930.

Despite their absence, manager Steve Bruce is looking forward to a Wembley reunion with Nigel Clough, whom he met as a player in the 1992 League Cup final, and fondly recalls his first encounter with his opposite number’s famous father.

“The first time I met his dad, I was at a PFA ‘do’ and at the toilet,” he is quoted as saying by the Hull Daily Mail. “I was at the urinal when, suddenly, I felt a whack from behind.

“I turned round and it was Nigel’s dad. He said: ‘You, young man, have been doing that to my son for the last 10 years, how do you like it?’ I laughed and Brian laughed.

“Nigel, for who his dad was, it can’t have been easy in his career.

“But Nigel has done remarkably well in his own right. Especially at Sheffield United. It is fantastic to get them to a semi-final.”

Tom Huddlestone could be in line for a return to Hull team after missing last weekend’s clash with Swansea with a back problem, while Bob Harris (thigh), Matt Hill (hamstring), Jose Baxter (hip) and Stefan Scougall (thigh) are all expected to be involved for United.

The winner of this tie will meet the winner of Saturday’s semi-final between Arsenal and Wigan Athletic.

Fri 11 April, 2014
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Deane backs United to pull off cup upset

Sheffield United have every chance of turning over Hull City in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final, according to former striker Brian Deane.

United and Hull battle it out for the chance to play Arsenal or reigning champions Wigan Athletic in the final – both looking to benefit from the earlier elimination of some of the competition’s bigger clubs.

Despite being the lowest ranked team left in the draw, Deane is confident Nigel Clough’s men can add another Premier League scalp to the likes of Aston Villa and Fulham, who were both dumped out by United earlier in the campaign.

Deane, who played at Bramall Lane for seven years over three spells, claims the fact United have no play-off commitments or relegation fears can aid them in the cup.

Asked by Perform whether United could spring a surprise at Wembley, he said: “Why not? I did an interview before the Fulham game and I said, ‘why not?’

“This is no different a scenario. They’ve got nothing to lose and are playing off the back of a good stretch of form.

“It’s an extra game – a bonus game. They’re safe, so they’ll go out there and I’m sure they’ll give it their all.

“It’s a fantastic club is Sheffield United and it’s the typical rollercoaster journey.”

Clough has overseen an impressive turnaround at Bramall Lane since taking over from David Weir in October.

While their play-off dream has faded, Clough has taken them to the verge of their first FA Cup final since 1936.

“I kind of feel a little bit sorry for David Weir because it’s a bigger club than some people think it is,” he added.

“It perhaps takes time when it’s your first appointment as a manager – coming into a club that size, which really is a Premier League club.

“It’s big enough to be a Premier League club and the expectation of the fans is always going to be high. Everyone who comes into a job that like that – you’re seen as the messiah.

“But I think Nigel Clough has come in and he’s got a wealth of experience. He’s come in and done very well. Certainly, the fans are happy with how things have gone down there since he’s come in.”

Fri 11 April, 2014
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Bruce eyes FA Cup glory

Steve Bruce would rate masterminding FA Cup glory for Hull City as one of the finest hours in his illustrious career.

Hull take on Bruce’s former club Sheffield United in Sunday’s semi-final, with the winners taking on either Arsenal or holders Wigan Athletic – another of his former employers – in the final next month.

The Premier League club are aiming to reach the final for the first time and Bruce, who lifted the famous trophy three times in his playing days at Manchester United, has his sights set on winning the FA Cup for the first time as a manager.

“It is not often you get to an FA Cup final as a player or a manager. I was ­fortunate enough to win it three times as a player, but it’s taken me 16 years to get to a semi-final as a manager,” he is quoted as saying by the Daily Mirror..

“If I could win as a manager, it would be up there with the best achievements of my career.”

League One outfit Sheffield United side and Championship side Wigan have claimed some notable scalps to secure their places in the last four.

And Bruce is pleased to see some surprise packages in the latter stages this year, claiming it has re-energised the competition.

