FA Cup


Liverpool 1/3 to see past Aston Villa in this afternoon’s FA Cup semi-final

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Liverpool to win against Aston Villa
Odds: 1/3 @ William Hill

Aston Villa and Liverpool square off at Wembley this afternoon in the FA Cup semi-finals. The Midlands outfit made it there by seeing past Blackpool, Bournemouth, Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion, and are hoping they can be the bogey team for Liverpool when the two sides locks horns later on. The Reds had an easier run-in to the semi-finals, beating AFC Wimbledon, Bolton Wanderers, Crystal Palace and Blackburn Rovers.

Liverpool won 2-0 the last time the two Premier League sides met, but the Villans do have a good recent record against the Merseysiders that could see them pull of a shock. Tim Sherwood’s men have won one, drawn one of their last three league meetings, and striker Christian Benteke has a good scoring record in games against the Reds too.

Nevertheless, Liverpool are the slim favourites to emerge victorious by any means, with Brendan Rodgers’ side boasting a lot of creative and attacking individuals. William Hill, as a result, are giving odds of 1/3 for the Reds to reach the final of the competition be it extra time or penalties against Villa this afternoon.

Bet: Liverpool to see past Aston Villa in this afternoon’s FA Cup semi-final @ 1/3 with William Hill >>

Sun 19 April, 2015
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Reading motivation ´on a different planet´ – Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says Reading’s motivation was “on a different planet” as they fell just short of an FA Cup semi-final upset on Saturday.

After Alexis Sanchez had given the holders a first-half lead, Garath McCleary grabbed Reading a deserved leveller nine minutes into the second period to force extra time.

The match ended in heartbreak for the Championship side though as goalkeeper Adam Federici, who was otherwise excellent, allowed a routine Sanchez effort to squirm between his legs, sending Arsenal into the final with a 2-1 win.

“It was tough,” Wenger told BBC Sport. “They defended well. We didn’t find our stride and they were very strong in the challenges.

“We struggled to win the 50-50s and they were really on a different planet in motivation to what we have seen on tapes.

“It’s the semi-final of a cup and you never go easy into a final.

“We couldn’t find the second goal and, for a team like that, it’s the occasion of their lives and they will not give up until the end. That’s what they did.

“We controlled the first half quite comfortably but in the second half they came more into the game.

“I think we started flat but they decided to go a bit more on the aggressive side and we started to lose balls that we didn’t in the first half.”

And Wenger is hopeful his side can defend their crown against the winner of Sunday’s second semi-final between Liverpool and Aston Villa.

“When you’re in the final you can win it,” he added. “Let’s prepare well and finish well in the Premier League.

“We come back here and we’ll do absolutely everything to win it.”

Sat 18 April, 2015
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Reading 1 Arsenal 2 (aet): Federici left red-faced as holders avoid upset

Goalkeeper Adam Federici conceded the softest of extra-time goals as Arsenal avoided a semi-final upset in a 2-1 victory over Reading at Wembley.

Arsene Wenger’s men, who required penalties to see off Wigan Athletic at this stage last year, struggled to find the momentum that has seen them embark on an eight-match winning run.

Nevertheless, Alexis Sanchez put the holders in front six minutes before the break with a cool finish having been fed by Mesut Ozil.

But the Arsenal section of the ground was stunned into silence after 54 minutes when Wojciech Szczesny failed to keep out a Garath McCleary volley.

Arsenal hit the woodwork twice as they looked to avoid extra time – once via a superb save from Federici – but the Australia international will have wanted the ground to swallow him whole when he allowed another Sanchez effort to squirm underneath him at the end of the first period of additional time, dashing Reading hopes of a first final.

The result sees Arsenal become the outright record holders for most appearances in the FA Cup final, their 19th moving them one clear of Manchester United.

Arsenal welcomed back defender Mathieu Debuchy for his first appearance since January following shoulder surgery and, after a bright start from Reading, the holders began probing their opponents’ back line.

Federici got down well at the feet of Danny Welbeck to thwart an early attack, before tipping around his left-hand post when Per Mertesacker threatened to open the scoring with a header from a corner.

But Reading weathered that storm and Jordan Obita unleashed a powerful strike from 25 yards at the other end, albeit straight at Arsenal goalkeeper Szczesny, while Nathaniel Chalobah saw a volleyed effort deflected wide.

Having seen an earlier chance fizzle out courtesy of a heavy touch, Sanchez made no mistake with his next opportunity, showing great composure in the box to bring down an Ozil pass, see off his marker and send the ball between Federici’s legs.

Reading refused to go down without a fight, though, and pulled level nine minutes into the second period.

Pavel Pogrebnyak crossed from the byline for McCleary to volley home via a deflection off Kieran Gibbs, although birthday boy Szczesny should have done better.

Reading then had appeals for handball against Debuchy in the Arsenal box waved away by referee Martin Atkinson, before Danny Williams skewed wide from a promising position.

Gabriel Paulista came off the bench for Mertesacker shortly after the hour mark and one of his first contributions was to draw a fantastic save from Federici, who pushed the Arsenal defender’s header onto his crossbar.

Chalobah tried his luck from 20 yards out with seven minutes left of normal time, forcing Szczesny into an unconvincing save, before Aaron Ramsey – Arsenal’s goal hero when they won last season’s competition – hit the post after forcing his way into the Reading box under pressure from Obita.

Reading then squandered a two-on-one situation as the match headed for extra time, and Ramsey gave the Championship side a scare when his effort bounced over off Federici.

The match looked set to be heading for the second period of additional time with the sides all square until Sanchez burst into the Reading penalty area from the left and fired a shot straight at Federici.

The Reading stopper was unable to hold the low strike and somehow allowed the ball to sneak through his legs and over the line, sending Arsenal into a final clash with the winner of Sunday’s semi-final between Liverpool and Aston Villa. 

Sat 18 April, 2015
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Arsenal 1/4 to win tonight’s FA Cup semi-final clash in 90 minutes against Reading

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Arsenal to win against Reading
Odds: 1/4 @ Ladbrokes

In-form Premier League title-chasers Arsenal face mid-table Championship side Reading at Wembley this evening in the FA Cup semi-final. The Gunners are looking to defend their trophy after last season’s triumph, while Reading are hoping for another giant kill to reach the final against all odds.

Arsenal come into this evening’s clash off the back of eight consecutive league wins, while their opponents have struggled in the league since they’ve gone deep in the domestic cup. Arsene Wenger’s men are well aware of being over-complacent, as they were made to endure a penalty shootout this time last season against the lesser-fancied Wigan Athletic, so they won’t make the same mistake again.

The Londoners know they are favourites, but also know this is Reading’s biggest game for some time, so the Royals won’t make life easy for them, especially with an FA Cup final at Wembley at stake. However, Arsenal are in fantastic form, and will boast a very aggressive attacking lineup to face Reading, which has led Ladbrokes to give odds of 1/4 for the Gunners to win against the Royals in 90 minutes.

