FA Cup

Aston Villa 9/5 to win Saturday’s FA Cup clash against West Brom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fri 6 March, 2015
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Parkinson relishing Reading reunion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thu 5 March, 2015
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Van Gaal delighted with home draw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tue 17 February, 2015
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Prediction: Preston vs Manchester United

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

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

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


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

Verdict: Under 2.5 goals

Best Odds: 11/10

Bookmaker: William Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sun 15 February, 2015
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Arsenal 2 Middlesbrough 0: Giroud at the double as holders progress

Olivier Giroud scored twice in as many first-half minutes as Arsenal beat Middlesbrough 2-0 in the FA Cup fifth round.

A quickfire first-half double from Olivier Giroud ensured FA Cup holders Arsenal beat Middlesbrough 2-0 to reach the quarter-finals of the famous competition on Sunday.

France international Giroud struck twice in as many minutes and there was no way back for Championship high-flyers Boro, who were outclassed at the Emirates Stadium.

Aitor Karanka’s side sprung a major surprise by winning 2-0 at Premier League champions Manchester City in the fourth round, but never looked like repeating that feat as Arsenal taught them a lesson.

Striker Giroud rounded off a lovely Arsenal move to open the scoring and capitalised on some slack defending to double the London club’s lead and keep them on course for another trip to Wembley in May.

Boro had won six consecutive games and not lost in 10 ahead of their trip to the capital, but must now turn their attention back to the race for promotion to the Premier League after they were given an indication of the task they will face if they return to the top flight.

Gabriel Paulista made his Arsenal debut and leading scorer Alexis Sanchez was passed fit as Arsene Wenger made seven changes to the side that beat Leicester City 2-1 on Tuesday.

There were eight alterations to the Boro side following their midweek win over Blackpool, on-loan striker Patrick Bamford – who scored the opening goal in the stunning victory at City – among the players restored to the side.

Arsenal had won their previous eight home games and were brimming with confidence as Boro struggled to contain them in the opening stages.

Santi Cazorla forced an early save from fellow Spaniard Tomas Mejias with a measured free-kick and the Boro goalkeeper dived to his left to palm away a first-time strike from Giroud that looked to be heading just wide of the far post 13 minutes in. 

Mejias was unable to prevent the France striker from opening the scoring after 27 minutes, though, when Cazorla’s incisive pass found Kieran Gibbs in space and his first-time cross from the left was turned in by Giroud to round off a slick move.

There was little Boro could have done to avoid that well-worked opening goal, but the Teesside outfit were caught napping when Giroud struck just two minutes later. 

The former Montpellier frontman escaped his marker and showed great technique to volley home Sanchez’s corner with a clinical left-foot finish from six yards out.

Sanchez almost got in on the act when Mesut Ozil picked him out and the Chile forward beat Mejias, but Adam Clayton was on hand to clear as the ball trickled towards the Boro net.

Arsenal carried on where they left off at the start of the second half and Ozil shot straight at the busy Mejias before Gibbs stung the palms of the former Real Madrid keeper with a strike from a tight angle as the home side continued to dominate.

Sanchez’s glancing header looked destined for the far corner of the net until Mejias produced a fine save to thwart the former Barcelona man, who had rose to meet Cazorla’s inviting free-kick after 64 minutes.

Mejias then denied Theo Walcott when the England forward raced clear five minutes from time and Kike came close to a consolation when his stoppage-time header came back off the post as Arsenal eased into the last eight.

Sun 15 February, 2015
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Stead and Williams delight in Bradford progress

Jon Stead and Ben Williams felt Bradford City were worthy winners after they defeated Sunderland 2-0 in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday.

After claiming another Premier League scalp, Bradford City duo Jon Stead and Ben Williams felt they were good value for their 2-0 FA Cup fifth-round win over Sunderland.

The League One side pulled off a major shock in ousting Chelsea in the previous round, and they accounted for top-flight opposition once more at Valley Parade on Sunday.