“I think it is so refreshing to see the FA Cup not being dominated by the big boys. It’s brought a bit of sparkle back to it,” he added.

“Sheffield United versus Hull City in the semi-final – I don’t think many people would have picked that at the start of the season.

“And how well have Wigan done again after beating Manchester City to lift the trophy last season?”

Fri 11 April, 2014
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Wenger targeting FA Cup glory

Arsene Wenger would be happy to end Arsenal’s trophy drought by lifting the FA Cup trophy this season.

Arsenal have gone nine years without a trophy but would go close to ending that barren run with victory over defending champions Wigan in Saturday’s semi-final.

Champions League qualification has always been Wenger’s top priority ahead of the FA Cup and League Cup.

But with pressure mounting on Wenger after Arsenal slipped out of the Premier League title race, the Frenchman now appears content with winning silverware via one on England’s domestic cup competitions.

“The Champions League was vital for us until now and, for me, at the start of the season the minimum requirement,” said Wenger, who is out of contract at the end of the season.

“But don’t imagine I sacrifice every day of my life not to win a trophy. Everybody fights for that. We all play to win something. If you are in the FA Cup everyone can dream of winning it at the start of the season.

“The championship … only seven clubs can dream of winning it at the start of the season. A cup is a dream open to everybody and that is the beauty of the FA Cup.

“We are back at Wembley and it’s great. It’s an important competition. You know we will not fight for the championship any more (this season), so it’s the only competition.”

Arsenal’s last trophy came in 2005 courtesy of their triumph over rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup final.

Fri 11 April, 2014
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Elmohamady relishing FA Cup semi-final

Ahmed Elmohamady is relishing Hull City’s FA Cup semi-final appearance this weekend and insists they will be ready for Sheffield United.

Steve Bruce’s men will be the favourites for Sunday’s meeting with the League One side at Wembley, having enjoyed a fine season on their return to the top flight.

Hull currently sit 12th, nine points clear of the relegation zone, and appear all but assured of Premier League survival.

Elmohamady is glad he and his team-mates can take on United without any worries, but insists Nigel Clough’s side will not be taken lightly.

“We can look forward to the cup game and what is going to be a big game for us as players, for the fans and for everybody in Hull,” he told Hull’s official website.

“We have a week to build up to it and to focus on what will be a difficult game against Sheffield United. They are a good team.

“We’re all concentrating on that game now and trying to make everybody happy by making it to the final.

“We don’t want just one trip to Wembley this year. To go twice in a few weeks would be fantastic.”

Arsenal and Wigan Athletic meet in the first FA Cup semi-final on Saturday.

Tue 8 April, 2014
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Ajax sign Zivkovic from Groningen

Dutch Eredivisie giants AFC Ajax have completed the signing of Richairo Zivkovic from FC Groningen.

Dutch Eredivisie giants AFC Ajax have completed the signing of highly-rated teenage Richairo Zivkovic from FC Groningen for a fee believed to be in the region of €2.5 million.

Zivkovic, 17, has inked a three-year deal at the Amsterdam Arena while revealing he originally intended to stay at Groningen for the long-term.

“Initially, it was the intention to stay at Groningen for a longer period and become a regular member of the starting XI in the first team,” Zivkovic told Groningen’s official website, www.fcgroningen.nl.

“But I also have ambitions and, when this chance came, I wanted to take it. “But before I will talk about Ajax, I first want to finish the season at FC Groningen in a good way.”

The Holland youth international, who has reportedly been garnering interest from English Premier League duo Liverpool and Manchester City in recent weeks, has been likened to former Groningen Arjen Robben, who currently plies his trade in Munich.

Zivkovic’s sparkling early-season form kept Uruguayan David Texeira out of the first-team at Euroborg, paving the way for the South American to join MLS side FC Dallas in an attempt to resurrect his career.

The 17-year-old ace has scored six goals in 23 Eredivisie appearances this season.