Bet: Arsenal to win tonight’s FA Cup semi-final clash in 90 minutes against Reading @ 1/4 with Ladbrokes >>

Sat 18 April, 2015
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Crisis too strong a word to be used about Liverpool

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers managerial methods have been questioned this season

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers managerial methods have been questioned this season

Liverpool set up a Wembley FA Cup semi-final against Aston Villa last night with a 1-0 victory at Championship side Blackburn in a quarter-final replay.

A Philippe Coutinho effort 20 minutes from time was enough to give the Reds a hard-won victory.

Meeting

On Sunday the Liverpool coaching staff and players held a meeting to discuss their recent displays and other issues.

Claims that it was a crisis meeting was slightly over the top, as it was not like the Reds were in a relegation battle, or outside the top six.

They may have lost consecutive games, but they were against two of the Premier League’s current form teams in Manchester United and Arsenal. The defeats were almost fatal for their top-four challenge, but still crisis is slightly too strong a word to describe the situation at Anfield.

Overachieved

Liverpool overachieved last season with strike-partnership Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez tearing the Premier League up at times. Youngster Raheem Sterling also experienced his breakthrough season and suddenly became one of the hottest young properties in European football.

Suarez leaving, Sturridge out for most of the season and Sterling suffering from fatigue have contributed to the Reds current fifth place position in the Premier League table.

The Liverpool squad of last season was nowhere near the second best in the Premier League, but momentum and the goals of the aforementioned Suarez and Sturridge put the Merseysider’s in contention for the title and eventually a second place finish in the league.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers was acclaimed as one of the brightest young British bosses in the game. However, football is a fickle old game and earlier this season some Reds fans were questioning the Northern Irishman’s ability to take Liverpool forward.

Aside from poor moves in the transfer market, Rodgers has shown enough in his time at Liverpool to be given a chance to build at Anfield. He is still young in terms of top-flight bosses and does still have things to learn, like when to talk to the media and when to keep his mouth shut.

His football philosophy is an admirable one and he knows exactly how he wants his team to play. That way of playing so very nearly landed Liverpool the Premier League title, despite the fact on paper they had nowhere near the best team or squad of players.

Rodgers is trying to build a team and a philosophy at Anfield. He is not there to provide a quick fix, or to plaster over the cracks. Whether that philosophy will work or not remains to be seen.

Gap

Liverpool does not have a squad of world-class players, or oil millions to spend on strengthening the squad. There is still a massive gap in terms of talent compared with league leaders Chelsea and some would argue Manchester City and Arsenal as well.

As an outsider looking in, Liverpool are probably in about the right position for the players at the club. Had Sterling been on fire, or Sturridge had stayed fit all season then maybe the Reds may have been closer to the top teams this season.

To put it simply though, the Reds simply do not have the same level of player compared to the teams above them in the Premier League table.

Chelsea are the prime example, Liverpool do not have a player in the same class as Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas or even Diego Costa, despite spending a fortune last summer. Chelsea purchased Costa and Fabregas for less than what Liverpool spent on the likes of Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana and Mario Balotelli.

Top-four

Liverpool are trailing fourth-place Manchester City in the Premier League table by seven points and are currently odds of 6/1 to finish in the Champions League spots.

It looks unlikely that the Reds will claim a Champions League spot this season, a position they were expected to challenge for at the beginning of the season. The problem that the Reds have is that six other teams were also expected to challenge for the Champions League places and obviously only four can make it.

Crisis may be too strong a word to describe Liverpool’s current situation, but Brendan Rodgers will know that his team must start producing more convincing displays until the end of the campaign otherwise those questioning his methods may be slightly higher in number.

Is crisis too strong a word to be used about Liverpool?

Thu 9 April, 2015
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Blackburn Rovers 0 Liverpool 1: Coutinho sends Reds through to FA Cup semis

Philippe Coutinho scored the only goal as Liverpool booked an FA Cup semi-final date with Aston Villa thanks to a 1-0 win over Blackburn Rovers in their quarter-final replay at Ewood Park.

The Brazilian shot low across goal with 20 minutes left as Liverpool finally broke down Gary Bowyer’s resolute home side, who had earned a replay with a gritty 0-0 draw at Anfield.

Blackburn battled bravely, and they caused brief late panic when goalkeeper Simon Eastwood was sent forward for a corner in injury time.

But they could not deny the Premier League side, as Brendan Rodgers’ search for a first trophy as Liverpool manager remained on course.

Visiting goalkeeper Simon Mignolet played his part as he kept out a shot from Tom Cairney and then turned a Ben Marshall header onto the post early in the second half.

Eastwood, though, was by far the busier – and had kept his side in the game in the first half with saves from Glen Johnson and Coutinho.

Joe Allen wasted Liverpool’s first opening after four minutes when, having got to the ball first on the edge of the Blackburn area, his shot was well wide.

Raheem Sterling also tried his luck as Liverpool pressed early on, but his effort flew over.

Blackburn’s first real attack came after 13 minutes when Mamadou Sakho left the ball for Liverpool goalkeeper Mignolet but was forced to race back to block Craig Conway’s shot.

Daniel Sturridge – recalled to the starting line-up in place of Lazar Markovic – shot narrowly over as Liverpool continued to dominate, before the England striker failed to control Jordan Henderson’s long ball.

Jordan Rhodes then got in front of Dejan Lovren at the other end after 25 minutes, but he headed over with a rare Blackburn chance.

An injured Sakho could only watch that attack, and the limping defender was soon substituted by Kolo Toure, in the absence of suspended Martin Skrtel.

Johnson forced a good save out of Eastwood on the half-hour mark after the defender’s initial cross had come back to him, before Eastwood again got down well to turn Coutinho’s low shot through a crowd of players and around the post.

But Blackburn began the second half with more purpose and Mignolet was forced to turn Cairney’s shot out for a corner before, from the resulting flag kick, the Belgian pushed Marshall’s header onto the post.

Corry Evans then tested Mignolet with a shot 10 minutes into the second half, as Blackburn continued to force the pace.

Just after the hour, Bowyer brought on Rudy Gestede – who was restricted to a role on the bench because of a hamstring injury – and in his first moment of action, the striker played through Rhodes, whose shot was blocked by Toure.

Finally, with 20 minutes to go, Coutinho broke the deadlock with a moment of magic. The Brazilian took a return pass from Henderson in his stride and fired low into the opposite corner from the edge of the six yard area.

There was almost late drama when, in injury time, Blackburn threw goalkeeper Eastwood forward for a corner and he caused panic as Liverpool somehow survived to book their semi-final against Villa at Wembley.

