FA Cup


Naismith ´couldn´t remember scoring´, says Martinez

Roberto Martinez confirmed Steven Naismith suffered concussion Everton’s FA Cup win over Swansea City and could not remember scoring.

The Scot hit the second of his side’s three goals in a 3-1 victory over Martinez’s former club as Everton booked their place in the quarter-finals of the competition.

And Martinez revealed Naismith had been left somewhat confused after a nasty collision with Swansea defender Jordi Amat forced him from the field in the closing stages.

“Steven has concussion and couldn’t remember scoring,” he said, before joking: “I’ve told him he scored from 40 yards.”

The Spaniard handed a debut to Monaco loanee Lacina Traore and the Ivorian opened his Everton account in the fourth minute of the game.

“For Lacina to play 60 minutes and get a goal is fantastic news for us,” continued Martinez. “It’s a good sign for the future.

“We’re developing into a side that can get into the final third very well. It’s what you do when you’re there that will win games.

“I thought we made very good decisions in the final third today, which is pleasing. It’s an area where we need to improve.”

Jonathan de Guzman scored Swansea’s equaliser, while Leighton Baines rounded off the scoring for Everton from the penalty spot.

Sun 16 February, 2014
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Prediction: Arsenal vs Liverpool

Revenge will be the order of the day when Arsenal host Liverpool in the FA Cup fifth round, some eight days after the 5-1 hammering at Anfield. And with the Champions League clash against Bayern Munich scheduled for Wednesday, Arsene Wenger cannot afford to field his strongest line-up on Sunday afternoon, unlike his counterpart, who will have some important players back to the side.

It has just been revealed that Arsenal could have spent up to £140 million on transfers as Arsene Wenger had this money available to use on new signings, so no wonder the fans are once again blaming the Professor for the lack of transfer activity that could derail what looked like a very promising season. With Olivier Giroud struggling up front, Wenger has probably lived to regret his decision not to sign a new striker in January, especially with so many quality forwards changing clubs in the winter transfer window at bargain prices. The Gunners find themselves in a difficult position following setbacks against Liverpool and Manchester United, with the busy schedule yet to ease off. The hosts will obviously give their best to get their season back on track and get revenge on Liverpool by beating the Reds on Sunday, but they will also have one eye on Wednesday’s clash with Bayern Munich. As a result, there should be quite a few changes to the starting line-up, with Chamberlain, Podolski, Fabianski and Monreal pushing for starting places. Meanwhile, Mathieu Flamini returns from suspension, but Santi Cazorla looks set to miss out through illness.

In spite of some impressive showings in the opening exchanges, Liverpool were rarely mentioned as one of the candidates for the Premier League title, with the lack of strength in depth often cited as a potentially big problem for Brendan Rodgers. However, even with some important players on the sidelines, the Reds managed to keep the results respectable and with 12 games to go they sit mere four points behind leaders Chelsea. The 5-1 triumph over Arsenal was probably their most accomplished performance of the season, but rather than resting on their laurels Liverpool impressed to twice come from a goal behind and record a very important victory over Fulham. With no European distractions, Brendan Rodgers has a courtesy of fielding his strongest line-up for the FA Cup game against Arsenal, which should give the visitors the upper hand. Daniel Agger is expected to take his place in the heart of defence having recovered from injury, but Glen Johnson is unlikely to be risked and Jordan Henderson is doubtful with a wrist problem. Mamadou Sakho, Jose Enrique and Lucas Leiva remain on the sidelines.

Conclusion

Arsenal may be eager to exact vengeance on their Premier League rivals, but the Gunners are well aware they cannot afford to go all guns blazing at Liverpool since they can be deadly on the break. And with the Reds also expected to adopt a cautious approach, betting on half-time draw looks a good option here.

Verdict: Half-time Draw

Best Odds: 13/10

Bookmaker: bet365

Sun 16 February, 2014
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Mourinho rejects ´failure´ talk

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho was keen to avoid any more talk of failure following his side’s 2-0 FA Cup fifth-round defeat at Manchester City.

Having branded Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger a “specialist in failure” after eight years without a trophy as the mind games ramped up in the Premier League title race this week, the Portuguese was given a taste of his own medicine at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday as his side were outclassed.

Mourinho’s men had completed a league double over title rivals City with a 1-0 success on the same ground 12 days earlier, but they found themselves second best on this occasion as City eased into the quarter-finals.

Goals from Stevan Jovetic and Samir Nasri, whose effort was allowed to stand despite a suspicion of offside in the build-up, ensured progress for the hosts.

And, while Mourinho conceded that Chelsea had been outplayed by a comfortable margin, he was quick to defend his team’s showing amid questions over whether this result represented a failure of his own.

“I don’t think my team failed,” Mourinho said. “City played much better than us, deserved much more than us to win. When the best team wins I think football is in peace.

“Two weeks ago the best team won, and today the best team won. That’s simple and gives more credit to my players because to win twice against City, and to win here, today (Saturday) it was proved that it is very, very difficult to do it.

“Was the referee team very poor in the second half? Yes. But even with a perfect referee team would Chelsea win the game? No.

“They were better than us, they deserved to win. The second goal is offside, but they would win 1-0 because we were never close to scoring.”

Mourinho also dismissed suggestions that Chelsea’s FA Cup exit could serve to boost their Premier League title chances, insisting that the extra games would not have an impact on City, who also play in the League Cup final against Sunderland on March 2.

“We go game by game, we are what we are, we always try to win the next game,” Mourinho added.

“I don’t think one more game or two more games in the FA Cup would change anything for us or anything for them, especially with the powerful squad they have, so I don’t think there is a problem.”

Sat 15 February, 2014
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Rosler: Travel troubles, no worries

Wigan Athletic boss Uwe Rosler was delighted after his players overcame travel trouble to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Holders Wigan may be in the Championship this season, but they upset Premier League opposition for the second time in less than a month in the Cup on Saturday.

After beating Crystal Palace to reach the last 16, first-half goals from Chris McCann and Ben Watson helped Rosler’s men to a 2-1 win at Cardiff City.

Inclement weather harmed Wigan’s preparation for the game, Rosler revealed afterwards, but despite nine hours of travelling on Friday, they were fresh enough to claim a big away win.

Rosler told the club’s official website: “Our performance was fantastic, particularly after the troubles we had in getting down here for the game.

“We had to go through an unbelievable journey down after our flight was cancelled yesterday afternoon.