John O’Shea’s early own goal gave them the ideal start, before former Sunderland man Stead continued his record of having scored in every round of this season’s competition with a low shot just after the hour.

“It was a terrific start to get the goal and we carried on from there and did the right things,” Stead told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“I couldn’t move in the last five minutes but everyone put a shift in and we’ve done it again and we’re obviously buzzing.

“I’m just looking at that wall of supporters and it’s absolutely incredible.”

“It was thoroughly deserved, the boys performed fantastically well,” added goalkeeper Williams.

“It’s fantastic for everyone involved. The boys don’t need any encouragement, we’re playing against brilliant opposition and we’re all up for it.

“Everyone ran their socks off and worked hard and it’s thoroughly deserved. We’ll take anybody at home [in the next round]. The quarter-finals is a massive bonus for everyone.”

Sun 15 February, 2015
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Aston Villa 2 Leicester City 1: Sherwood watches on as Villa seal progression

Tim Sherwood watched from the stands as new side Aston Villa edged Leicester City 2-1 in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday.

New Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood witnessed first hand the positives and negatives of his inherited squad in Sunday’s 2-1 FA Cup win over Leicester City.

The former Tottenham boss was appointed as Paul Lambert’s replacement on Saturday and took a watching brief as caretaker manager Scott Marshall oversaw progression thanks to goals from Leandro Bacuna and substitute Scott Sinclair.

While Sherwood will now have an FA Cup quarter-final to look forward to as he begins work on Monday, he will also likely be concerned by a Villa side that appeared short on confidence and laboured going forward prior to Bacuna’s opener.

After a promising start, the hosts began to fade and could have gone in behind at the break had Marcin Wasilewsk’s header gone in rather than striking Shay Given’s left-hand post.

The hosts continued to frustrate the Villa Park faithful after the interval, before Bacuna justified his return to the side by beating Mark Schwarzer with Sinclair then afforded his first Villa goal courtesy of a gaffe from the goalkeeper soon afterwards.

Andrej Kramaric produced an impressive late header in a flurry of goals to give Leicester hope, but it proved scant consolation.

With new boss Sherwood watching on from the stands, Villa began brightly as Andreas Weimann scooped Alan Hutton’s pass over the crossbar, although it was Leicester who had the first real opportunity.

Wasilewski – in for the cup-tied Robert Huth – headed Matty James’ corner against the far post 12 minutes in as the visitors gradually got a foothold in the match.

However, much of the remainder of the opening half-hour saw the two Premier League strugglers demonstrate a lack of quality and composure in the final third. That was only punctuated by a dangerous Danny Simpson delivery that Kramaric went close to connecting with. 

Referee Mark Clattenburg saw nothing wrong with Ron Vlaar’s marking of Kramaric, which forced the Croatian to ground, before Given pulled off a stunning save to his left to deny James from long range.

Villa thought they had the lead when Christian Benteke fired the ball past Schwarzer, but an offside flag ensured the sides went in level at the break.

After Sherwood had ventured down to the dressing room to deliver a half-time pep-talk, Belgian Benteke was thwarted again early in the second half when he got on the end of Alan Hutton’s header inside the area, only to see his effort blocked by Schwarzer.

The prolonged spell of pressure from Villa eventually paid off when Bacuna curled home a 68th-minute opener following Hutton’s persistence down the left.

That prompted a flurry of late action, as first Sinclair’s strike was fumbled into his own goal by Schwarzer before Kramaric demonstrated his quality to pull a goal back for the visitors late into injury time. 

While Sherwood gets to work with Villa after only their third win of 2015, Nigel Pearson and Leicester now revert their focus to Premier League survival.

Sun 15 February, 2015
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Williams warns of need for Bradford focus

Goalkeeper Ben Williams feels Bradford City will need more focus for Sunderland’s visit than they did for their famous win over Chelsea.