Wed 8 April, 2015
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Liverpool 1/3 to reach the FA Cup semi-final against Blackburn Rovers tonight

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Liverpool to qualify
Odds: 1/3 @ Coral

Liverpool travel to Ewood Park to face Championship side Blackburn Rovers tonight in the FA Cup quarter-final replay. The Reds were held to a draw at Anfield, and come into this evening’s clash off the back of consecutive Premier League defeats.

Manager Brendan Rodgers admitted his season would be a failure if the Merseysiders were now eliminated from the cup, and is desperate to come away with some success after their Premier League disappointment.

Blackburn won’t be easy, however. Gary Bowyer’s side have won four of their last six games, but have only won just once at home in their previous five, so Liverpool will be confidence of getting a result. A place in the semi-finals against Aston Villa at Wembley awaits the two sides, which will be deemed as a winnable clash, so it’s all to play for tonight.

Liverpool’s away for, had been good prior to their recent defeats, and Rodgers’ men have still won five of their last seven games on the road in the league. As a result, Coral are giving odds of 1/3 for Liverpool to beat Blackburn by any means, be it extra time or penalties.

Bet: Liverpool to reach the FA Cup semi-final against Blackburn Rovers tonight @ 1/3 with Coral >>

Wed 8 April, 2015
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Bowyer relishing Blackburn rebuilding job

Gary Bowyer believes he has laid the foundations for success at Blackburn Rovers following a turbulent time at Ewood Park.

Bowyer was installed as permanent boss almost two years ago after keeping the Lancashire club in the Championship in a season which saw Steve Kean, Henning Berg and Michael Appleton all vacate the hot seat.

Owners the Venky’s were public enemy number one at Blackburn, but the air of hostility has cleared and the club will face Aston Villa in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley if they beat Liverpool at home on Wednesday.

Bowyer has relished the opportunity to prove his managerial credentials and thinks the club are ready to kick on following a miserable few years.

He told Perform: “History was probably not on my side [after getting the job], but I think the owners have been very supportive of me. I was fortunate to be offered the position, I sat down and put plans in place to rebuild the club, because that’s what needed to be done.

“I think the owners realised that mistakes have been made and they are the first to admit that, but we sat down and put a plan in place and recruited young, hungry players who have proved to be a valuable asset to the club.

“You look at the investment they have made, the value of those players has gone through the ceiling. We have laid the foundations and can build even further now, this cup run has helped us along the way and raised their profiles even further.”

He added: “I think the supporters realise the financial investment that the owners have put in keeps the club going, because being out of the Premiership proved very costly to this club and especially the owners.

“Their financial contribution is massive and long may that continue. Hopefully with this cup run that we’ve had they’ll get something back, they deserve some credit that sometimes people are not so keen to give them.”

Bowyer’s father, Ian, knows what it takes to succeed in the game after winning the European Cup twice, among other honours, at Nottingham Forest in his playing days.

Bowyer senior works as a scout at Blackburn and the 63-year-old feels his son should also credit his mother for the impact he is making at Ewood Park.

He told Perform: “He’s done really well, I think they needed to settle things down, take stock of what they had and what they needed.

“They have done that and now they need to be moving on, football doesn’t wait for anyone. You can’t have a period of stability that lasts for five years, you need to be moving on.

“He’s done great, I’m really proud of how he’s done for the club. He’s got his mother’s mannerisms and character, so he’ll be alright.”

Tue 7 April, 2015
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Reading 3 Bradford City 0: Clarke´s men clinch semi-final trip to Wembley

Quickfire first-half goals from Hal Robson-Kanu and Garath McCleary paved the way for Reading to set up an FA Cup semi-final showdown against holders Arsenal and end 10-man Bradford City’s fairytale run with a 3-0 win at the Madejski Stadium.

The Championship side made a blistering start to Monday’s quarter-final replay and booked a trip to Wembley through Robson-Kanu’s header and McCleary’s deflected strike inside the opening nine minutes. 

Jamie Mackie added a third midway through the second period following Filipe Morais’ straight red card just after the hour mark for clattering a high boot into Nathaniel Chalobah’s midriff to further compound Bradford’s woes. 

Bradford – who dumped out Premier League sides Chelsea and Sunderland to reach the last eight – never recovered from the early blitz as it proved a game too far in a competition that Phil Parkinson’s men have injected some much-needed magic this season.

While Parkinson turns his attention to securing Bradford a League One play-off berth, Reading counterpart Steve Clarke was left to bask in steering the Berkshire club to their first FA Cup semi-final since 1927.

Clarke, an FA Cup winner during his playing days at Chelsea, fielded an entirely different XI to the team that lost 4-1 at Watford on Saturday, but any fears from home fans that Reading may take time to gel were quickly extinguished. 

Robson-Kanu broke the deadlock when he timed his run to perfection to get ahead of Stephen Darby and glance a six-yard header across Ben Williams after meeting McCleary’s inswinging corner at the near post. 

McCleary then doubled Reading’s advantage three minutes later in rather fortuitous circumstances to leave Bradford shell-shocked. 

The Jamaica international cut in from the right, worked some space for himself with some quick footwork before hitting a shot that clipped Andy Halliday and looped over the goalkeeper. 

Ben Williams reacted sharply to palm away a swerving 25-yard Danny Williams effort as the hosts went in search of a third and McCleary created a carbon-copy of the build-up play that led to his earlier goal, but curled well over. 

Any slim hopes of a Bradford fightback disappeared when Morais saw red for his rash challenge on Chalobah, who then picked himself up to set up Mackie’s fifth goal in his last six games with 22 minutes remaining. 

Chalobah slipped the ball through for Mackie to beat the offside trap and drill between Ben Williams’ legs to send the home supporters into raptures.

Mon 16 March, 2015
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Reading 10/11 to beat Bradford in tomorrow night’s FA Cup clash

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Reading to win against Bradford
Odds: 10/11 @ Coral

Reading host FA Cup giant-killers in the quarter-finals of the competition on Monday night, but the Royals aren’t in the best form ahead of the clash. Steve Clarke’s men recently lost 4-1 against Watford at Vicarage Road, but their performances on home soil have been more convincing. As a result, they will be hoping to see past their League One opponents at the Madejski to book their place in the last four of the FA Cup.

Bradford have beaten the likes of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and Sunderland at Valley Parade to make it this far, so they’ll certainly put up a fight against Reading on Monday. But despite their opponents being considerably less than the Premier League duo they came up against, Reading will frustrate them, and are a side that could well stop City from getting into a rhythm. Manager Steve Clarke won’t be taking the competition for grant, with a chance for a clash at Wembley at stake, and Coral are backing the Royals with odds of 10/11 to win against Bradford at home.