“We only arrived at the hotel at 10pm to 10.30pm and we had been travelling from more or less 1pm.

“The players were magnificent today despite all that we went through, and they have shown real pride in their performance.

“The quality we showed was very impressive, we didn’t get to train much between our last game and this one, but with experienced players like we have, we always know what we are capable of.”

Rosler added that goal hero Watson – who has now scored in three of his last four FA Cup appearances, including the winner against Manchester City in last year’s final – had sustained an injury, leading to his substitution just before the hour-mark.

“We’ve lost Ben for Tuesday’s game (against Barnsley in the league) after he picked up a knock,” he added.

“We were forced to make the change and up until then his performance had very pleasing with a magnificent goal to put us back ahead.”

Sat 15 February, 2014
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FA Cup: Cardiff City 1 Wigan Athletic 2

Ben Watson was once again Wigan Athletic’s FA Cup hero as the holders continued the defence of the trophy with a 2-1 win over Cardiff City.

Back in May, it was Watson’s last-gasp header that sent Wigan into dreamland as they completed a memorable victory over Manchester City at Wembley to lift their first major silverware in 81 years.

Nine months on, the same player came to his side’s rescue again to book their place in the quarter-finals of this year’s competition – his stunning strike from a 30-yard free-kick proving to be the winner.

Chris McCann had put the visitors ahead after 17 minutes with a side-footed finish from inside the box following Jordi Gomez’s delivery, before Fraizer Campbell levelled the tie 10 minutes later when he pounced on a loose ball in the Wigan box.

But five minutes before half-time, Watson proved to be the hero again as he sent a shot from a long-range free-kick into the bottom corner, giving Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall no chance.

The one sour note for Watson came when he was replaced in the second half by Josh McEachran after suffering a suspected injury.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Cardiff side were dumped out of competition with a whimper, as they now turn their attentions to Premier League survival.

James Perch had the first shot on goal for Uwe Rosler’s visiting side when he advanced to the edge of the Cardiff box from the right wing and flashed a shot just wide of Marshall’s right-hand post.

Wilfried Zaha was involved for Cardiff after 12 minutes when he cut past Watson in midfield and dummied with two step-overs but his shot was blocked.

The cup holders went ahead after 17 minutes when McCann broke free just outside the six-yard box to get on the end of Gomez’s cross from the left-hand side, converting to give Wigan the advantage.

The lead lasted just 10 minutes though – great play from Zaha again on the right leading to a goalmouth scramble before the ball finally broke free to Campbell, who dispatched clinically into the bottom corner.

Half-an-hour into the game, Zaha burst into the Wigan box again after another set of step-overs but his attempted cross was blocked.

Cardiff continued to threaten from the right as Zaha – at the centre of everything for the hosts – picked out Campbell in the box but he was unable to double his tally.

But five minutes from half-time Watson put Wigan in front again with the decisive moment of the match.

His thumping strike into the bottom corner gave Marshall no chance as he lashed home when a 30-yard free-kick was touched to him.

Cardiff started brightly immediately after the break, when Mats Daehli cut in from the left and sent a shot just wide of Ali Al-Habsi’s post.

Wigan goalscorer Watson was replaced by McEachran, on loan from Chelsea, after 56 minutes – but his job had already been done.

Cardiff continued to push for an equaliser but Zaha and Daehli were unable to get the crucial breakthrough.

The latter flashed a shot over, via a touch from a defender, with time running out but Cardiff did not have enough to force a replay.

Sat 15 February, 2014
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Perez defends Southampton team selection

Southampton assistant manager Jesus Perez has defended their decision to field a weakened side in Saturday’s FA Cup defeat to Sunderland.

Manager Mauricio Pochettino made six changes for the last-16 clash at the Stadium of Light, with Craig Gardner’s goal five minutes after the break sending the League Cup finalists through.

Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc and defender Jose Fonte did not see any action, while Jay Rodriguez and Morgan Schneiderlin were only used as second-half substitutes.

The damage had been done by then, as Southampton could not find an equaliser, with Rickie Lambert guilty of shooting over from point-blank range in the latter stages.

Despite the defeat, Perez believes it was the right decision to rest players as they seek to improve on their Premier League position of eighth.

“We played the best team we decide to play,” he said in quotes reported by The Daily Echo.

“We assess our players, we know how they are, we know which problems each other got from the last game and we decide the best team to play.

“I repeat again we trust every single player we have in our squad.”

Sunderland have now sent Southampton out of both the FA Cup and the League Cup this season, with the Premier League left as Southampton’s only focus.

Perez claimed the size of their squad had impacted on their progress in the competition.

“Our squad (does) not (have) depth in this moment so we have a lot of young people from the under-21s so we are not disappointed,” he continued.

“(We are) just a little sad to be out of the FA Cup because we tried to move forward.”

Sat 15 February, 2014
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FA Cup: Sunderland 1 Southampton 0

Craig Gardner’s superb goal handed Sunderland a 1-0 FA Cup win over Southampton as Rickie Lambert wasted a glorious late chance to equalise.

Gus Poyet’s side continued their excellent form in knockout competitions as the League Cup finalists reached the last eight, but only after Lambert somehow contrived to clear the crossbar from two yards in the closing stages.

Gardner’s stunning strike five minutes after the break proved decisive, the midfielder turning away from Victor Wanyama before firing home from outside the penalty area.

Sunderland had several chances to make it more comfortable but none as good as the one presented to England man Lambert, whose miss let the hosts off the hook.

Poyet, whose men remain embroiled in relegation trouble, promised to ring the changes ahead of a busy schedule for his side and he duly obliged, making nine alterations as forward Ignacio Scocco was handed his debut.

Mauricio Pochettino has no such problems, with his charges eighth in the table, but he made six changes as both sides struggled to find their rhythm in a frenetic opening.

The visitors had the first opportunity, Adam Lallana finding Lambert with a cross before the striker nodded down for James Ward-Prowse, whose effort was well saved by Oscar Ustari.

Poyet was angered by the officials’ decision not to award a penalty when Fabio Borini went down under the challenge of defender Luke Shaw after 12 minutes.

Emanuele Giaccherini then squandered a promising opportunity when he failed to get a shot away after dribbling his way into the Southampton area.

Lambert was denied an excellent chance to put his side ahead eight minutes before the break when Santiago Vergini executed a well-timed tackle in the box.

Gardner sparked the game into life with 50 minutes gone, putting his side ahead with a long-range strike that crashed in off the underside of Kelvin Davis’ bar.