Hoffenheim want to keep Firmino

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim manager Markus Gisdol has revealed the club will do anything they can to keep hold of No. 10 Roberto Firmino, who has recently been linked with a host of top European clubs.

Chelsea, Liverpool and Internazionale have been credited with an interest in the 22-year-old Brazilian midfielder, while many other clubs are undoubtedly keen on the youngster.

“Of course, we are well aware of all mechanisms of the football business,” Gisdol told Bild.

“But good players we have under contract and are a perfect fit to our tactics are players we basically want to keep at our club. “And Roberto has a contract at our club [beyond the end of this season].”

Although Hoffenheim want to keep Firmino, the best course of action for the club would surely be to cash in on the €15 million-rated ace, with the player’s contract set to expire at the end of next season.

Firmino has tallied 19 goals and 12 assists in 28 appearances in all competitions for Hoffenheim this term.

In other news, Internazionale Milano midfielder Esteban Cambiasso is expected to move to the MLS in the summer, according to River Plate president Rodolfo D’Onofrio.

Tue 18 March, 2014
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Bruce calls for league focus

After booking an FA Cup semi-final spot, Steve Bruce has called on his Hull City side to refocus on their Premier League form.

Bruce’s side put three goals past Sunderland at the KC Stadium on Sunday to move into the final four of the Cup for the first time since 1930.

Even though Hull sit 13th in the Premier League in their first season back in the top flight, Bruce believes there is work to do to avoid an immediate return to the Championship.

They return to league matters on Saturday with the visit of title contenders Manchester City, and Bruce has targeted at least two more wins to secure their Premier League status for next term.

“I still think we’ve got to win a couple more games,” he said.

“We’re a newly promoted club and we’ve made huge strides very quickly but there is still work to do and it carries on.

“We have to get ready to play Manchester City at home. But that’s the Premier League – we have to address that and make sure we stay here and get better and better.”

Hull have shown inconsistent form in the top flight of late – winning twice, losing twice and drawing once in their last five outings.

Mon 10 March, 2014
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Wigan 7/1 to retain their FA Cup crown

soccernews fooball-betting-tips pic

Competition: FA Cup
Market: Wigan to win the FA Cup
Odds: 7/1 @ William Hill

After a shock 2-1 FA Cup quarter-final win against Manchester City at the Etihad stadium, Wigan Athletic find themselves in the FA Cup semi-finals to be played at Wembley. With the Lactics having won the competition last season at the expense of Manchester City – of whom they beat 1-0 in the final – they now find themselves two games away from retaining the cup – with Uwe Roslers men being given odds of 7/1 from William Hill to achieve it.

They will face Arsenal in the semis, and could face either Hull City or Sheffield Wednesday should they see past the Gunners to reach the final. It will certainly give them extra incentive going into the match that they could well spring yet another surprise in the prestigious cup competition.

Chelsea are the last side to have retained the FA Cup, but it will be only the second time in over 10 years that a side has successfully defended it. Since the final has been played at the new Wembley, there have been four different winners in seven seasons.

Can Wigan mark their name in history for the most unlikely of cup defences this season?

Bet: Wigan to win the FA Cup @ 7/1 with William Hill >>

Sun 9 March, 2014
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Rosler revels in Wigan success

Uwe Rosler basked in his “greatest day” as a manager after Wigan Athletic managed another famous FA Cup win over Manchester City.

Wigan memorably overcame their illustrious opponents in the final last year as Ben Watson struck the only goal at Wembley.

And despite being without Watson, who broke his leg last month, Wigan produced a repeat effort when winning 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Jordi Gomez’s penalty and James Perch’s strike rendered Samir Nasri’s volley a mere consolation and booked Wigan an FA Cup semi-final clash with Arsenal at England’s national stadium.

When asked whether the win represented his greatest moment in football, Rosler – a former City striker who enjoys cult status among the fans – told BT Sport: “In management, yes probably.”