Bet: Reading to beat Bradford in tomorrow night’s FA Cup clash @ 10/11 with Coral >>

Sun 15 March, 2015
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Liverpool/Arsenal 5/6 to be this season’s FA Cup finalists

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Liverpool/Arsenal to be finalists
Odds: Bet: Liverpool/Arsenal to be this season’s FA Cup finalists @ 5/6 with 5/6 @ William Hill

Arsenal booked their place in the FA Cup semi-finals against Manchester United at Old Trafford, which now has the supporters dreaming of back-to-back FA Cup triumphs. They will face Reading/Bradford which gibes the Londoners a real opportunity to make the final again at Wembley this season.

As for who they could face, Liverpool/Blackburn and Aston Villa are still in the competition. Liverpool drew to their Championship opponents at Anfield, so they will need to emerge victorious at Ewood Park to progress, where they will face Aston Villa. It won’t be a formality, however, given how the Reds have both won and lost against the Midlands outfit this season, but they are expected to reach the final.

Liverpool and Arsenal last met in an FA Cup final back in 2001, with Michael Owen scoring twice to earn the Merseysiders victory at Wembley. Arsenal have since gotten their revenge, winning each of their last three meetings in the cup competition – with the most recent being last season’s 4th round win at the Emirates in February.

And with the two Premier League elite sides facing lesser opposition this time round, William Hill are giving odds of 5/6 for Liverpool and Arsenal to be this season’s FA Cup finalists.

Bet: Liverpool/Arsenal to be this season’s FA Cup finalists @ 5/6 with William Hill >>

Tue 10 March, 2015
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LVG: Di Maria has ‘no excuses’ for red card

LVG - Di Maria has 'no excuses' for red card

Manchester United F.C. manager Louis van Gaal has insisted winger Angel Di Maria has ‘no excuses’ after being sent off for grabbing referee Michael Oliver’s shirt during the Red Devils’ 2-1 FA Cup defeat to Arsenal at Old Trafford on Monday evening.

The Argentina international, who joined United from Real Madrid for a British-record fee of £59.7 million last summer, was sent off in the 77th-minute after reacting wildly to being yellow-carded for simulation.

“In Spain he knows that he doesn’t touch the referee, but that is also in his emotion,” said Van Gaal. “I’ve already spoken with him, he knows my opinion but also I have to see on the video.

“I think he’s touched the referee and that’s forbidden in every country, so he has no excuses.”

The defeat to Arsenal means United will have to wait until next season for their first title under Van Gaal, but the club have nobody but themselves to blame, according to the Dutch supremo.

LVG added: “I said in advance that [a top-four English Premier League finish] is a priority but as a manager, and as a player and club, you want to win titles and now we cannot win a title.

“I’ve said in the dressing room we gave [the game] away by ourselves and that is the biggest disappointment. In the second half, we had the first chance also then we gave it away again. We don’t lose from the opponent, we lost from ourselves and it was very disappointing. You play this match to win; to beat the opponent, we wanted to be in the semifinal.”

Inter offer Toulalan three-year contract

FC Internazionale Milano have offered AS Monaco midfielder Jeremy Toulalan a three-year deal worth around €2 million per season, according to Italian sports TV channel Rai Sport.

Toulalan, whose current contract at the Stade Louis II is set to expire at the end of the season, is available on a free transfer in the summer, and the Nerazzurri are believed to be leading the race for the 31-year-old’s signature.

Meanwhile, Premier League side Newcastle United have also been linked with the former Olympique Lyonnais star in recent weeks.

Internazionale are currently 10 points off the pace for UEFA Champions League qualification, but are scheduled to host Bundesliga side VfL Wolfsburg in a two-legged Europa League tie later this month.

Even if Roberto Mancini’s side do not finish in the top-three in the Serie A table, they can still claim a place in next season’s Champions League by winning the aforementioned Europa League.

Now then, will Inter Milan be playing in the UCL in 2015/16?

Tue 10 March, 2015
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In-form Liverpool 1/1 to win this season’s FA Cup

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

Liverpool have enjoyed an incredible turnaround of fortunes this season, and could cap such an unlikely and unexpected upturn in form with an FA Cup triumph. The Merseysiders drew to Blackburn in the FA Cup quarter-finals, so they will face the Championship outfit again in a replay, but they certainly boast a side capable of going all the way.

Manchester United face Arsenal in the other semi-final clash, so one of the two Premier League giants will be out of the competition regardless. Liverpool have been flying in the domestic league in the last few months, with Brendan Rodgers’ men enjoying a 12-game unbeaten run. They are on the cusp of Champions League football now too.

But as the in-form team to beat in the FA Cup, William Hill are giving odds of 1/1 for the Reds to win the trophy. Liverpool aren’t without their flaws, however, as goals come be hard to come by in front of their own fans, but Rodgers’ side are tough to beat, and have picked up impressive results to the likes of West Ham, Tottenham, Southampton and Manchester city in recent weeks.

Bet: In-form Liverpool to win this season’s FA Cup @ 1/1 with William Hill >>

Mon 9 March, 2015
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Man Utd’s Wayne Rooney 6/4 to score against Arsenal in tonight’s FA Cup clash

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Wayne Rooney to score anytime
Odds: 6/4 @ Bet 365

Manchester United’s entire season could well be decided on tonight’s FA Cup clash against holders Arsenal, as it’s the Red Devils’ last winnable competition of the campaign. The Premier League looks beyond their reach, so manager Louis van Gaal is putting his focus on this trophy, as well as ensuring a top-four finish for Champions League next season.

Wayne Rooney has played many times against Arsenal down the years, and has provided a lot of goals in a Manchester United shirt. He is expected to spearhead the attack tonight at Old Trafford, as the England international is the best option up front, with Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao struggling to form a potent partnership.

Manchester United are favourites to win against the Londoners tonight, due to their home record this season, as well as their dominance in past meetings against Arsene Wenger’s side. Rooney is being tipped to have a say in the outcome too, with Bet 365 giving odds of 6/4 for the England international to score anytime.

Bet: Man Utd’s Wayne Rooney to score against Arsenal in tonight’s FA Cup clash @ 6/4 with Bet 365 >>

Mon 9 March, 2015
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Prediction: Manchester United vs Arsenal

It will be up to Manchester United to try and stop FA Cup holders Arsenal in their tracks, although the Red Devils will need to improve the standard of their performances in order to do so. Meanwhile, the Gunners continued the rich vein of form by beating QPR on the road and they are feeling confident about their chances of winning at Old Trafford.