It was Gardner’s third goal of the season and the visitors struggled to mount a response, with Pochettino opting to introduce Jay Rodriguez and Morgan Schneiderlin just after the hour mark.

Connor Wickham should have made it two 17 minutes from time but he failed to connect with a pass when through on goal, while Lallana could only put Nathaniel Clyne’s cross wide from close range.

Pochettino must have realised it was not to be Southampton’s day when Lambert spooned Clyne’s low cross over the bar with the goal at his mercy as Sunderland sent the visitors crashing out of a second cup competition this season following their 2-1 League Cup win in November.

Sat 15 February, 2014
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Sheffield Wednesday FA Cup match postponed

Sheffield Wednesday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie with Charlton Athletic at Hillsborough has been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

An inspection of the playing surface was carried out by match referee Mark Clattenburg at 10:30hrs (local time) and he deemed it unplayable.

No new date for the all-Championship fixture has been announced.

Wednesday are aiming to reach the last eight of the competition for the first time since 1997, while fellow second-tier outfit Charlton have not made it to that stage in eight years.

The sides, who are both in the bottom half of the Championship, drew 1-1 at The Valley in December.

Sat 15 February, 2014
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Cissokho defends under-fire Toure

Aly Cissokho has leapt to the defence of under-fire Liverpool team-mate Kolo Toure after a couple of costly errors from the Ivorian.

Toure was at fault for West Brom’s equaliser in the 1-1 draw at The Hawthorns earlier this month, and the centre-half scored a comical own goal to leave his side trailing after eight minutes at rock-bottom Fulham on Wednesday.

Liverpool recovered from that early setback but Toure’s displays have attracted criticism as Brendan Rodgers’ side try to keep pace in the Premier League title race.

Frenchman Cissokho, however, has no doubt as to Toure’s ability and he hailed the 32-year-old’s impact on his own development, particularly as the former Manchester City man can speak French.

“Kolo has been a big influence on me,” the left-back said in quotes reported by The Independent.

“He has marked my card on many occasions. For example, he told me what to expect when we went to play Stoke at the Britannia. He explained to me it would be windy, the ball would be in the air all the time and I’d be up against big, strong lads.

“There are a lot of youngsters in the squad and people like Kolo and Steven Gerrard are very important, especially in the middle of a match. They are a voice out on the park, telling us to slow things down or play a longer game.

“Simon Mignolet also speaks French and that’s important for me because I’ve got Kolo alongside me and Mignolet in goal behind me.

“Sometimes, you do have to react quickly and then your first thoughts will be in French and it helps if you can shout it out to someone near you.”

Liverpool travel to Arsenal in the FA Cup on Sunday, with both clubs also harbouring ambitions of a title push, and Cissokho is expecting a tough test despite having hammered Arsene Wenger’s men 5-1 last weekend.

“Their run of form isn’t that impressive but Arsene Wenger is very experienced at handling these big games,” he added.

“We have to make sure we profit from their slight drop in form and not allow them to develop their game, not allow them to pass the ball or feel comfortable.”

Sat 15 February, 2014
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Prediction: Manchester City vs Chelsea

The FA Cup fifth round clash will be a perfect opportunity for Manchester City to get revenge on Chelsea for the Premier League defeat at Etihad, although the protagonists are unlikely to be the same with both managers looking to ring changes to the starting line-up for one reason or another.

This game clearly comes at a bad time for Manchester City, even if Manuel Pellegrini’s players managed to get some rest with their weekend’s clash against Sunderland having been postponed. The Citizens have just suffered two major setbacks in the Premier League title race, losing to Chelsea at home and only mustering a goalless draw at Norwich, thus slipping to their in the overall standings. They are also without important players Aguero and Fernandinho, whilst Samir Nasri has yet to return from a knee problem. And to cap it all off, they are set to contest the Champions League clash against Barcelona just three days later, so no wonder Manuel Pellegrini has hinted he will field an under strength side in the FA Cup match with Chelsea. Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott and even Jack Rodwell are expected to start, with quite a few regular starters set to be rested. Samir Nasri and Javi Garcia are not fully fit but they could play a part. Manuel Pellegrini will be torn between the desire to exact revenge on the Blues and the need to rest key players ahead of the Barcelona game, but the latter looks likely to prevail.

Chelsea, too, suffered an unexpected slip-up this weekend as they failed to defeat out-of-sorts West Bromwich at the Hawthorns having conceded a late equalizer, but they have a lot more reason for optimism than their next opponents. The Blues climbed to the Premiership summit thanks to back to back triumphs over City and Newcastle, and remained there in spite of the weekend’s setback. And the fact they do not have a midweek game could give them an extra edge in the FA Cup tie against Manchester City. Nevertheless, with quite a few players carrying knocks and others in need of rest, chances are that Jose Mourinho will also use the match to rest some of his starters. The visitors have problems at the back as both John Terry and Gary Cahill are injury doubts, which should see Ivanovic and Luiz form a centre-back pairing. Torres, Mikel, Salah, Schurrle, Lampard and Cole are all expected to start, with Jose Mourinho likely to adopt the same counter-attacking approach that helped his side record a crucial Premiership victory some 12 days ago.

Conclusion

As much as the hosts would like to get one over Chelsea, Manuel Pellegrini has no choice but to field a second string line-up with a view to Champions League encounter against Barcelona. Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho is expected to ring changes as well, but with no games for them in midweek, the Blues can give their best at Etihad, which should ultimately prove the difference.

Verdict: Chelsea not to lose

Best Odds: 7/10

Bookmaker: bet365

Fri 14 February, 2014
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Solskjaer refuses to be drawn on Mackay row

Cardiff City manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he has no interest in becoming embroiled in the club’s spat with former boss Malky Mackay.

Mackay parted company with the Welsh outfit in December, amid reports of a falling out with owner Vincent Tan, and Solskaer subsequently took the reins at the Cardiff City Stadium.

One of the disagreements was thought to revolve around the club’s business in the transfer market, with Cardiff releasing a statement on Thursday where chief executive Simon Lim claimed Mackay and former head of recruitment Iain Moody were guilty of “imprudent and careless management”.

The deal to bring Andreas Cornelius from FC Copenhagen for a club-record fee was pinpointed as a particular failure, with the striker returning to his former club last month after failing to score in 10 appearances for Cardiff.

The League Manager’s Association then waded into to the issue by defending Mackay, claiming Lim’s words were “inappropriate and unprofessional”.