Bradford City goalkeeper Ben Williams feels Sunderland’s FA Cup visit on Sunday will require greater focus than the victory over Chelsea in the previous round.

The League One club stunned Premier League leaders Chelsea with a 4-2 victory at Stamford Bridge in the fourth round and were rewarded with a clash with another top-flight outfit.

As deputy to regular number one Jordan Pickford, Williams is ready to assume his FA Cup role once again and warned of the impact the victory over Chelsea has had.

“I look forward to all the cup games because obviously it’s my chance to play but with the atmosphere, the crowd, the occasion, it’s going to be a brilliant day,” he told Perform.

“The boys have been really calm about it, no-one’s under the illusion that this is going to be an easy game, we’re going to have to really focus probably more so than we did for the Chelsea game.

“Sunderland will be wary of what we achieved and they’ll approach the game as they would any other and it’s up to us to match that and make sure from the first whistle that we’re good to go.”

Bradford have taken five points from nine since victory at Stamford Bridge and go into Sunday’s clash after beating high-flying MK Dons on Monday.

While Sunderland lost to fellow strugglers QPR last week, Williams is not reading too much into the sides’ form.

“They’re Premier League opposition with world-class international players, it doesn’t matter what form they’re in, they’ll be a very difficult team to play against,” he added.

“The good thing for us is that the recent run of results gives us self-confidence going into the game and we just have to make sure the performance is right.”

Sun 15 February, 2015
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Pardew unhappy as Palace fall short

Crystal Palace paid the price for failing to capitalise on their early FA Cup lead against Liverpool, according to manager Alan Pardew.

Alan Pardew felt the 2-1 FA Cup defeat to Liverpool represented a missed opportunity for his Crystal Palace team.

Palace have enjoyed some memorable success over Liverpool during recent encounters at Selhurst Park and history looked set to be repeating itself when Fraizer Campbell scored a 15th-minute opener.

But Brendan Rodgers’ men proceeded to dominate long periods of the contest thereafter and, although Palace held onto their lead until half-time, goals from Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana after the break secured a quarter-final berth for the visitors.

“We probably didn’t have enough moments,” Pardew told BT Sport.

“I felt we didn’t put enough pressure on Liverpool and we really had a great chance at half-time.

“We know inside that dressing room that we should have done a bit better.

“Liverpool’s system is a problem at times – they can keep the ball, they’ve got lots of options.

“Having said that, I was disappointed in the first half. The goal kind of made us a bit negative.

“We got it so early and we kind of sat back a little bit too much.”

Pardew, who has presided over five wins in eight matches since taking charge of a club he represented as a player, also paid tribute to Liverpool’s quality throughout the match, but reflected ruefully on a wasted chance when the score was 1-0.

“They’re a tough team with technical players who ask questions,” he added.

“It’s a great first goal, almost unstoppable to a degree – great pass, great finish.

“Maybe the pivotal moment was in the first half when Dwight Gayle had a one-on-one. If he’d put that in we’d have been very difficult to beat.”

Sat 14 February, 2015
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Prediction: Arsenal vs Middlesbrough

Premier League giants Arsenal will be looking to avoid the destiny of Manchester City and see off Middlesbrough to continue their title defence in the FA Cup. Meanwhile, Middlesbrough arrive at the Emirates buoyed by the Etihad triumph and an excellent run of results that saw them climb to the Championship summit.

Seeing as it was the FA Cup title that ended the long trophy drought for Arsenal, chances are the Gunners will treat this competition very seriously in the next period. The Emirates outfit started this year’s campaign brightly, defeating last year’s finalists Hull City at home before beating Brighton on the road, and fifth round draw appears to have been kind on them. However, it is clear that Arsenal cannot afford to relax after seeing Middlesbrough defeat reigning Premier League champions Manchester City at Etihad in the previous round. Arsene Wenger has made it clear that he will use the opportunity to rest some of his star men, with David Ospina set to make way for Wojciech Szczesny and Alexis Sanchez unlikely to be risked after suffering a knee problem in weekend’s victory over Leicester City. January recruit Gabriel Paulista is almost certain to be handed his debut, whilst Danny Welbeck, Calum Chambers, Kieran Gibbs, Olivier Giroud and Mathieu Flamini are expected to start as well. But, despite the much changed side, the Gunners will be very motivated to make it to the quarter-finals, and chances are they will take Middlesbrough seriously after their heroics at the Etihad.