Seeing as nobody really expected Manchester United to mount a serious title challenge after last season’s struggles, this campaign will be dubbed a success if the Red Devils secure a top 4 finish in the Premier League. Louis van Gaal’s side currently sit pretty in fourth, but with Liverpool and Tottenham breathing down their necks, a strong season finale is a must if they are to clinch Champions League qualification. At the same time, Manchester United will be in excellent position to lift the FA Cup trophy if they eliminate holders Arsenal, but that could prove easier said than done. Despite winning four of their last five matches on all fronts, it is clear the team are far from the desired form, with their build up play far from impressive. Taking also into account that Robin van Persie is out injured and Radamel Falcao is misfiring at the moment, Wayne Rooney is likely to find himself isolated up front, especially with key midfielder Angel di Maria struggling for form as well. Louis van Gaal will have Luke Shaw back to the side, but Jonny Evans starts a six-match ban. Michael Carrick has returned into action in midweek, but he still lacks match fitness.

English FA Cup has a special appeal for Arsenal as it was in this competition that the club finally ended a long wait for a major trophy and the Gunners now have a unique opportunity to defend the coveted trophy. Arsene Wenger’s charges did have an easy road to the quarter-finals, beating Hull City, Brighton and Middlesbrough, but let us not forget that the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham all crashed out after defeats to much weaker opposition. Following some early season struggles, Arsenal did well to get their season back on track, and while the Premiership title seems out of reach, a four-match winning run saw them close the hap behind second-placed Manchester City to mere four points. Securing a top 4 berth remains a top priority, but there are no doubts the Gunners will give their best to try and lift the FA Cup trophy for the second year running. Arsene Wenger is widely expected to field a very strong side, although Wojciech Szczesny should deputize for David Ospina if he passes a fitness test. Nacho Monreal is another injury doubt, while Gabriel Paulista, Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Debuchy are definitely out.

Conclusion

Despite playing below their potential, Manchester United kept the results respectable, but I can see the Red Devils facing problems in the clash with high-flying Arsenal. The Gunners appear to be in much better form than the opposition at the moment and I believe they will edge one step closer to defending the trophy.

Verdict: Arsenal to qualify

Best Odds: 10/11

Bookmaker: bet365

Mon 9 March, 2015
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Rodgers: Liverpool lacked ‘sharpness’ in goal-less draw against Blackburn

Liverpool F.C. manager Brendan Rodgers believes the Reds' difficult schedule contributed to the club's 0-0 FA Cup draw against Blackburn Rovers at Anfield on Sunday.

Liverpool F.C. manager Brendan Rodgers believes the Reds’ difficult schedule contributed to the club’s 0-0 FA Cup draw against Blackburn Rovers at Anfield on Sunday.

Blackburn were on top for the vast majority of first 45 minutes, and defended very well when Liverpool finally put them on the back foot in the second half.

Shortly after the introduction of Italy international forward Mario Balotelli on 59 minutes, Kolo Toure headed a Philippe Coutinho off the wrong side of the post.

A late half-chance for Jordan Henderson was kept out by Rovers goalkeeper Simon Eastwood, forcing a replay at Ewood Park for a place in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley.

“I give credit to Blackburn, they’ve come here and defended well, and I’ve got to give a huge amount of credit to my own players,” Rodgers told BT Sport. “We weren’t at our best and we had two tough games leading into it.

“We probably just missed the sharpness in our game. But we kept going, we kept trying to create chances to get that goal from the beginning right to the very end.”

Rodgers added: “I thought we should have had a penalty – [the] Adam Lallana one was a clear penalty. The defender is recovering back in, he’s on the wrong side and he can’t get to the ball.

“You could argue when Gestede handballs it off the header from the free kick that we could have had another penalty. Sometimes you need that little bit of luck.”

Liverpool, who were knocked out of the UEFA Europa League by Turkish Süper Lig giants Beşiktaş late last month, will travel to the Liberty Stadium to take on ninth-placed Swansea City on Monday, 16 March.

Alderweireld uncertain over future

On-loan Southampton F.C. defender Toby Alderweireld has insisted he has on idea where his future lies after this season.

The Belgium international, 26, has impressed while on loan at St Mary’s this season, having started 16 league fixtures for the club with the best defensive record in the English Premier League.

Note: the Saints have conceded just 20 goals in 28 league matches. Chelsea have the second-best defensive record, having conceded 22 goals in 27 matches.

“In any case, that they speak well of one does not hurt anyone. If they speak well of me that signifies that I am having a good season,” Alderweireld said.

“I am not going to hide it – it is nice to read this kind of stuff. I feel good in the Premier League, but I have no idea about any concrete interest.

“Atletico can make me return because I still have two more years on my contract, Southampton can buy me, another club can make an offer…

“It seems, at least, that it is going to be another hectic summer for me.”

Sun 8 March, 2015
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Accrington sign Jason Gilchrist on loan from Burnley

League Two side Accrington Stanley F.C. have completed the loan signing of Burnley striker Jason Gilchrist for the rest of the season.

League Two side Accrington Stanley F.C. have completed the loan signing of Burnley striker Jason Gilchrist for the rest of the season.

Gilchrist, 20, has yet to make his senior debut for the Clarets, but is hoping to earn regular first-team football with Stanley.

“I’m relishing the opportunity to play for Accrington, I can’t wait to get a few games in, hopefully get some goals and get some points on the board,” Gilchrist said.

“It’s probably the closest club to Burnley so that’s good for me. Hopefully it’ll be easy for Burnley to keep an eye on my progress and I’m living in Burnley so that’s easy for me too. It’s a good move.

“I’m here to score goals. The manager here is a former striker so any advice he gives me I’ll be taking on board as I know it’ll be good advice.”

Stanley manager John Coleman added: “He’s scored goals at junior levels and he’s just desperate now for a chance to do it in the Football League.

“Hopefully we can provide him with that opportunity. It’s a chance for him to get his career started at this level. I know he scored here in pre-season so we’ve already had a glimpse of what he can do.

“This is a great example of the advantages of being so close to a Premier League team. We’ve got a good relationship with Burnley and Sean Dyche has been great. It’s a chance for them to send a young player out to get first-team experience and we hope he can have an impact.

“He’s a forward and we’ll be looking get him up there. We’ve been looking to expand our attacking options and Jason gives us another string to our bow.”

Accrington, currently in 15th-place in the League Two table, are 10 points clear of the relegation zone and 11 points adrift of the final promotion playoffs place.

Delph bit during pitch invasion at Villa Park

Aston Villa midfielder Fabian Delph has revealed he was bit during the massive pitch invasion which followed Villa’s 2-0 FA Cup win over West Bromwich Albion.

When asked about the pitch invasion, Delph told BBC Sport: “Very, very scary.

“My armband got nicked, someone got my left boot, but I could appreciate the relief the fans are feeling after a result like that,” he added. “It was dangerous. Someone tried to take my boot off. People tried to kiss me and were biting me. It was scary.”

Despite currently being just three points clear of the relegation zone, Villa will travel to Wembley for the FA Cup semi-finals. Improbable.