While criticising Mackay’s movements in the transfer market, Lim praised the work done by Solskjaer in the January window, but the Norwegian refused to offer an opinion on his predecessor’s situation.

“It is early doors for me and it is encouraging they (the board) are happy with what I have done but what happened in the past is not for me,” he said.

“It guides what resources they give me and what remit I have. I’m just running the club as I would like to.

“It’s not got anything to do with me, what happened before. I am just focused on my team because the January window was chaotic.”

Cardiff continue their season with an FA Cup fifth-round tie against holders Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

After winning the competition last season, Wigan went on to be relegated from the Premier League – and Solskjaer is determined to avoid a similar fate.

“They proved last season what the FA Cup was all about, a chance for smaller clubs to win trophies,” he added.

“I would like to go one better than they did and win the cup and stay up, but in any way, shape or form, if you play in a cup game you want to win it.

“It’s a chance for some players to come in and show they should be playing in the league and I do not go into any game hoping we lose.”

Fri 14 February, 2014
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Solskjaer refuses to be drawn on Mackay row

Cardiff City manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he has no interest in becoming embroiled in the club’s spat with former boss Malky Mackay.

Mackay parted company with the Welsh outfit in December, amid reports of a falling out with owner Vincent Tan, and Solskaer subsequently took the reins at the Cardiff City Stadium.

One of the disagreements was thought to revolve around the club’s business in the transfer market, with Cardiff releasing a statement on Thursday where chief executive Simon Lim claimed Mackay and former head of recruitment Iain Moody were guilty of “imprudent and careless management”.

The deal to bring Andreas Cornelius from FC Copenhagen for a club-record fee was pinpointed as a particular failure, with the striker returning to his former club last month after failing to score in 10 appearances for Cardiff.

The League Manager’s Association then waded into to the issue by defending Mackay, claiming Lim’s words were “inappropriate and unprofessional”.

While criticising Mackay’s movements in the transfer market, Lim praised the work done by Solskjaer in the January window, but the Norwegian refused to offer an opinion on his predecessor’s situation.

“It is early doors for me and it is encouraging they (the board) are happy with what I have done but what happened in the past is not for me,” he said.

“It guides what resources they give me and what remit I have. I’m just running the club as I would like to.

“It’s not got anything to do with me, what happened before. I am just focused on my team because the January window was chaotic.”

Cardiff continue their season with an FA Cup fifth-round tie against holders Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

After winning the competition la
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st season, Wigan went on to be relegated from the Premier League – and Solskjaer is determined to avoid a similar fate.

“They proved last season what the FA Cup was all about, a chance for smaller clubs to win trophies,” he added.

“I would like to go one better than they did and win the cup and stay up, but in any way, shape or form, if you play in a cup game you want to win it.

“It’s a chance for some players to come in and show they should be playing in the league and I do not go into any game hoping we lose.”

Fri 14 February, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Brighton and Hove Albion v Hull City

Brighton and Hove Albion head coach Oscar Garcia does not want his side to alter their style of play against Hull City in the FA Cup.

In what is his debut season at the Amex Stadium, Garcia has ensured the club are again challenging for a play-off place in the Championship and guided them into the FA Cup fifth round.

Victories over Reading and Port Vale booked the south-coast club a last-16 clash with Steve Bruce’s Premier League outfit and the Spaniard will hope to deliver a scalp on Monday, with Brighton having suffered exits against top-flight opposition in the last four seasons.

After defeats against Premier League sides Arsenal, Liverpool, Stoke City and Aston Villa, Brighton take on a Hull side who have enjoyed themselves on the road in the FA Cup of late.

Bruce’s men have come through two away ties this term and are yet to concede a goal, while Hull have also lost just two of their last seven away ties in the competition.

If Brighton are to reach the sixth round for the first time since 1986, Garcia believes his team must maintain their style of football.

“My philosophy is to play all the games the same whether we are on television or not. We cannot change how we play or our mentality, it would not be good if when we are on television we play with more intensity or energy,” he told the club’s official website.

“I want to play every game the same way we are already playing and not focus on whether we are on television or anything else.”

Garcia’s men are unbeaten at home this year, conceding just one goal in five games, and will likely need that defensive solidity if they are to make it a three wins from three against Hull in the competition.

Brighton won a third-round clash between the sides in 1985 and were victorious a round later in 1986, although Hull will be mindful of the opportunity to stake a realistic claim to win the FA Cup this season, given the sides to have already bowed out of the competition.

With two of Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool to exit the competition in this round, Bruce’s men could have an ideal opportunity to reach the latter stages.

Bruce may hand Sone Aluko his first start since October after recovering from an Achilles problem, while midfielder Keith Andrews could return from a hamstring problem for Brighton.

Fri 14 February, 2014
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Scocco set for Sunderland debut

Gus Poyet will give Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Scocco his Sunderland debut against Southampton in the FA cup on Saturday.

The head coach revealed that the January signing from Newell’s Old Boys will feature for as long as possible, with the Uruguayan looking to rotate his squad.

The Argentine attacker scored 24 goals in 33 league games last season in his homeland and Poyet is aiming to use the fifth-round tie to boost the 28-year-old’s fitness so that he can play a role in Sunderland’s battle against the drop.

“Nacho will play as much as he can – if it’s 45 minutes, it’s 45, if it’s 60, then 60,” Poyet told the club’s official website.

“We need to help him now and hopefully he can have a good game in terms of touches and ability. He will slowly get better.

“We’re looking to try and get Nacho ready for 10 Barclays Premier League games. That would be exceptional.”

Sunderland, 18th in the Premier League, host Southampton for a place in the FA cup quarter-finals, and face Manchester City in the League Cup final at Wembley on March 2.

Fri 14 February, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Sheffield Wednesday v Charlton Athletic

Sheffield Wednesday welcome Charlton Athletic to Hillsborough on Saturday bidding for a first FA Cup quarter-final appearance since 1997.

The Yorkshire outfit have overcome Conference side Macclesfield Town and League Two’s Rochdale to reach round five.

Next up for the three-time winners is a visit from Chris Powell’s Championship strugglers, with the sides having drawn 1-1 at The Valley in December.

Wednesday are searching for a last-eight appearance for the first time since they were defeated 2-0 by Wimbledon in March 1997.

Their recent record in the competition leaves much to be desired, with this just the club’s fourth fifth-round appearance since then.

