FA Cup


FA Cup Preview: Manchester City v Wigan Athletic

Manchester City must ensure lightning does not strike twice when they host Wigan Athletic in a repeat of last season’s FA Cup final.

Wigan enjoyed their finest hour last May when Ben Watson’s late header at Wembley earned the Lancashire club a stunning 1-0 victory over big-spending City to lift the famous trophy for the first time, before being brought down to earth when they were relegated from the Premier League a matter of days later.

City have already thrashed their local rivals 5-0 in the League Cup earlier this season and the two sides lock horns once again at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup this Sunday.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side added one trophy to their cabinet last weekend when they beat Sunderland 3-1 in the League Cup final and can move a step closer to winning another by making it a miserable return to the club for Wigan manager Uwe Rosler.

The German was a big fans’ favourite during his playing days at City, scoring 50 goals during a four-year spell at the club in the 1990s.

There will, however, be no room for sentiment when the former Brentford boss attempts to mastermind a stunning win for his promotion-chasing Championship side against his former club to secure another trip to Wembley.

Rosler, who was named manager of the month for February on Friday, said: “My first reaction (following the draw) was to ban all talk of that game. We started talking about this game this week. It was important to focus on the league.

“We go into the game with no pressure whatsoever. The pressure lies on City. We already achieved a wonderful cup run. Being in the sixth round of the FA Cup has only happened in the third time in the history of the football club.

“And doing that on the back of last year’s win made it even more special. We overcame big hurdles and now the hurdle is very big, but that also means there is a great challenge in front of us, for me as a manager, but also for my players to measure yourself against world-class players.”

Wigan, who have beaten top-flight sides Cardiff City and Crystal Palace en route to the last eight, have moved into the top six in the second tier on the back of a run of four consecutive victories and have also won their last four away matches in all competitions.

On-loan midfielder Nick Powell (hamstring) is not expected to feature and Wembley hero Watson will play no part as he is a long-term absentee due to a knee injury, but the midfielder was this week awarded a new one-year contract.

Scott Carson (thigh), Gary Caldwell (calf) and Shaun Maloney (hip) are also expected to remain on the sidelines.

Martyn Waghorn, Ryan Tunnicliffe and Rob Kiernan are cup-tied, but Callum McManaman (ankle) could return.

City boss Pellegrini will have one eye on Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League last-16 clash at Barcelona, when his side have the major task of trying to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the first leg.

The Chilean is expected to make changes, but he will not be able to call upon Stevan Jovetic (hamstring) and Matija Nastasic (knee).

Fri 7 March, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Hull City v Sunderland

Sunderland endured Wembley heartbreak last weekend and Hull City boss Steve Bruce is plotting to heap more cup misery on his former club.

Gus Poyet’s side were beaten 3-1 by Manchester City in the League Cup final at the home of English football on Sunday after Fabio Borini had put them in front.

That was Sunderland’s first trip to the new national stadium and they could make a swift return by seeing off Premier League rivals Hull in the FA Cup quarter-final tie at the KC Stadium on Sunday.

Hull have already done the league double over their visitors, with Sunderland having three men sent off over the two games.

And Bruce, a three-time FA Cup winner during his playing days at Manchester United, is determined to make it a hat-trick of victories against the club that sacked him in back in 2011.

Achieving that would see Bruce guide Hull to the last four of the competition for the first time in 84 years.

He said: “We’ve got an opportunity to make it to Wembley for an FA Cup semi-final, a stage of the competition the club hasn’t been in since 1930.

“When you look at it from that perspective, of course Sunday is a big game for us. This is a big game for everybody. I’ve said it repeatedly, but a good cup run can enhance your season and we’ve got to try and get through to the semi-finals.

“When you get to the last eight of any competition, you start to smell the hotdogs (at Wembley) and there’s nothing bigger than when cup finals are at stake.

“As a manager I’ve never been past the quarter-finals of this competition, so a Wembley semi-final would be a first for me.