Sat 7 March, 2015
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Prediction: Liverpool vs Blackburn

Red-hot Liverpool go into the FA Cup quarter-final tie against Blackburn Rovers on the back of the impressive victory over Premier League holders Manchester City and they are rightly considered hot favourites to make it to the semis. The Championship side have already eliminated Swansea and Stoke, and they clearly have nothing to lose at Anfield.

It took Brendan Rodgers quite a while to get this season back on track, but once his players restored the lost confidence, they quickly started performing up to the standard that almost saw them lift the Premier League trophy last term. The manager’s decision to switch to 3-4-2-1 formation helped the team utilise their full potential, and with Daniel Sturridge slowly returning to his best, the Reds have every right to feel optimistic ahead of the final stretch of the season. Liverpool may have been eliminated from Europe, but that could prove a blessing in disguise as the team have seriously raised their Premiership form and difficult European games are the last thing they need at the moment. The Reds are still outside the top 4 positions despite winning nine of last eleven league matches, but if they continue playing like this, one of those Champions League berths will have their name written on it. At the same time, the Anfield outfit have got a perfect opportunity to lift the first major trophy since 2012 as they play host to Blackburn in the FA Cup quarter-finals, and there are absolutely no doubts that the Reds will take this game very seriously. Captain Steven Gerrard will have to settle for a place on the bench even if he proves his fitness, but Mamadou Sakho could return.

The 1994/95 season when Blackburn Rovers won the final of their three league titles seems like a distant past now, as the club have enjoyed little success since. The Ewood Park outfit did shock Tottenham Hotspur to lift the 2002 League Cup trophy, but they are currently going through a very rough patch. Blackburn have been plying their trade in the Championship since they were relegated from the Premier League in 2012, and while they came really close to taking part in the promotion play-offs, they are nowhere near the top 6 positions at the moment. With 11 games to go, Rovers sit 13 points behind sixth-placed Brentford, so it is perfectly clear they will not be leaving the Championship in the summer. However, team’s FA Cup campaign has been a real bright spot, with home wins over Premier League sides Swansea and Stoke seeing Gary Bowyer’s charges earn a quarter-final clash with Liverpool at Anfield. But, with the Reds playing their best football of the season, this is probably going to be the end of the road for the Lancashire side. Former Liverpool midfielder Jay Spearing is cup-tied, whereas Shane Duffy and Jason Lowe are not in contention.

Conclusion

Liverpool appear to be on top of their game at the moment and with Brendan Rodgers widely expected to field his strongest side on Sunday, the Reds should have no problems winning this tie. Blackburn did really well to go this far, but I cannot see them escaping defeat at Anfield.

Verdict: Liverpool/Liverpool

Best Odds: 3/4

Bookmaker: William Hill

Sat 7 March, 2015
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Manchester United 6/4 to win against Arsenal in Monday’s FA Cup clash

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Man Utd to win against Arsenal
Odds: 6/4 @ William Hill

Manchester United host Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter-finals, with the Red Devils looking to make the semi-finals of the competition for the first time since 2011. Louis van Gaal’s side have had an easy ride to make it this far, beating Yeovil Town, Cambridge United and Preston North End en route to the quarter-finals.

Arsenal, who are the FA Cup holders, will provide a major threat to United, but the hosts have a good track record against Arsenal in all competitions. In the Premier League, Manchester United have won five and drawn two of their last seven meetings. In the FA Cup, United have emerged victorious from three of their last four cup ties against the Gunners.

And with the Red Devils boasting fine home form in the league this season – eight wins from their previous nine games at Old Trafford – William Hill are backing Manchester United to get the win against Arsenal this afternoon. Van Gaal’s side have lost only two games in their last 18 in the league, so they’ve proven themselves to be hard to beat.

Bet: Manchester United to win against Arsenal in Monday’s FA Cup clash @ 6/4 with >ws.com/william-hill” rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”>

Sat 7 March, 2015
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Hanson expects fired-up Reading in quarter-final

Reading will provide Bradford City with a sterner FA Cup test than Sunderland, according to striker James Hanson. 

League One Bradford have defied the odds to dump out Millwall, Chelsea and Sunderland and stand one game away from a return to Wembley, having also reached the League Cup final in 2013. 

While Reading may not have generated the same media attention after beating fellow Championship trio Huddersfield Town, Cardiff City and Derby County to reach the quarter-finals, Hanson expects them to be fired up when they arrive at Valley Parade on Saturday. 

“It’d be a brilliant achievement [reaching an FA Cup semi-final] from me and the lads, but we know it’s going to be a tough game, probably tougher than Sunderland in some respects because they are only one game from Wembley as well,” Hanson told Perform. 

“If you look at Reading, they are an established Championship side and full of players who have plied their trade at a higher level.

“It’s going to be a tough game and with it being only one game from Wembley, you’d like to think they’ll be more up for it than Sunderland were.”

Bradford go into the last-eight tie after ending a three-games winless streak with a 1-0 victory over Crawley Town on Tuesday that boosted the club’s play-off hopes. 

Hanson, who has netted nine league goals, added: “It’s nice to take a breather from that and focus on the FA Cup knowing that we got the win on Tuesday.”

Fri 6 March, 2015
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Liverpool v Blackburn Rovers: Rodgers calls for calm amid Henderson hype

Brendan Rodgers has moved to keep expectation levels surrounding Jordan Henderson in check ahead of Liverpool’s FA Cup quarter-final against Blackburn Rovers. 

Henderson has captained the Merseyside club in the absence of the injured Steven Gerrard and is arguably in the form of his career. 

Comparisons have been made between Henderson and his team-mate Gerrard, who misses out again with a hamstring injury, but Liverpool boss Rodgers is wary of linking the two midfielders. 

Addressing the media on Friday, Rodgers said: “You should stop trying to put pressure on Jordan Henderson. 

“Just because he shoots from outside the box doesn’t mean he’s Steven Gerrard. He’s making his own headlines.”

Henderson has hit the headlines by netting fine goals in his last two appearances, with his impressive string of performances coinciding with Liverpool embarking on a 12-game unbeaten streak in the Premier League.

Rodgers’ men are also 13 games unbeaten at home in all competition, highlighting the size of the task facing Blackburn at Anfield. 

But the Championship club have already embarrassed two Premier League teams, Swansea City and Stoke City, to reach the last eight of the FA Cup this season.

A 1-0 victory at Arsenal in the competition in February 2013 also ensures Liverpool cannot take Gary Bowyer’s side lightly, although Rovers had gone four months without an away league win prior to a 2-1 success at Sheffield Wednesday in midweek. 

Rodgers said: “Gary has done a fantastic job in difficult circumstances.”

With one of either Arsenal and Manchester United set to exit in the quarter-finals ahead of their Old Trafford showdown and Chelsea and Manchester City already dumped out, Liverpool are well placed to win the FA Cup for an eighth time. 

“If we can arrive in the top four [of the Premier League] and win a trophy that will be success for us this season,” said Rodgers. 