Middlesbrough chiefs took quite a gamble with Spanish coach Aitor Karanka midway through last season, handing him his first ever managerial job, but the decision paid off bid time as Boro have since made tremendous progress. The 2-2 draw with Liverpool at Anfield in the Capital One Cup hinted Boro could go on an achieve great things this term, while some consistent displays in the Championship gave Aitor Karanka’s charges plenty of reason for optimism ahead of the FA Cup fourth round clash at Etihad. Even so, nobody thought that Middlesbrough would be able to match their more illustrious opponents, but the visitors ran out deserved winners, having outclassed a very strong Manchester City side. Boro have since continued with impressive performances, winning next three league fixtures to climb to the top of the standings in the Championship, and they are now hoping to further raise club’s profile with a strong performance against Arsenal. Teesside graduate Jonathan Woodgate marked his return into action with a goal in the 2-1 win over Blackpool, but Daniel Ayala is set for a three-week spell on the sidelines, and Tomas Kalas is ineligible. Ryan Fredericks and George Friend should return.


Even if Arsene Wenger is set to make wholesale changes to his squad, Arsenal will have plenty of quality in all areas of the pitch, but it won’t be easy for them to pip red-hot Middlesbrough to a place in the quarter-finals. With the visitors having nothing to lose, they can be expected to adopt a positive approach and we should in turn witness a high-scoring match.

Verdict: Both teams to score

Best Odds: 10/11

Bookmaker: William Hill

Sat 14 February, 2015
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Preston North End v Manchester United: Nothing to lose for Grayson

Manchester United have shown fallibility in the FA Cup this season and Preston North End have a chance to make “heroes” of themselves.

Simon Grayson has called on his Preston North End players to make a name for themselves when Manchester United visit Deepdale in the FA Cup fifth round on Monday.

Preston are chasing promotion from League One this season – consecutive victories recently putting them back into contention after a five-game winless run in the third tier.

The Lancashire club’s home form has always been strong, however, having lost just one league game in the past 13 months and Grayson – who masterminded then-League One Leeds United’s victory at Old Trafford in the 2009-10 FA Cup third round – sees no reason why his current crop cannot emulate shocks of the past.

“This tie does a lot for the football club,” he said. 

“It lifts the profile, it will be a fantastic atmosphere, brings in vital revenue and we have to go out and enjoy it and see where it takes us. 

“We have nothing to lose and Manchester United certainly has. 

“The one thing you don’t want the team to do is to let it pass them by, because these games don’t come around too often. 

“You have to grasp it and somewhere down the line there might be a hero – and from becoming a local hero, they suddenly become a national and worldwide hero if they produce a performance and get a goal to knock Manchester United out of the FA Cup.”

Grayson’s Old Trafford goalscorer Jermaine Beckford is in his current squad and Preston have been boosted in recent weeks by the return to fitness and form of top scorer Joe Garner after three months out with a knee injury, while former United trainee Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Premier League veteran Kevin Davies complete an intriguing set of attacking options.

Louis van Gaal has a nearly full squad to choose from, only Michael Carrick (calf) is definitely out, though Phil Jones may miss out with a knee issue and Robin van Persie is unlikely to be risked with an unspecified injury.

Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over Burnley took a United side that have lost just one of their last 18 games up to third in the Premier League, but Van Gaal will take nothing for granted after being taken to a replay by Cambridge United in round four.

He told MUTV: “It’s always the same because you know the world is for the underdog and we have to play away under the same circumstances as at Cambridge or Yeovil [Town in the third round], so it shall be very difficult.