A win on Saturday would leave Stuart Gray’s men just 90 minutes away from a first Wembley appearance since four visits in 1993.

Then managed by Trevor Francis, Wednesday suffered heartbreak against Arsenal in the League Cup final, before defeating near-rivals Sheffield United in the semi-final of the FA Cup.

However, Wednesday would go on to suffer an agonising defeat in a replay in the final, with Arsenal once again inflicting the misery through Andy Linighan’s 120th-minute winner in extra time.

Wednesday head into the fixture on the back of a 3-0 loss to Wigan Athletic, but the side will take confidence from an 11-match unbeaten run in all competitions that preceded that defeat.

Midfielder Jose Semedo will miss out against his former club after fracturing his fibula against Wigan, and his absence means Gary Gardner could make his debut after joining on a loan deal from Aston Villa, though Giles Coke is another option following the completion of a three-match ban.

Charlton – whose solitary victory in the competition came in 1947 – are seeking some welcome relief from a six-match winless league run that has seen them slip into the Championship relegation zone.

Powell has witnessed his side suffer four straight defeats in the league, including a disappointing 2-0 setback to Birmingham City at the Valley on Saturday.

Victory would see Charlton’s first foray into the quarter-finals since 2006, where the club were defeated 4-2 in a replay by Middlesbrough.

Charlton have thus far seen off challenges from Oxford United and Huddersfield Town, and have no fresh injury worries ahead of the visit to Hillsborough.

Thu 13 February, 2014
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Fonte eyeing Wembley return

Jose Fonte set his sights on reaching the FA Cup final after scoring Southampton’s winner at Hull City on Tuesday.

The south-coast club’s impressive season continued when Fonte scored the only goal of the game at the KC Stadium.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side are seventh in the Premier League table after their latest victory, just two points adrift of champions Manchester United.

Defender Fonte was in the Southampton side that beat Carlisle United in the Football League trophy final in 2010 and the centre-back is determined to return to the home of English football for the FA Cup final ahead of Saturday’s fifth round trip to Sunderland.

Fonte told the club’s official website: “We want a run in the FA Cup because it is a very special [competition] for us. We’re going to focus on that and try to win the game.

“We haven’t beaten Sunderland yet, but hopefully we will do this Saturday.

“We’re in a good situation with the league and we want to finish as high up as possible, but we want to win every game and the FA Cup is something we are looking forward to.

“It would be a dream to go to Wembley again – and win.”

Wed 12 February, 2014
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Wenger: Fixture pile up will be ´massive challenge´

Arsene Wenger admits Arsenal’s FA Cup draw against Liverpool has made a tough fixture list in the second half of the season even harder.

Arsenal will face Liverpool twice, as well as Manchester United and Bayern Munich, in the space of11 days during February, while March sees them take on Bayern, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton.

Wenger remains positive his players can cope with the pressure of such tests, but knows rotation will be vital to ensure his squad remain injury-free.

“It’s an interesting draw (against Liverpool) and a difficult one, (but) we have a little advantage by playing at home,” he said on Monday.

“There will be plenty of big games, which means whole squad needs to be highly focused.

“It is a massive challenge, but I am confident we can do that (succeed).

“It’s very important I get it right on the rotation front.”

The Frenchman received a boost ahead of Arsenal’s Premier League clash with Southampton on Tuesday, with the return of Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta and Thomas Vermaelen, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may be ready for his first start since the opening day of the season.

The league leaders travel to St Mary’s looking to record an eighth consecutive victory in all competitions, but Wenger knows doing so will be a tough ask against Mauricio Pochettino’s side.

“Everybody goes to Southampton now knowing they are in for a very difficult game,” he added.

“He (Pochettino) has done a very good job because nobody knew him when he came here.

“Southampton have done a remarkable job with their academy. The quality of their work is amazing.

“We have a doubt about Wilshere but Ramsey, Arteta and Vermaelen are back in the squad.

“He (Oxlade-Chamberlain) is not fully fit but he is getting closer. I haven’t decided whether he will start tomorrow.”

Mon 27 January, 2014
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Clough bemoans decisions after Fulham draw

Sheffield United are feeling a “sense of injustice” following their 1-1 FA Cup draw with Fulham, according to manager Nigel Clough.

League One side United, who overcame Aston Villa 2-1 in the third round, looked set for a second straight Premier League giant-killing on Sunday when striker Chris Porter gave them the lead after 31 minutes.

However, United saw captain Michael Doyle sent off for an off-the-ball altercation with Chris David early in the second half, before Fulham secured a replay through Hugo Rodallega’s 75th-minute strike.

Clough’s men had been denied a penalty prior to the equaliser, despite Aaron Hughes’ trip on Ryan Flynn – a decision that angered both Clough and his players.

“I thought it was an incredible cup tie,” Clough said.

“It was a remarkable effort by the players – especially with 10 men.

“I thought there was more contact when Ryan Flynn went down for the penalty than there was for the sending off.

“The players have come off feeling a sense of injustice.”

Sun 26 January, 2014
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Aguero refuses to set himself goal target

Sergio Aguero is refusing to set himself a goal target this season, but is determined to keep Manchester City’s quadruple hopes alive.

City appeared on the verge of a shock FA Cup fourth-round exit against Watford on Saturday, with the visitors leading 2-0 at half-time at the Etihad Stadium thanks to goals from Fernando Forestieri and Troy Deeney.

However, Aguero played a starring role in the second half as he netted a hat-trick to help City to a 4-2 win and seal progress into the fifth round as Manuel Pellegrini’s side battle for silverware in the FA Cup, Premier League, League Cup and UEFA Champions League.

The Argentina international striker now has 25 goals in all competitions this season, but is not interested in personal milestones.

He said: “The important thing is the goals contribute to the team’s victory, the team wins and we win titles.

“I don’t have any specific goals to reach – but as many as possible.

“We weren’t expecting to score four goals. We knew at half-time we needed to improve and in the end we won and we have made it to the next round. We are happy with that.

“In the first half they played really well and put a lot of pressure on us but in the second half we made fewer mistakes and we were able to get the goals. It is good we were able to come back.”

Stevan Jovetic made only his seventh appearance of the season on Saturday as he replaced Marcos Lopes in the second half. And he spoke of his delight for Aguero, Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko, all of whom are enjoying fine seasons in front of goal.

He said: “I am so happy for them. I play with them and I need to say thank you to them because we are playing so well and we are where we are in the table.

“From now I want to score also and get close to them. We have a lot of games and I hope I get my chance and I will play.