“As a player, I led a team out and lifted a trophy at Wembley and those are the things that stay with you forever.

“If we beat Sunderland, we’ll be going to Wembley so my players have to grasp the occasion and play well on Sunday. You need a bit of luck in the cup as well and it’s all to play for.

“We’ll be looking to produce a big performance and the crowd can play their part too in helping us get to where we want to be.”

Bruce will be without cup-tied strike duo Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic, while winger Robbie Brady will play no part after being ruled out for the rest of the season due to a groin problem.

Paul McShane (ankle) and Joe Dudgeon (knee) are also unavailable.

Poyet’s Sunderland side will have to tighten up at the back after shipping seven goals in their last two games against City and Arsenal – where they were beaten 4-1 in their last Premier League encounter.

Midfielder Liam Bridcutt is cup-tied having played in the competition for Brighton and Hove Albion, while goalkeeper Keiren Westwood (shoulder) remains sidelined.

Sunderland boast two FA Cup triumphs, the last coming in 1973, while their most recent appearance in a final came in 1992.

Fri 7 March, 2014
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Is Arsenal’s season about to collapse?

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has saw his side slip to third in the Premier League table

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has saw his side slip to third in the Premier League table

Saturday’s games produced some key results at the top of the Premier League. Chelsea and Liverpool claimed wins, as did Everton.

One team from the top seven that did not claim victory was Arsenal, who produced a terrible performance to lose at Stoke 1-0.

Wenger out

The defeat left the Gunners trailing league leaders Chelsea by four points. Certain Arsenal fans are now calling for veteran Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger to be sacked or quit, neither is likely to happen.

These were probably the same Gunners fans that were praising Wenger a few months ago when their team were flying high in the Premier League.

I try not to get carried away by team’s good or bad performances because we all know things can change in the blink of an eye in football. A few months ago Arsenal was the team to catch at the Premier League summit and now they are playing catch-up.

I was never truly convinced by Arsenal’s title challenge this season and thought they should have strengthened their squad in January, but that does not mean I believe that Wenger should leave the Emirates though.

Costly

Arsenal fans must be one of the most frustrated groups of supporters in the top-flight. They have the stature, stadium and infrastructure to be a truly dominant force on the European stage. However, this season has a major feeling of Deja-vu about it.

For years Arsenal fans have saw their club outspent by their rivals and falling behind. It is the same old story of Arsene Wenger treating the clubs money like it is his own and not spending it when reinforcements were clearly needed.

Arsenal reportedly had money to spend in the summer, despite the £42million signing of German playmaker Mesut Ozil, yet Wenger did not spend it. Anybody with a modicum of football knowledge could see that the Gunners were crying out for a world-class striker.

A theory that I subscribe to is the theory of strengthening when you are in a strong position. January was an ideal time for Wenger to go out and bring in fresh faces. The Gunners form has dipped since Boxing Day and fresh faces would have given everybody fresh impetus, just like the effect signing Ozil had on the club.

Wenger’s only January signing was an aging Swedish defensive midfielder who arrived in north London injured. Kim Kallstrom was in his pomp five or six years ago, when he was a star player for a strong Lyon side.

His arrival in January only caused consternation amongst Arsenal fans. Gunners fans ended up with a crocked Swede, instead of a shining new striker.

Silverware

All is not lost for Arsenal fans though. The Gunners face Everton in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup next weekend. The game gives the Arsenal players a chance to bounce back against an Everton side whose form has been patchy over the last month or so.

The Gunners may find themselves four points behind Chelsea in the league, but as I stated above things can change very quickly in football. The likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City could drop points in the next few games and that could open the door again for Wenger’s men.

Difficult

The problem that Arsenal has is their nightmare fixture list. As a result of that Stoke defeat and the tough schedule ahead for Arsenal, the men from north London have drifted to odds of 20/1 to win the Premier League.

The Gunners face four of the top six in the Premier League in their next four top-flight matches. Wenger side visit arch-rivals Tottenham and title rivals Chelsea, before hosting another title rival Manchester City and visiting sixth-placed Everton.