“You know that they play more or less with two rows of four and a striker who is dropping in, as did Cambridge and Yeovil and also the last [league] games, for example Queens Park Rangers and Burnley. It is always difficult to play against a defending team.

“It’s our goal to win a [trophy] and I hope to win one for the fans of Manchester United.”

Sat 14 February, 2015
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West Brom 4 West Ham 0: Ideye brace seals quarter-final spot

A Brown Ideye brace helped West Brom into the FA Cup quarter-finals with a 4-0 victory over West Ham at The Hawthorns on Saturday.

West Brom are into their first FA Cup quarter-final since 2008 after Brown Ideye’s brace helped ensure a 4-0 win over Premier League rivals West Ham. 

The Nigeria international striker – who has found form following the recent appointment of Tony Pulis at The Hawthorns – scored either side of James Morrison’s first-half stunner to help seal progression against 10-man West Ham.

The hosts led after 20 minutes courtesy of Ideye’s third goal in as many games and again made the most of their first-half dominance to double the advantage before the break.

While Adrian got a touch to Morrison’s long-range strike shortly before the interval, the West Ham goalkeeper could not keep it out, with Ideye’s second early in the second half effectively ending the game as a contest.

West Ham – without the injured trio of Andy Carroll, James Collins and Winston Reid – almost gained a foothold when Gareth McAuley cleared Diafra Sakho’s header off the line.

However, the dismissal of Morgan Amalfitano and Saido Berahino’s 72nd-minute strike capped a dismal outing for Sam Allardyce as Pulis’ men eased into the last eight.

West Ham had the first opportunity as Mark Noble – recalled to the starting XI by Allardyce – earned an early free-kick that Aaron Cresswell curled over before the home side saw penalty appeals waved away as Kevin Nolan appeared to handle.

Craig Gardner was named as West Brom’s replacement for cup-tied midfielder Darren Fletcher and the former Sunderland man fired wide on the volley soon after in an enterprising start for the hosts.

When Enner Valencia was fouled by Morrison, Noble this time fired his free-kick over, before West Brom took the lead.

Craig Dawson crossed for Ideye in the centre and, amid suspicions of offside, the in-form forward tucked home the opener to pave the way for West Brom’s first prolonged spell of pressure.

Morrison forced Adrian into a smart save before Gardner came close to making it 2-0 when he crashed a long-range strike against the crossbar eight minutes before the break.

However, West Brom’s positivity in midfield paid off when Morrison surged to the edge of the area and unleashed a swerving strike that gave Adrian no chance.

Ideye needed just 12 second-half minutes to double his tally – making the most of Stephane Sessegnon’s deflected cross to head past Adrian and put the game beyond the visitors.

Sakho saw a header saved by Ben Foster, before McAuley cleared off the line, with Allardyce’s misery compounded when substitute Amalfitano was shown two yellow cards.

The midfielder replaced Nolan, but, after being booked for a swipe at Chris Brunt, he was reprimanded again for pushing the West Brom captain in the face as the two clashed in the flashpoint moment.

Berahino added a fourth against the London club – who are now winless in four matches – as Pulis’ side remain on course for a repeat of their 2008 semi-final run.

Sat 14 February, 2015
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Parkinson warns of ´jewel in the crown´ Defoe

Bradford City must shut out Jermain Defoe if they are to progress past Sunderland in the FA Cup on Sunday, according to boss Phil Parkinson.

Phil Parkinson has warned his Bradford City side of the dangers posed by Jermain Defoe – labelling the striker as Sunderland’s “jewel in the crown” ahead of Sunday’s fifth-round clash.

Defoe has scored twice in five appearances for Sunderland since moving from Toronto FC last month and is likely to feature against City at Valley Parade.

If City –  conquerors of Chelsea in the last round – are to knock out Premier League opposition again this weekend, Parkinson feels Defoe needs to be stopped.