“Everything is going well, I’m very happy to be back on the pitch and to be able to help the guys.”

Sun 26 January, 2014
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Davis hits out at Osvaldo

Kelvin Davis launched a thinly veiled attack on Southampton team-mate Pablo Daniel Osvaldo after the 2-0 FA Cup win over Yeovil Town.

Osvaldo was absent from Southampton’s matchday squad at St Mary’s on Saturday, having been suspended by the club for two weeks on Thursday following a training-ground incident.

Although details of Osvaldo’s indiscretion have not been officially released, the striker is reported to have physically assaulted colleague Jose Fonte.

And on Friday evening, a picture of Fonte sporting a black eye emerged on an Instagram account purporting to belong to the defender, accompanied by the message: “Appreciate everyone’s concern and support but it takes a lot more then a bruised eye to stop me!”

While not explicitly referring to Osvaldo, Southampton club captain Davis has made it clear that team spirit must not be damaged by the actions of individuals, seemingly ruling out suggestions that the Argentinian will be welcomed back into the dressing room when his ban has been served.

Speaking after the Yeovil game, the veteran goalkeeper said: “We’ve said for a long time that we have always had a good team spirit and a good changing room.

“That can’t change and if anyone doesn’t want to be involved in that then they are not welcome.”

Davis added: “Obviously what has happened has happened.

“As a team, as a squad, as a club, we are looking forward and we are very much together.

“We showed that again today and it is something we just want to move on from.

“Our dressing room is as solid as it has ever been and it will continue to be so.”

Sat 25 January, 2014
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Prediction: Chelsea vs Stoke

25th January 2014

High-flying Chelsea will be searching for their seventh successive victory when they host Stoke City in the FA Cup fourth round despite the fact that Jose Mourinho is likely to rest his key men ahead of the Premier League clash against West Ham. The Potters, on the other hand, need to try and get their season back on track and no doubt a good performance at Stamford Bridge would be a step in the right direction.

January transfer window is proving to be a huge success for Chelsea, with one of Europe’s most sought-after players Nemanja Matic already arriving at Stamford Bridge and another set to follow in Mohamed Salah. At the same time, the Blues are set to earn reported £37 million for a player who was warming the bench this season, so they clearly have plenty of reason for optimism at the moment. On top of that, the team seem to have hit the ground running at a crucial stage of the season, with 3-1 triumph over Manchester United their sixth victory in a row in all competitions. And with the busy schedule set to continue, FA Cup match against Stoke City will be a good opportunity for Mourinho to rest some of his regular starters while also giving back-up players a chance to shine. While the purchase of Mohamed Salah is unlikely to be completed in time, January signing Nemanja Matic is expected to start, probably alongside Frank Lampard who has recovered from injury. Given that Fernando Torres is on the sidelines, Demba Ba is expected to lead the line, with Ashley Cole also tipped to start.

Mark Hughes arrived at the Britannia Stadium hoping to transform Stoke’s long-ball playing style while also ensuring the Potters keep their Premier League status, and while the first part of his task appears to have been successful, there is still a lot of work to be done is his side are to avoid the drop. Stoke had done pretty well until the hectic festive schedule began, but they have since failed to win any of their Premier League fixtures. Having only picked up one point from last five league outings, the Potters slipped to 14th in the overall standings and currently sit just four points above the bottom three. This is enough to suggest they won’t be able to fully focus on their FA Cup clash against Chelsea, even if they did well to eliminate Leicester in the previous round. Seeing as how they have already defeated the Blues this season, the Potters can take some confidence into the clash at Stamford Bridge and Mark Hughes remains adamant that he will take the game very seriously. The potential return to Asmir Begovic could provide a much needed boost, but Robert Huth and Andy Wilkinson have been ruled out.

Conclusion

Chelsea have been steadily raising their form of late and even with Mourinho set to rest some of his starters, his starting line-up should have no problems defeating out-of-sorts Stoke City, who will have one eye on Wednesday’s Premiership clash against relegation rivals Sunderland. It is for that reason that Chelsea half-time/full-time win looks a good option here.

Verdict: Chelsea/Chelsea

Best Odds: 5/8

Bookmaker: bet365

Sat 25 January, 2014
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Poyet wants to build momentum

Sunderland boss Gus Poyet has called on his side to build on their current momentum after a 1-0 FA Cup win over Kidderminster Harriers.

A fifth-minute strike from Greece winger Charis Mavrias, his first goal for the club, was sufficient to overcome the non-league battlers, who acquitted themselves well against their Premier League opponents.

Having made 10 changes from the midweek League Cup semi-final win over Manchester United, Poyet acknowledged that it was far from straightforward against a spirited Kidderminster side.

However, he was pleased with a professional performance.

“It was probably expected, but then we needed to win,” he said. “Of course, a new group of players playing together for the first time – I think they were very brave in the first 20 minutes, very, very good.”

Poyet fielded two debutants in Argentinian defender Santiago Vergini – signed on loan until the end of the season from Uruguayan club Atletico Fenix – and goalkeeper Oscar Ustari – recruited having left Almeria – and Poyet expressed satisfaction at his makeshift side’s display.

“We need to just concentrate on Oscar Ustari, Santiago (Vergini) at the back and a few players that haven’t been playing like (Modibo) Diakite or (Valentin) Roberge or Charis Mavrias – they got 90 minutes, which is great for them.

“That was most important, and of course being in the draw tomorrow.”

The Uruguayan was also quick to turn his attention to his side’s Premier League challenge, with two vital cup wins in a week providing a platform from which he hopes to build.

“If you asked me what is important for us now, it’s just to win games and to feel that we can be strong at home,” he added.

For Kidderminster, the result marked the end of their cup adventure which saw them come into the match as the lowest-ranked team still left in the competition.

Manager Andy Thorn expressed pride in his players’ performance, and is hoping that it will prove to be a boost in their bid to win promotion from the Conference.

“I’m immensely proud of my players,” he said. “I thought they were magnificent. We looked like a league club. If that’s not a springboard for our season, then I’ll be very disappointed.”

“We knew it would be really tough playing a Premier League side and, when we conceded so early, you know you’re in danger of ending up with a cricket score. But, for us to be disappointed with not coming away with a draw and getting another crack at them speaks volumes for the performance.”