After the cup game with Everton, Arsenal also face Bayern Munich in the second leg of their last 16 Champions League clash. It will be interesting to see how Wenger prioritises these fixtures. The Frenchman needs a FA Cup victory, but the Gunners are not completely out of Europe.

By the time all those games have been played it is not inconceivable that Arsenal will be out of the Premier League title race and out of both their remaining cup competitions. The Gunners have failed to impress in their previous difficult spells this season and they do not exactly head into this group of tough fixtures in high spirits.

Hope

They say that it is the hope that kills you, but for Arsenal fans there is still hope. There is still enough time for the Gunners to rescue their season, if not then I suspect the calls for Arsene Wenger to leave the club will ring even louder.

Is Arsenal’s season about to collapse?

Sun 2 March, 2014
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Lescott wants to end City career with treble

Joleon Lescott wants to end his Manchester City career with a domestic treble, starting with lifting the League Cup this weekend.

England international Lescott is resigned to the fact he will not be offered a new deal at the Etihad Stadium ahead of next season, but is keen to add to the Premier League and FA Cup winners’ medals he has already picked up following his arrival from Everton in 2009.

The 31-year-old has been on the fringes of Manuel Pellegrini’s first team this term, but has started every one of the club’s League Cup ties and is expected to face Sunderland in Sunday’s final at Wembley.

And Lescott has outlined his desire to end his City career with more silverware.

“We are going to be at Wembley for the final and it’s going to be a great occasion and I want to be a part of it,” he said.

“That was something I thought about in staying and what we could achieve.

“If I can leave having won two league titles and a domestic treble this season, that would be perfect.

“I’ve known for a while that the club were not going to renew my contract, but not one performance has been altered by what has been going on with the contract.

“I could have gone in January, but I started the campaign and felt I’ve played enough games in competitions to warrant my place in the squad and some games in the team.”

Thu 27 February, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Hull City v Brighton and Hove Albion

Hull City will attempt to reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup without their big-money marksmen against Brighton and Hove Albion.

The burgeoning partnership between Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic was at the forefront of Hull’s 4-0 Premier League trouncing of Cardiff City on Saturday.

However, having represented their previous clubs, West Brom and Everton respectively, in the competition prior to joining Steve Bruce’s side in January, the duo are ineligible for Monday’s fifth-round replay against Brighton.

That is sure to be a blow for Bruce, who waxed lyrical about his most recent recruits after the win at the Cardiff City Stadium.

“When you are not playing very well, if you’ve got two like we have then you are a threat,” the manager said.

“The link-up play was there for all to see. The two of them have a great appetite for the game and work ethic.

“With the pace of Long and the physical presence Jelavic gives you, with a turn of pace too, they are a handful for any defence.”

But the visiting Championship side will still have their hands full at the KC Stadium, with Yannick Sagbo and Sone Aluko set to lead the line for Hull.

It was Sagbo’s last-ditch leveller that earned a 1-1 draw at the Amex Stadium to set up the replay after Leonardo Ulloa had put Brighton in front.

Should he get the nod, Sagbo is likely to be one of several changes for what will be Hull’s second game in three days – something manager Bruce has previously bemoaned.

“I find that ridiculous, I have to tell you,” he said. “Surely we could play on the same night as the Champions League, you would have thought.

“I think it is a UEFA rule, which reads nobody plays on the same night as the Champions League. We’ll have to take it as it is and deal with it as it comes.”

Brighton manager Oscar Garcia, who concurred with his opposite number’s view on the schedule, is also likely to make alterations having made seven for the initial tie.

His play-off chasing side enter the game d
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esperate to get back on track following a disappointing 2-1 home loss to Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

The winners will host Bruce’s former club Sunderland, managed by ex-Brighton boss Gus Poyet.