Blackburn’s last win at Anfield came in the FA Cup in January 2000, Nathan Blake on target with the only goal of the game. 

Jordan Rhodes and Rudy Gestede lead the line in attack for the current Rovers side and have netted 28 times between them in all competitions in 2014-15. 

Josh King, the hat-trick hero in the 4-1 thrashing of Stoke in the last round, misses out through a hamstring injury.

Fri 6 March, 2015
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Rodgers: Scrap Wembley semi-finals

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes it is time to stop playing FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley.

The Premier League club are just one victory away from a spot in the final four of the competition and welcome Championship side Blackburn Rovers to Anfield on Saturday.

If Liverpool come through that test they will by guaranteed at least one trip to Wembley this term, but Rodgers says that the famous venue should only play host to the final.

“In many ways I wish semi-finals weren’t at Wembley,” he said.

“I think it takes something away from it. Wembley should be just for the final.”

Rodgers is still awaiting his first trophy in his third season in charge of Liverpool.

And the former Swansea City boss believes he has a squad capable of challenging for honours.

“The first year here was about integration, second year objective was to get in the Champions League, this season I felt we had depth to challenge for trophies,” he added.

“If we can arrive in the top four and win a trophy that will be success for us this season.”

Fri 6 March, 2015
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Forecast good for Bradford´s Liddle

Bradford City defender Gary Liddle was able to breathe a sigh of relief after poor weather had threatened his chances of playing in Saturday’s FA quarter-final against Reading.

The inclement weather was a threat to Bradford’s League One fixture at home to Crawley Town last Tuesday – a match that saw Liddle serve the second of a two-match ban.

Had that game – which Bradford won 1-0 – been postponed the former Middlesbrough man would have had to sit out the last-eight tie against Championship side Reading at Valley Parade instead.

“I was obviously very nervous looking at that weather forecast,” Liddle told Perform. 

“Once the pitch inspection got passed and the game kicked off thankfully the weather stayed okay.”

Bradford have become famed for their cup exploits in recent seasons, the Yorkshire club enjoying a memorable run to the 2013 League Cup final.

A stunning 4-2 victory at Premier League leaders Chelsea was followed by another win over top-flight opposition in the shape of Sunderland in round five.

Another triumph over opposition playing at a higher level would book a return to Wembley, something that Liddle says would be the pinnacle of his career.

“[Playing at Wembley would be] the very top,” he added. “As a League One footballer the only realistic chance of getting to Wembley is in a play-off final.

“I know this club was lucky enough to do that [get to Wembley] but it was before my time and I dream for the chance to play at Wembley. It’d be great to do that.”

While Bradford have beaten more illustrious opponents this season, Liddle is taking nothing for granted against a Reading side that will see him come face-to-face with old Middlesbrough team-mate Yakubu.

“When I was at Middlesbrough as a kid, Yakubu was there,” he said. 

“I know him from that time, he’s played in a few countries since then but he’s gone back to Reading and hit the ground running. He’ll be a handful if he does play.”

Fri 6 March, 2015
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Aston Villa 9/5 to win Saturday’s FA Cup clash against West Brom

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Aston Villa to win against West Brom
Odds: 9/5 @ Bet 365

Aston Villa won the dress rehearsal against West Brom days ago in the Premier League, and their impressive FA Cup record suggests they could emerge victorious when the two sides lock horns this weekend. Tim Sherwood’s men have won nine of their last 10 home games in the FA Cup, and come into Saturday’s clash full up confidence.

Beating Leicester City in the previous round, Villa recently earned a 2-1 win against West Brom to finally end their wait for a win in the Premier League. They are just 90 minutes from reaching Wembley, which means the Midlands derby promises to be entertaining with so much at stake for both sides.

West Brom boast a strong team to face the Villans, but injuries to their strikers could well see them come unstuck at Villa Park again. The likes of Saido Berahino and Brown Ideye weren’t at the best recently, so manager Tony Pulis is hoping the game time will have done them some good. Bet 365 are giving odds of 9/5 for the hosts to win against Albion once more, which will see them in the FA Cup semi-final for the first time since 2010.

Bet: Aston Villa to win Saturday’s FA Cup clash against West Brom @ 9/5 with Bet 365 >>

Fri 6 March, 2015
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Bradford City 17/11 to win Saturday’s FA Cup clash at home to Reading

soccernews fooball-betting-tips pic

Competition: FA Cup
Market: Bradford to win against Reading
Odds: 17/11 @ 888 Sport

Giant-killers Bradford City host Reading in the FA Cup quarter-finals, with the League One side favourites to reach the semis, despite being a division below Saturday’s opponents. Reading have been struggling in the Championship this season, and have looked very unconvincing playing away from home. Bradford have lost just once on home soil since November, while beating Chelsea and Sunderland in the previous rounds.

The Bantams have beaten Halifax Town, Dartford, Millwall, Chelsea and Sunderland to make it this far, while Reading faced Huddersfield, Cardiff City and Derby County. They have picked up just one league win in their last six, and face Bradford at a bad time. As a result, 888 Sport are giving odds of 17/11 for City to win against the Royals, booking their place in the semi-finals.

Saturday’s clash promises to be enthralling, and with Bradford City or Reading guaranteed to be in the 2015 FA Cup semi-final, the competition is certainly all to play for. Manager Phil Parkinson said his side face a different challenge with Reading, as it’s the first time Bradford are favourites to beat a side one league above.

Bet: Bradford City to win Saturday’s FA Cup clash at home to Reading @ 17/11 with 888 Sport >>

Fri 6 March, 2015
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´Unbelievable´ Henderson at another level – Lallana

Stand-in Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has kicked on to “another level” with the armband, according to team-mate Adam Lallana.

Henderson has led Brendan Rodgers’ men in Steven Gerrard’s injury-enforced absence, and in spectacular fashion.

The former Sunderland midfielder scored long-range goals in wins over Manchester City and Burnley in the Premier League.

Lallana, who captained Southampton before his move to Anfield, said Henderson’s game had improved thanks to the extra responsibilities.

“He’s unbelievable. For me, he has matured as a player over the last two years and kicked on to another level, even with the armband,” Lallana said.

“I was lucky enough to be captain at Southampton and it does give you that little bit extra. It seems it is doing the same to him as well. It’s great to be playing with such great players – the results are on the up.”

Gerrard could be set for a return when Liverpool face Blackburn in the FA Cup sixth round on Sunday.

Lallana urged his team not to underestimate the Championship outfit at Anfield.

“It is a great competition in which we have a great chance of getting to Wembley in the semi-final,” he said.

“We won’t underestimate Blackburn, we will dust ourselves down, recover well and go again Sunday.

“A lot of the big guns went out in the early rounds so it is good that we can maybe capitalise on that but Blackburn will not be an easy game.