He added: “Everybody knows my ties to Manchester City but I made it clear I am very happy and excited to be the manager of Wigan. I kept my emotions in control and I was just focussing on the job at hand.”

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan paid tribute to Rosler, who has reversed Wigan’s fortunes in the Championship since replacing Owen Coyle.

“Nothing can compare with actually winning the cup but to come here and win, and go back to play Arsenal in the semi-final, is a dream,” he said.

“The last five minutes seemed like 50 minutes. It’s all down to this lad, Uwe. He has got these lads believing.”

Sun 9 March, 2014
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FA Cup: Manchester City 1 Wigan Athletic 2

Wigan Athletic again proved Manchester City’s FA Cup scourge, following last season’s final triumph with a 2-1 win at the Etihad Stadium.

In one of the biggest upsets in the recent history of the decorated competition, Ben Watson grabbed the only goal as Wigan – who would go on to suffer relegation from the Premier League – triumphed over big-spending City in May last year.

Watson was not available this time around having suffered a broken leg last month but his spirit was invoked by the Wigan players, who wore shirts bearing his picture and the slogan, ‘We can do it! For Ben’ in the warm-up and went on to spring another sensational shock.

They were given a helping hand, too, by the much-maligned Martin Demichelis, who was arguably at fault for Wigan’s two goals.

In a moment akin to when he earned a red card that set up a UEFA Champions League defeat to Barcelona a couple of weeks ago, Demichelis gifted the visitors a penalty – which Jordi Gomez dispatched – with a clumsy challenge on Marc-Antoine Fortune.

Things then went from bad to worse for the defender, whose dreadful positioning aided James Perch’s strike.

Demichelis’ blushes appeared set to be spared when Samir Nasri pulled one back with 22 minutes remaining, but Wigan held on to book a semi-final clash with Arsenal at Wembley and complete a happy return to Manchester for City legend and Wigan boss Uwe Rosler.

City manager Manuel Pellegrini, chasing a domestic treble in his first season at the helm having overseen a League Cup win at Wembley last week, rested Fernandinho, Vincent Kompany and David Silva ahead of the midweek second-leg tie with Barcelona.

Wigan duly edged the opening exchanges as City struggled to break down a team determined to sit back and counter-attack.

The visitors’ patience paid dividends in the 26th minute as Gomez sent Costel Pantilimon the wrong way after Demichelis felled Fortune, having been beaten for pace by the striker.

City’s frustration increased thereafter as patient build-up play failed to yield openings of any note.

Their annoyance grew considerably at the start of the second period when Wigan grabbed a second.

James McArthur found space on the left wing and crossed for Perch to slide home ahead of Gael Clichy at the back post.

Pellegrini turned to the bench for answers, bringing on Silva, James Milner and Edin Dzeko in a triple change.

It almost paid immediate dividends as a Dzeko header struck the inside of the post from Clichy’s cross.

City did level soon after, though, as Nasri volleyed home from the edge of the area, his effort controversially going through the legs of Joleon Lescott, who appeared to be stood in an offside position.

The sides traded golden opportunities thereafter, Micah Richards curling just wide before Fortune blazed into the stands instead of sliding in James McClean.

Wigan’s goal then came under siege, with Emerson Boyce’s last-gasp challenge denying Dzeko before Scott Carson kept out Sergio Aguero at full stretch, but Rosler’s men held on for another famous win.

Sun 9 March, 2014
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Sunderland 11/4 to beat Hull in FA Cup quarter-finals

soccernews fooball-betting-tips pic

Competition: FA Cup
Market: Hull to beat Sunderland
Odds: 11/4 @ Bet 365

Sunderland are just 90 minutes away from another game at Wembley, this time potentially in an FA Cup semi-final. Gus Poyet’s men aren’t favourites to win, but with the Tigers without their two first-choice strikers, there’s a chance Sunderland can emerge victorious when the two sides meet tomorrow.

Bet 365 giving the visitors 11/4 odds to see past Steve Bruce’s men, and after their heartbreak against Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final, they will be desperate to get to Wembley again this season.