Sat 22 February, 2014
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FA Cup: Brighton and Hove Albion 1 Hull City 1

Yannick Sagbo’s late leveller earned Hull City an FA Cup fifth-round replay with Brighton and Hove Albion after a 1-1 draw on Monday.

Sagbo made the most of a rare start in the absence of the cup-tied Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic, slotting an 85th-minute equaliser to cancel out Leonardo Ulloa’s first-half goal at the Amex Stadium.

Brighton were on track for a meeting with former manager Gus Poyet – now in charge of Sunderland – in the sixth round but paid the price for sitting back in the latter stages.

Sagbo and Curtis Davies were denied by the woodwork for Hull in the first half but Steve Bruce’s side eventually got their reward.

And they could have won it in stoppage time, only for David Meyler’s header to be cleared off the line by Adam Chicksen.

The Championship side could still get their reunion with Poyet, although they would have to win the replay at the KC Stadium.

Poyet was controversially sacked for gross misconduct by Brighton in July after the club’s failed campaign in the Championship play-offs.

Brighton controlled the early proceedings but chances at both ends were limited until Sagbo’s acrobatic volley crashed into the crossbar in the 27th minute, with goalkeeper Peter Brezovan well beaten.

The hosts took the lead three minutes later as Ulloa combined with Will Buckley, who made his first start of 2014 following a hamstring injury.

The Argentinian’s clever backheel played in Buckley, and he returned the favour with a well-weighted pass that sent Ulloa through on goal.

Tom Huddlestone raced back but Ulloa remained composed, lifting the ball over Hull goalkeeper Allan McGregor, who returned from suspension, to delight the home crowd.

Hull could have drawn level within two minutes only to see the woodwork again come to Brighton’s rescue.

This time Davies powerfully met a Huddlestone corner but saw his effort thud into the crossbar, while Sagbo’s headed follow-up was nearly diverted in by Matthew Upson, who saw his attempted clearance fall into the arms of Brezovan.

Ulloa really should have doubled Brighton’s lead on the stroke of half-time, but inexplicably nodded wide when free at the far post.

Hull were slow to get going in the second half and even the introduction of Matt Fryatt – who scored twice at Southend United in the fourth round – and George Boyd failed to rouse them.

But as the game grew older, Brighton dropped back, and Sagbo made them pay with a clinical finish.

Sone Aluko, making his first start since returning from an Achilles injury, set up the goal, with his cross from the right well controlled by Sagbo, before he slotted through the legs of Brezovan.

And Hull may feel aggrieved they did not win it, as Robert Koren and Meyler went close in stoppage time.

Mon 17 February, 2014
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Bruce dreaming of FA Cup success

Hull City manager Steve Bruce is dreaming of FA Cup success ahead of his side’s fifth-round tie with Brighton and Hove Albion.

Bruce takes Hull to the Amex Stadium on Monday with Wembley on his mind after seeing Swansea City and Wigan Athletic taste glory in the domestic cup competitions last season.

And with a home quarter-final tie against his former club Sunderland in the offing, Bruce has allowed himself to think about once again lifting the trophy he won three times as a player.

“The big games are around the corner and there’s nothing quite like an FA Cup quarter or semi-final. I think once you get to this stage of the cup it’s different,” he said.

“If we can get past Brighton then all of a sudden you’re in the quarter-finals and it starts to get tasty and exciting.

“As we saw with Swansea in the League Cup and Wigan in the FA Cup, anything is possible in these competitions.

“You win five games and you’ve won the cup. So let’s get past Brighton and have a good run.”

Hull have only reached the last eight of the FA Cup five times in their history, with their best ever campaign coming way back in 1930, when they got to the semi-finals.

Mon 17 February, 2014
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Monk: Individual errors cost Swansea

Garry Monk bemoaned his side’s individual errors as Swansea City crashed out of the FA Cup fifth round in a 3-1 defeat at Everton.

Jonathan de Guzman cancelled out Lacina Traore’s early opener, but mistakes from full-backs Neil Taylor and Jazz Richards saw Roberto Martinez’s men re-establish their lead and book their place in the quarter finals.