Sat 25 January, 2014
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Palace defender Parr taken to hospital

Crystal Palace’s Jonathan Parr has been sent for a scan after sustaining an injury in the 2-1 FA Cup loss to Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

The defender, who recently returned to action after a five-month spell on the sidelines with ankle ligament damage, was carried off with an apparent neck injury at the end of the first half following a lengthy stoppage.

Palace do not yet know the exact nature of the problem, but manager Tony Pulis confirmed that the Norway international had been taken to hospital for further examination.

“He (Parr) has gone to hospital for a scan,” Pulis said. “We need to look at the incident again, but it looks like the (Watford player) has caught him. It will be interesting to see it again on the cameras.

“We think the injury was caused by the impact. I’m not sure whether it is his jaw or his neck at the moment.”

A late goal from James McClean condemned Palace to defeat in the fourth-round clash, the former Sunderland winger scoring his first goal for Wigan after Palace striker Aaron Wilbraham had cancelled out Ben Watson’s opener.

Pulis was quick to voice his dismay at the result.

“We’re disappointed not to get something out of the game,” he added. “We came to have a go and tried to win the game.

“When you play in cup ties you need certain decisions to go your way. One or two decisions didn’t go our way but that is what happens.”

Sat 25 January, 2014
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Perez acknowledges Yeovil effort

Southampton assistant manager Jesus Perez conceded that the top-flight side were made to work by Yeovil Town before sealing FA Cup progress.

Landmark goals from Guly do Prado and 18-year-old substitute Sam Gallagher secured a 2-0 win at St Mary’s that booked Southampton’s place in the fifth round.

Guly converted a penalty midway through the first half to score for the first time since January 2012, while Gallagher’s 70th-minute strike represented the young Scot’s first senior goal.

Although the Premier League side hit the woodwork twice and ultimately progressed with a degree of comfort, Championship strugglers Yeovil carved out several opportunities inside the first hour.

Perez acknowledged as much afterwards, saying: “It wasn’t an easy game. The first half was open. They had some chances to score.

“In the second half, we were much better and created lots of chances.”

Perez was also pleased to see Guly and Gallagher on the scoresheet.

Of the Brazilian, he said: “He’s been working hard. He deserved his chance and his goal.”

Gallagher also came in for praise, with Perez adding: “He’s still young and needs time, (but) he’s doing well. He scored a nice goal.”

Sat 25 January, 2014
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Liverpool will be ready for derby, says Rodgers

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists his players will be ready for Tuesday’s Merseyside derby, despite having little time to recover.

The Anfield outfit edged into the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 2-0 win at Championship side Bournemouth on Saturday, and host local rivals Everton in the Premier League next week.

But Rodgers was not tempted to field a weakened team at Dean Court.

“We have a very thin squad, and along with that we’ve got a number of injuries, but the tradition of the FA Cup for Liverpool is huge,” he said.

“We want to pay respect to the competition because we want to get to the final and win it if we can.

“The players have had enough recovery time and will recover well for Everton. They have everything there to recover.

“We go into Tuesday’s game on the back of a good win against a good Championship side.”

And the Northern Irishman was full of praise for Bournemouth and their manager Eddie Howe.

“Bournemouth are a very good side and we give credit to them first of all,” he continued. “They have a great idea when it comes to playing the game. Eddie is similar to myself in terms of his philosophy.

“They were excellent, we didn’t work hard enough in the first half, but once we re-organised at half-time we were much better.”

Martin Skrtel required treatment for a clash of heads in the second half, but Rodgers reassured fans that he would not face a spell on the sidelines.

“He had staples in his head, so he might need to grow some hair now,” he added. “He’ll be fine.”

Sat 25 January, 2014
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FA Cup: Bournemouth 0 Liverpool 2

Liverpool edged into the FA Cup fifth round with a 2-0 victory over a brave Bournemouth outfit on Saturday.

Bournemouth more than matched their Premier League visitors, particularly in the first half, but Victor Moses handed Liverpool the lead in the 26th minute with their first shot on target.

Brendan Rodgers’ side had to wait until the second half to get another effort on target and it doubled their lead – Daniel Sturridge scoring his 14th goal of the season in all competitions to break Bournemouth’s spirited resolve.

The Championship side have not made it beyond the fourth round since 1988-89, while Liverpool put memories of being dumped out at this stage by Oldham Athletic last season behind them.

Eddie Howe’s men were unchanged from their 1-1 league draw against Watford last weekend, while Rodgers made three alterations from Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with Aston Villa, bringing in Brad Jones, Moses and Martin Kelly for Simon Mignolet, Raheem Sterling and the injured Glen Johnson.

The hosts started brightly at Dean Court, and Simon Francis almost caught Jones off guard in the 13th minute when a free-kick from the left wing was carried goalwards by a coastal gust, forcing the retreating Liverpool goalkeeper to tip over his crossbar.

Liverpool’s first chance of the match came in the form of a 25th-minute Steven Gerrard free-kick, but the captain drilled his effort high and wide of the target.

However, the top-flight outfit were ahead a minute later, when Moses picked up the ball at the edge of the penalty area and drove a low effort beyond the outstretched right arm of Lee Camp and into the bottom left corner of the net.

The goal was somewhat harsh on Bournemouth, who had equipped themselves more than adequately in the opening stages, but they instantly began to push for an equaliser, with Harry Arter seeing an effort drift just wide of the target on the half-hour mark, before Andrew Surman had a 12-yard strike deflected over by Kolo Toure and Tommy Elphick headed high from the resulting corner.

Sturridge had the ball in the back of the net shortly before the break, but the linesman had flagged for an extremely marginal offside.

Bournemouth continued to press at the beginning of the second period and had cause to feel aggrieved in the 58th minute, when Kelly clearly tugged on the shirt of Francis in the Liverpool penalty area.

And their hopes were dealt a killer blow on the hour mark when Luis Suarez found Sturridge with a sublime through-ball, and the England striker made no mistake in slotting beyond Camp.

Sturridge could have made it three 12 minutes later, but his chipped effort dropped onto the top of the crossbar, and Suarez was also denied from close range late on.

Sat 25 January, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Sheffield United v Fulham

Sheffield United can heap more misery on Fulham on Sunday as the League One side seek a second consecutive FA Cup giant-killing.

Nigel Clough’s men stunned Premier League side Aston Villa in the third round, earning a 2-1 win at Villa Park thanks to goals from Jamie Murphy and Ryan Flynn.

That result has done little to boost United’s league form, though, and they sit just outside the relegation places in 20th place after winning just one of their last six.