“They will come here full of optimism and will want to cause an upset.”

Fri 6 March, 2015
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Parkinson relishing Reading reunion

There will be no room for sentiment from Phil Parkinson when he sends his Bradford City side out to face ex-employers Reading in Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final at Valley Parade.

City have been this year’s giant-killers in the competition, knocking out Premier League sides Chelsea and Sunderland on their way to the last eight.

With a semi-final tie at Wembley awaiting the 2013 League Cup finalists, Parkinson is excited to take on the club he represented as a player for more than a decade.

“We wanted a home draw and we got it and to be playing one of my old clubs is obviously very special,” he said.

“It’s going to be a special day because it’s a game of such importance, but once the dressing room door closes, there’ll be no sentiment at all.

“We’ll be doing everything we can to progress. They’ve got pace down the side, an array of talent to choose from, but on the day Steve [Clarke] may change something.

“I went to watch them against Wigan and their pitch isn’t in the best condition and I know they’ve found it tough at home, so they’ll be used to playing on heavy pitches.”

Two seasons ago, Parkinson’s side again stole the headlines with wins over Aston Villa and Arsenal en route to a League Cup final defeat at the hands of Swansea City.

However, the former Reading midfielder maintains an FA Cup trip to Wembley would prove extra special.

“When we got to the League Cup final we spoke about making history and we did that,” he added.

“If we achieve it and get to Wembley, it would the first time this club has been in [an FA Cup] semi-final since 1911 and this group of players will be remembered.

“That’s what being in football is all about. There’ll be teams in the Premier League casting very envious eyes on ourselves and Reading this Saturday.”

Thu 5 March, 2015
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Van Gaal delighted with home draw

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has expressed his delight at being drawn at home to face Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter-final.

Despite being handed a tough FA Cup quarter-final tie with Arsenal, Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal is grateful for having being drawn at home.

Van Gaal’s side were pitted against Arsene Wenger’s men for the last eight on Monday, and confirmed their place with a 3-1 win at Preston North End.

Goals from Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini and a late penalty from Wayne Rooney were enough to cancel out Scott Laird’s opener and propel the Dutchman’s squad into the quarter-finals.

Following previous away fixtures at Yeovil Town, Cambridge United and Preston, Van Gaal believes the home tie suits his side better and relishes the challenge that the London club will bring, 

“The most important thing is that we have a draw at home,” he told the club’s official website.

“In FA Cup matches, I believe that is important, so I am pleased that we get to play against Arsenal at home.

“Every game in the FA Cup is difficult to win because every team is giving everything.

“You have also seen it in this round how many better situated teams have lost.

“So what is very important is that we will play at home for the first time.”

Tue 17 February, 2015
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Prediction: Preston vs Manchester United

Having masterminded the FA Cup victory over Manchester United back in 2010, Preston North End manager Simon Grayson will be hoping to lead his new side to the FA Cup quarter-finals at the expense of Louis van Gaal’s side. The Red Devils struggled against both Yeovil and Cambridge, and they could face a tough task at Deepdale Stadium.

Preston North End were relegated to the League One in 2011 after a long run in the Championship and they have been trying to return to the second tier ever since. The appointment of former Leeds United manager Simon Grayson could prove decisive as he has led the Lilywhites to fourth in the league standings, with his side four points behind the promotion places at the moment, albeit with a game in hand. Meanwhile, Grayson is proving to be the FA Cup specialist, having previously led the then League One side Leeds to an impressive triumph at Old Trafford before enjoying success in the competition with Preston as well. After seeing off Havant & Waterlooville and Shrewsbury, the Lilywhites eliminated Norwich and Sheffield United to earn a chance to host Manchester United, and no doubt Deepdale Stadium will be rocking when they host the Red Devils. Veteran striker Kevin Davies is expected to lead the line in the absence of Jermaine Beckford, while Paul Gallagher, Joe Garner and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake are players who could cause the opposition defence all sorts of problems. Callum Robinson faces a fitness test, whereas Calum Woods is definitely out.

With Arsenal and Liverpool the only top sides making it to the FA Cup quarter-finals, Manchester United will be all too aware that this competition offers them the best possible chance of avoiding a trophy-less season. Judging by their performances in the previous two rounds, the Red Devils don’t exactly have a lot to hope for, although everybody expects Louis van Gaal’s men to show a massive improvement on their displays against Yeovil Town and Cambridge United. Even if they remain in the Premiership top 4, team’s performances in the league have been far from impressive, leading to criticism from club icon Paul Scholes. And while the Red Devils have improved their home form, they continue to struggle on the road, having won mere two of last seven away matches on all fronts. And having largely struggled in their previous two FA Cup clashes, the match against very motivated Preston side will be no walk in the park. Despite the importance of the match, Louis van Gaal is expected to ring changes to his starting line-up, with the likes of Robin van Persie, Phil Jones and Daley Blind not expected to feature due to various complaints. It remains to be seen whether Victor Valdes will be handed his debut, but James Wilson, Juan Mata, Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera should start.

Conclusion

With the packed Deepdale behind them, Preston North End can be trusted to make life difficult for their more illustrious opponents, especially given the current form of Manchester United. The Red Devils may eventually secure their place in the next stage, but everything suggests we can virtually rule out a comfortable win.

Verdict: Under 2.5 goals

Best Odds: 11/10

Bookmaker: William Hill

Mon 16 February, 2015
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Parkinson wants another home draw after ousting Sunderland

Following their win over Sunderland, Phil Parkinson hopes Bradford City are given another home tie in Monday’s FA Cup quarter-final draw.

Manager Phil Parkinson is eyeing another home draw for Bradford City after the FA Cup giantkillers progressed to the quarter-finals with a 2-0 win over Sunderland.

After defeating Chelsea 4-2 at Stamford Bridge in the previous round, Bradford made the most of home advantage on Sunday as they progressed to the last eight for the first time since 1976.

John O’Shea’s early own goal and Jon Stead’s effort shortly after the hour mark earned them victory at Valley Parade, and an ecstatic Parkinson hopes they are given another home tie when the draw is made on Monday.

“I am obviously delighted with the way we played,” he told BBC Sport. “We did the right things in the right areas of the pitch.

“Defensively, we were outstanding today. I was pleased when Jon Stead put that second goal in, it gave us a bit of breathing space and we saw the game out professionally.

“There is always a danger because the expectancy might have been we would win this one after beating Chelsea, but we have kept that underdog spirit. It was a good, old fashioned cup tie – a really good advert for the FA Cup.

“The pitch was not as bad as it was two or three weeks ago, we played some good stuff at times, so did Sunderland.

“After today we would like another game at home. It is incredible for all the players to experience that sell-out atmosphere.

“We had all three sides [of the ground] singing and behind the team and it raises the lads to the next level.”

Sun 15 February, 2015
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