Their opponents have stumbled over the line in the FA Cup this season, but come into the game after two impressive wins from their last four league games, while earning a point against Tottenham at the start of February.

Sunderland have recently lost to Hull City in the league at the Stadium of Light, but their cup runs have been formidable. They beat Southampton 1-0 at home to book their place in the quarters, and will certainly fancy their chances all the more now Hull will be without Shane Long & Nikica Jelavic.

Can Gus Poyet inspire another cup run to Wembley?

Bet: Sunderland to beat Hull @ 11/4 with Bet 365 >>

Sat 8 March, 2014
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Man City’s Sergio Aguero 14/5 to score first against Wigan in the FA Cup

soccernews fooball-betting-tips pic

Competition: FA Cup
Market: Aguero to score first against Wigan
Odds: 14/5 @ 888 Sport

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero is likely to start against Wigan for tomorrow’s FA Cup clash, and as a result is being given 14/15 odds to score first from 888 Sport. He’s been in the form of his career this season when fit, and will want to get back among the goals tomorrow in the FA Cup.

The 25-year old made his return from injury in the Capital One Cup final, but failed to score in the 3-1 cup win against Sunderland. However, after being afforded time to gain his match fitness, he’s being backed to fire Manchester City into the semi-finals.

Aguero has been enjoying inspired form this season – with 15 goals and five assists from 17 league outings. He’s scored four times in the FA Cup already this campaign. With City’s 5-0 win against Wigan in the Capital One Cup fresh in the mind, they’ll certainly be fearful of a repeat at the Etihad.

Manchester City have blown teams away in the FA Cup under manager Manuel Pellegrini – with 12 goals scored in just four games – which makes Wigan’s task of quelling the attack increasingly difficult. Will Aguero be the first to score when the two sides meet tomorrow?

Bet: Sergio Aguero to score first against Wigan @ 14/5 with 888 Sport >>

Sat 8 March, 2014
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Wenger delighted with Ozil showing

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger praised the performance of midfielder Mesut Ozil in Saturday’s 4-1 FA Cup win over Everton.

Ozil opened the scoring with a well-taken side-footed finish from inside the area before showing good awareness to lay on Arsenal’s fourth for substitute Olivier Giroud late on.

After seeing Ozil come in for criticism from various quarters in recent weeks, Wenger had reason to be pleased with the Germany international’s first goal since December.

Wenger also praised the club-record signing for his defensive play as Arsenal moved into the final four of a competition they last won in 2005.

“It was important for Ozil, as you want him to take his chance. He looked regenerated. He did the dirty work too,” Wenger explained.

“We had a quality performance from the first minute to the last. We were unlucky to be at 1-1 at half time.

“Giroud was important. He showed he can score goals when he has come off the bench.”

Arsenal now face the challenge of overhauling a 2-0 first-leg defeat to Bayern Munich in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League.

“We can be inspired by our focus on the day (against Everton), our desire, and go to Bayern with the same spirit,” added Wenger.

Sat 8 March, 2014
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Martinez questions ´soft´ Arsenal penalty

Everton manager Roberto Martinez felt the penalty that led to Arsenal’s second goal in Saturday’s FA Cup defeat was “very soft”.

With the quarter-final delicately poised at 1-1 after Romelu Lukaku cancelled out Mesut Ozil’s opener, Gareth Barry was penalised for tripping Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain inside the penalty area.

Former Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta put Arsenal back in front from the spot, then Olivier Giroud added a brace as Arsene Wenger’s men boosted their hopes of ending their nine-year trophy drought with a 4-1 victory at Emirates Stadium.

However, Martinez felt the penalty awarded by Mark Clattenburg was generous for the London club and a pivotal moment in the tie.

“I still feel the penalty is a very soft call,” he told ITV.

“It’s the key moment and I felt obviously it’s a situation where Gareth is fighting with him for the ball. There is contact but is there enough contact for a penalty?