“I’ve seen two of their last three games and you’ve got to say Defoe is the jewel in the crown at the moment,” Parkinson explained on Friday.

“His movement in the box is exceptional, that’s why he has such a good goalscoring record. We’re going to have to make sure our concentration levels are right.

“Can we stop the balls coming and, when it’s in the box, we have to concentrate until the end.”

Much of the build-up to this weekend’s tie has centred on comments made by Sunderland boss Gus Poyet – who described the Valley Parade pitch as “one of the worst in the country”.

Parkinson, who was also critical of the surface recently before retracting his comments, added: “We want the pitch to be in the best condition it can be as we’ve got some good footballers but whatever the state of the pitch is we’ve got to try and be the best team on it.

“Anyone who saw the game [against MK Dons] on Monday, saw some great football played – I don’t think it’s as bad as people make out.

“We’re going to look forward to the occasion but when the whistle blows it’s important that we focus on the factors that will give us the best chance.

“We’ve got to take confidence from the Chelsea victory and the lads are in a confident state of mind on the training ground. 

“But we’ve also got to go into the game with an underdog mentality – to put into perspective one of their mid-earners will be earning more than our whole squad put together.

“There’s a huge gulf but my job and the rest of the coaching staff is on Sunday to make sure the gulf isn’t that evident and that’s what we’ll try to do.”


Fri 13 February, 2015
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Liverpool 11/10 to win away to Crystal Palace in Saturday’s FA Cup meeting

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Liverpool to win against Crystal Palace
Odds: 11/10 @ William Hill

Liverpool have had bad experienced in their last two meetings against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, but they will be confident of getting a result in the FA Cup this weekend. The Reds have been in fine form, unbeaten in nine league games, winning six, keeping five clean sheets in the process.

Now manager Brendan Rodgers finally has the Merseyside team looking like a side capable of winning the competition, he’ll be taking no chances with team selection. Liverpool will line up with a strong eleven, and stand a good chance of beating a Crystal Palace side who will be very open.

In a cup format, a draw does the Eagles no good, so they’re forced to be bold in their approach. Which could well see Liverpool take advantage. As a result, William Hill are giving odds of 11/10 for the Reds to win away to Palace at Selhurst Park, booking a place in the FA Cup quarter-final, while earning revenge over the Londoners too.

Bet: Liverpool to win away to Crystal Palace in Saturday’s FA Cup meeting @ 11/10 with William Hill >>

Fri 13 February, 2015
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Hazard signs new Chelsea deal

Hazard signs new Chelsea deal


Chelsea F.C. winger Eden Hazard has put pen to paper on a new five-and-a-half year deal at Stamford Bridge.

The Belgium international, 24, joined Chelsea from Lille OSC for £32 million in the summer of 2012, and has gone one to tally 43 goals and 46 assists in 147 appearances for the Blues.

Hazard, a two-time PFA Team of the Year selection, has started every English Premier League match for Chelsea this season, and is absolutely delighted to commit his long-term future to the club.

“I am very happy to sign a new contract with Chelsea,” Hazard said. “Since I came here in 2012 I have always felt good and the club has been very supportive to me.

“The manager has helped me improve a lot, the fans have been fantastic and I have an amazing understanding with my team-mates.

“I always try to give pleasure to the supporters with my style of play and it is nice to know they appreciate my work.

“I hope we can repay that support by winning lots of trophies, beginning with the Capital One Cup at Wembley, and after that, we can push hard towards the end of the season.”

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho added: “I am very happy that Eden has signed a new contract. It shows he believes in the club’s coaching staff and players to help him become the best player in the world.

“He is already a top player and his evolution has been fantastic. He is still very young and he can become the best.”

Hazard has tallied nine goals and five assists in 25 league appearances for the West Londoners in 2014/15.

Diarra will join West Ham in the summer

West Ham United will have to wait until the summer to sign former Real Madrid midfielder Lassana Diarra.