Taylor’s misplaced pass was seized upon by Steven Naismith for Everton’s second, before Jazz Richards felled the Scot in the penalty area, allowing Leighton Baines to find the net from the spot.

“We were well in the game,” said Monk. “We finished the first half positively after going a goal down.

“Unfortunately, we made a couple
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of mistakes, which is frustrating. But they were honest mistakes, and I can accept them.

“The players are their own biggest critics, and they don’t need to be told.

“The first goal was a set-piece and we didn’t deal with the second ball. We reacted well and if you look at the first half, we had two or three really good chances. If they go in, it could be a different game.

“Neil then makes his mistake and Jazz then brings Naismith down for a penalty. But apart from them, we were well in the game.

“They weren’t cutting us open and having shot after shot. It was just individual mistakes.”

Explaining his decision to name a heavily weakened starting XI for the trip to Goodison Park, Monk added. “When you have seven games in 21 days, it’s impossible to play the same team every game.

“It’s a squad game. With Europe, you have to have that rotation. I won’t rotate for the sake of rotating.

“Until we conceded the second, you wouldn’t have believed we made eight changes.”

Swansea host Serie A outfit Napoli in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League round-of-32 tie on Thursday.

Sun 16 February, 2014
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FA Cup: Sheffield United 3 Nottingham Forest 1

Chris Porter struck two late goals as Sheffield United beat Nottingham Forest 3-1 to set up a possible all-Sheffield FA Cup quarter-final.

Porter kept his cool to convert a 90th-minute penalty and then netted again two minutes later to settle the fifth-round tie at Bramall Lane on Sunday as United came from behind to claim another FA Cup scalp.

Having already dumped out Fulham and Aston Villa, United manager Nigel Clough will savour this victory over his former club and counterpart Billy Davies, with no love lost between the duo.

Jamie Paterson had headed Forest into a 28th-minute lead, but United – the lowest-ranked team left in the competition – hit back through Conor Coady after the break following a shocking Dorus de Vries error.

A replay at the City Ground looked on the cards before Porter’s late double proved decisive and sent United through to the last eight, where the League One strugglers will play host to either Sheffield Wednesday or Charlton Athletic.

The hosts did not seem overawed by their Championship opposition and had a chance to take a 12th-minute lead when John Brayford cut in from the left, but struck straight at De Vries.

A spell of Forest pressure in the 20th minute ended with Simon Cox appearing to be felled by Harry Maguire inside the penalty area, but Forest’s surprisingly half-hearted penalty appeals were waved away.

Forest controlled possession, but United were looking dangerous on the break and Jose Baxter wasted a great chance on 25 minutes, hitting a tame shot straight at De Vries.

United were made to pay for their profligacy three minutes later when Andy Reid crossed from the left and Paterson did brilliantly to steer the ball across Mark Howard and in at the far post.

Given the two clubs’ respective league positions, United might have been expected to crumble, but the home side continued to threaten and wasted another good opportunity when Stefan Scougall’s weak shot was saved after he latched onto Baxter’s throughball.

If the United players needed any further motivation at half-time, the news from the draw of a potential quarter-final tie with Wednesday should have done the trick.

And Clough’s men did seem to return from the dressing room with renewed vigour, putting Forest on the back foot and forcing two corners in quick succession with Maguire’s attempt deflected over before Scougall’s half-volley was well-held by De Vries.

United continued to press and, with clear cut chances hard to come by, got a huge slice of luck when De Vries spilled a routine Brayford cross to present Coady with an open goal and the youngster made no mistake.

The tie looked to be heading for a replay, but Greg Halford was penalised for handball inside the area on 90 minutes to give substitute Porter the chance to win the game from the penalty spot.

The former Derby County man converted easily and, as Forest went in search of an equaliser, United hit them on the break, Porter finishing off Jamie Murphy’s right-wing cross to seal a famous victory.

Sun 16 February, 2014
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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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