“The second goal was going to change the game competely. That second goal was vital, we wanted to make sure we had the opportunity to score that.”

The defeat extended Everton’s winless run on the road against Arsenal to 20 matches in all competitions as Martinez’s hopes of becoming the first manager to win back-to-back FA Cups with different clubs were ended.

Sat 8 March, 2014
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Pellegrini backs Aguero and Negredo

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini is backing Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo to resume their lethal strike partnership.

The duo forged a prolific pairing earlier in the season and have scored 49 goals between them already in the current campaign.

Argentina international Aguero, who has 26 goals this term, but has only recently returned from a hamstring injury sustained in the 5-1 thrashing of Tottenham at White Hart Lane in January.

Negredo has looked very much at home in his first season in England, scoring 23 times and proving to be a real handful.

The Spain frontman has not scored in his last six games and has not started a game alongside Aguero since a League Cup win at West Ham in January, when Negredo picked up a shoulder injury.

With both players now fit, City boss Pellegrini is backing the pair to carry on where they left off as City attempt to add more trophies to their cabinet following their League Cup triumph over Sunderland last Sunday.

He said: “In that moment (earlier in the season), it was very productive for the team – and I hope in the future it can be again.

“But in other moments when Sergio was injured, Negredo played very well at that time.

“It’s important to have important strikers. Strikers also live from the goals they score. Alvaro will return to his normal performance. He will continue scoring goals.”

City face Wigan Athletic at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup – a repeat of last year’s final, in which Wigan won 1-0.

Sat 8 March, 2014
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Borini will decide long-term future in the summer; Nasri set for Man City contract talks

Liverpool striker Fabio Borini, currently plying his trade at Sunderland, has revealed he will decide his long-term future at the end of the season.

Liverpool striker Fabio Borini, currently plying his trade at Sunderland, has revealed he will decide his long-term future at the end of the season.

The once-capped Italy international, 22, joined Liverpool from A.S. Roma for €13.3 million in the summer of 2012 but has failed to establish himself as a first-team regular.

The 22-year-old forward, who netted two goals in 20 appearances in all competitions for the Reds last term, has been an important figure under new Black Cats manager Gus Poyet.

Borini has netted six goals — against the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United and Southampton — in 28 competitive appearances for Sunderland in 2013/14.

“That means I am made for a big team,” the former Chelsea youth product told The Mirror regarding his goal-scoring performances against top-tier opponents this term.

“We will see what will happen until the end of the season, and try to beat the big teams and the small ones, and then let’s see in the summer.

“It was a great feeling scoring in the cup final. Two or three times what I normally feel for a goal.

“A great feeling, all emotions, especially against a big team when no one expected us to be in front against Manchester City at Wembley.”

Sunderland (6-6-14) — priced at 9/5 to suffer relegation — will host Crystal Palace (8-3-16) — backed by the bookmakers at 19/10 to finish in the bottom three — in their next English Premier League fixture on Saturday, 15 March 2014.

Nasri set for Man City contract talks

Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri has confirmed he is on the verge of opening contract negotiations with the club over a new deal.

The France international, who joined City from Premier League rivals Arsenal in a deal believed to be worth £25 million in August 2011, has had a very good season for the title contenders after a less-than-stellar 2012/13 campaign.

The 26-year-old midfielder has totaled four goals and three assists in 22 league appearances for Manuel Pellegrini’s side and his recent return from injury will surely boost the club’s morale.

“Talks? I know they are planned,” Nasri told L’Equipe.

“The officials called my agent to tell him we have to talk. Then, we will see.

“The objective is to win the Champions League in a few years’ time.

“But when you are happy somewhere, I can’t see why you should have to change scene.”

City can book their place in the FA Cup semi-finals with a win against Championship side Wigan Athletic at the weekend.

FA Cup holders Wigan, who managed to upset City in the final at Wembley last season, are 20/1 to win at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Fri 7 March, 2014
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