Diarra, 29, had been training with the Hammers, but a FIFA regulation will prevent the player from joining the club until the end of the season.

“We had agreed a deal and unfortunately the FIFA regulation – that hasn’t been explained to me yet – there is a FIFA regulation at the moment that cannot be overcome so he will not be joining us until the end of the season,” West Ham manager Sam Allardyce told Sky Sports News.

West Ham (10-8-7), currently in eighth-place in the league table, will travel to The Hawthorns to face West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday.

West Brom (6/4); West Ham (2/1); Draw (12/5)


Fri 13 February, 2015
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Crystal Palace v Liverpool: Rodgers´ men aim to bury the past

Liverpool will hope to lay some ghosts to rest at Selhurst Park when they take on Crystal Palace in the FA Cup fifth round.

Selhurst Park has been the scene of some painful moments for Liverpool in recent times, but Saturday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie will offer them a shot at exorcising those demons.

It was there that Liverpool’s title dreams were all but ended last season, when a 3-0 lead somehow vanished inside nine minutes to take two points and control of the trophy’s destination from the Anfield club’s hands.

Manager Brendan Rodgers insisted before November’s visit to Selhurst that the Premier League crown was not lost in that capitulation, but the game that followed inflicted even further psychological damage.

Despite Rickie Lambert’s goal after just two minutes, Palace hit back to go 3-1 ahead – and there was no dramatic turnaround on that occasion. 

That represented a fourth consecutive loss for Rodgers’ side, but they head into this weekend’s match in altogether more promising form, having lost only twice in 21 matches – one of those an extra-time League Cup defeat to Chelsea – since that Palace reverse.

With Rodgers in Italy on official club business, assistant Colin Pascoe faced the media on Thursday and he cited the loss to Palace as a turning point.

“When we lost to Palace it was a real low in the camp,” he said. “You look for a reaction and we tweaked the system and the players have responded. From that day it was a great reaction and the lads are playing attractive football.”

Sitting seventh in the table – only four points off fourth – and chasing silverware domestically and in Europe, Liverpool remain on course to provide a fitting send off for MLS-bound captain Steven Gerrard, who has gone nine years since he last lifted the FA Cup trophy.

Tuesday’s 3-2 victory over Tottenham handed Liverpool a timely boost, with Mario Balotelli grabbing a late winner at Anfield, but the triumph came at a cost as Gerrard limped off with a hamstring problem, ruling him out of the Palace game.

Alan Pardew knows about the pain and glory of the FA Cup, having helped Palace to the final as a player only to lose to Manchester United in a replay 25 years ago.

He also guided West Ham to the 2006 showpiece at the Millennium Stadium, where one of the most memorable finals ended 3-3 against Liverpool, before the Merseysiders prevailed 3-1 on penalties.

Matches between Palace and Liverpool usually provide plenty of goals, the last six meetings having yielded 23.

The visitors may pair Balotelli with the man he replaced on Tuesday, Daniel Sturridge, while Pascoe confirmed Emre Can could move into midfield, with Joe Allen also in the frame.

Palace remain without Mile Jedinak (ankle), while it remains to be seen whether Scott Dann will be passed fit following a head injury.

Thu 12 February, 2015
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Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge 11/10 to score anytime in tonight’s FA Cup clash against Bolton

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Sturridge to score anytime
Odds: 11/10 @ 888 Sport

Liverpool travel to the Macron stadium to face Bolton Wanderers in the FA Cup fourth round tonight, and returning striker Daniel Sturridge could well make his first start since coming back from injury. The England international scored following his introduction from bench in the Reds’ 2-0 win against West Ham, and he’ll be hoping to play a scoring role against Bolton too.

Sturridge has two goals from three league starts this season, but could be utilised in the FA Cup to regain his fitness. Bolton will be a stiff test for Liverpool, but their form of late should see them through to the fifth round of the competition.