However, the Yorkshire club face another out-of form side in Fulham, who are just a point above the drop zone in the Premier League following a 4-1 loss to Sunderland a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal.

Rene Meulensteen’s men needed a replay against Norwich last week to secure a place in the fourth round, but the Dutchman will have been pleased with his side’s performance in that clash, which ended in a comfortable 3-0 victory at Craven Cottage.

The London outfit will be expected to replicate that display against their third-tier opposition and seal a first win at Bramall Lane since 1985.

Defender Fernando Amorebieta is Fulham’s only absentee for the game, with the Venezuela international unavailable because of a knee injury.

United, by contrast, have a number of players ineligible as midfielders Elliot Whitehouse and Callum McFadzean, as well as striker Billy Paynter, all miss out.

However, Clough’s squad has been boosted by the arrivals of defender John Brayford and attacking midfielder Stefan Scougall, who joined on Friday from Cardiff City and Livingston respectively.

Former Derby boss Clough believes United can spring a second successive upset, but accepts that the odds are against them.

“There’s no reason why we can’t (cause another upset), but it will be a little more difficult this time,” Clough told the Sheffield Star.

“We’ve got to remember they’re two divisions above us and the quality they have throughout their squad of 25.”

Fri 24 January, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Chelsea v Stoke City

Chelsea have already lost to Stoke City this season and Jose Mourinho is braced for another tough test against Mark Hughes’ side on Sunday.

Oussama Assaidi’s late goal gave Stoke a dramatic 3-2 Premier League victory over the title contenders at the Britannia Stadium last month.

Chelsea have the opportunity to gain revenge for that defeat when Stoke visit this weekend for an FA Cup fourth-round tie.

However, Mourinho knows his side will have to be up for the battle if they are to progress to the last 16 of the knockout competition.

When asked what he expects from Stoke, the former Real Madrid coach said: “I say we lost against this team and it was not a long time ago.

“We lost to them one month ago. They are a difficult team. Very physical, very direct.

“They’re very strong in set pieces. I expect a very difficult match (and) that’s why I’m going to play a strong team.

“I’m not going to make big changes in the team because we’re going to try and go as far as possible in the competition.”

One player who will not feature for Chelsea is midfielder Juan Mata, who is on the verge of joining Manchester United.

Chelsea will also be without striker Fernando Torres after he suffered a knee injury in the victory over United last weekend, meaning Demba Ba is in line to start.

Frank Lampard could also return to the starting line-up after being named among the substitutes for the United game following an injury lay-off, but Marco van Ginkel (knee) remains a long-term absentee.

The London club have been in fine form in recent weeks, winning their last six games in all competitions and conceding only two goals in the process.

Stoke’s victory over Chelsea last month was their first against the Stamford Bridge outfit since 1995, when a goal from Paul Peschisolido secured a 1-0 win in the capital.

It would be a major surprise if Stoke won this weekend, as Hughes’ men have claimed just one away victory in the top flight this season, against struggling West Ham in August.

Stoke have also been beaten on each of their visits to Chelsea since gaining promotion to the top flight in 2008, scoring only one goal across five league meetings and one FA Cup tie.

Goalkeeper Asmir Begovic could return at the expense of Jack Butland after a month on the sidelines due to a broken finger.

Hughes will check on striker John Guidetti after the on-loan striker reported to training on Friday feeling unwell.

Robert Huth (knee), Matthew Etherington (calf) and Andy Wilkinson (foot) all remain sidelined.

Fri 24 January, 2014
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Begovic could make Chelsea return

Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic could make his return in Sunday’s FA Cup fourth-round clash at Chelsea.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina international has not featured since sustaining a broken finger last month, but he returned to training this week.

Jack Butland has started Stoke’s last three games in the absence of Begovic, but boss Mark Hughes revealed that his first-choice keeper could feature against Jose Mourinho’s side.

Hughes said at Friday’s press conference: “Asmir has been back involved with the group this week which has been a bonus for us, so we will see how he (is) and make a decision on who we feel we should go with.

“We will look at guys who have been out for a little while over the next 24 hours, and obviously Asmir being one of those who falls into that category.”

Stoke have suffered back-to-back Premier League defeats and Hughes admitted he has one eye on their league clash with Sunderland next Wednesday.

However, the Welshman insists there is no danger he will not take the FA Cup seriously.

“I will go into Sunday’s game with the intention of being strong, and seeing where that takes us,” he added.

“We have got to be mindful about the big game on Wednesday, but that said there is sufficient time for players to recover in time for that match too.

“It’s the FA Cup at the end of the day and we are all desperate to progress and remain in the competition for as long as possible.”

Recent loan signing John Guidetti is suffering from illness ahead of the clash with Premier League high-fliers Chelsea, but Hughes hopes the striker will be in contention.

“John unfortunately has come in today a little bit under the weather to be honest so we will have to check him tomorrow,” he continued.

“Obviously, we are hoping that he is okay for the game because it is a good opportunity for him to get a little bit of game time, but if he isn’t available then we do have other options.”

Stoke have already beaten Chelsea once this season courtesy of Oussama Assaidi’s late winner in a 3-2 victory at the Britannia Stadium last month.

Fri 24 January, 2014
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Duo set to make Sunderland debuts

Gus Poyet plans to hand debuts to new signings Santiago Vergini and Oscar Ustari in the FA Cup clash with Kidderminster Harriers.

The Argentine duo were on the substitutes bench on Wednesday night when the Wearside club beat Manchester United on penalties to reach the League Cup final.

Defender Vergini and goalkeeper Ustari joined Sunderland earlier in the week and are set to feature against non-League Kidderminster in the fourth round on Saturday.

Poyet told Sunderland’s official website: “They are going to make their debuts if everything goes alright until the game.

“It’s going to be great for them to feel the stadium, the pitch, the football and the speed in a cup tie where we are the favourites and need to win.

“It will be a good opportunity for them and also for the fans to get their first impressions.”

Poyet struggled to sleep after the high of Sunderland shoot-out success at Old Trafford and revealed he has been inundated with messages from across the globe.

He said: “The sleep was not long. It’s interesting when you play a game how many people are watching and supporting you, the club and the players.

“There are so many people behind you and you don’t realise that because you’re concentrating on the game.

“There have been people from Spain, like former team-mates, then of course good friends from Uruguay.

“There have been friends and former players in England, too, so many people really supporting us which is great.

“I have had some time to text all of them back which is the least I could do.”

Fri 24 January, 2014
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