888 Sport are backing Sturridge to score anytime against the Trotters to continue his scoring run since coming back to full fitness, and the 25-year-old will certainly be making up for lost time, given he’s been out of action for months. He took little time to show his worth in the West Ham victory, so he certainly hasn’t lost his scoring touch. Bolton will be another test for him.

Bet: Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge to score anytime in tonight’s FA Cup clash against Bolton @ 11/10 with 888 Sport >>

Wed 4 February, 2015
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Sunderland 6/4 to win away to Fulham in tonight’s FA Cup fourth round replay

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Sunderland to win against Fulham
Odds: 6/4 @ Coral

Sunderland travel to Craven Cottage to face Fulham tonight in the FA Cup fourth round replay, with neither side able to a winner at the Stadium of Light last month. Fulham have endured a tough season in the Championship, following the change in managers in the last year, but they are looking for a deep run in the cup.

Home advantage could make a difference, as Fulham have won three of their last four league games at Craven Cottage, but have suffered four defeats from six in the division. They have conceded 10 goals in that time too, so Sunderland will fancy their chances.

The Black Cats have been more impressive on the road of late, with Gus Poyet’s men surprisingly having lost only two of their previous seven away games, earning four clean sheets in the process. Tonight’s game will be a tight affair, but the North-East club are being given odds of 6/4 by Coral to win it.

Sunderland’s quality should shine through to book their place in the fifth round on the FA Cup this evening.

Bet: Sunderland to win away to Fulham in tonight’s FA Cup fourth round replay @ 6/4 with Coral >>

Tue 3 February, 2015
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Cambridge have already won the lottery with Manchester United replay – Money

Richard Money says Cambridge United have “bought a Euro Millions ticket” by securing an FA Cup replay at Manchester United.

Cambridge United manager Richard Money says the club have already won the lottery by securing an FA Cup fourth-round replay with Manchester United.

The League Two outfit visit their Premier League opponents on Tuesday after holding the 20-time English champions to a goalless draw at The Abbey Stadium last month.

Money has likened Cambridge’s run to Old Trafford to a lucky gambling streak, and still retains hope that his players can strike it rich on Tuesday.

“If you go to Las Vegas and you play those fruit machines and you win the jackpot – that’s probably what the draw was, in terms of Cambridge versus Manchester United,” he said.

“To get the replay probably means we bought a Lottery ticket and won. 

“Now we’ve bought a Euro Millions ticket.

“The percentage of chance diminishes because of it, but, because you’ve got a ticket, you do have a chance. That’s how I feel.”

Tue 3 February, 2015
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Manchester United v Cambridge United: Van Gaal wants more of the same from Januzaj

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has urged Adnan Januzaj to show more consistency ahead of the FA Cup clash with Cambridge United.

Louis van Gaal has told Adnan Januzaj to prove he deserves a place in Manchester United’s starting line-up ahead of Tuesday’s FA Cup fourth round replay against Cambridge United.

Teenage winger Januzaj made only his fifth Premier League start of the season in Saturday’s 3-1 victory over relegation-threatened Leicester City.

The Belgium international caught the eye against Nigel Pearson’s side, but Van Gaal warned the 19-year-old that he has to produce the goods on a regular basis in order to play a bigger part at Old Trafford. 

He said: “Every time you have to compare and that’s also the same with [Darren] Fletcher, who is a very good player, but I have to compare him with Michael Carrick and Daley Blind who are playing in that position.

“The competition is high and also that’s difficult to manage for players. Also for the player himself it’s difficult to manage.

“That’s why I want to help Fletcher [to secure a move away from Old Trafford].

“It is also like Januzaj – I have to compare him with [Juan] Mata, but in the next press conference you shall ask, ‘Why? Why? Why is Mata not playing?’

“I have to choose and now I choose Januzaj, but I’m very happy you ask about Januzaj and not for Mata.

“I’m looking every week and every day the players have to show it. I’ve said that to players, I’ve said to [Radamel] Falcao, I’ve said to Mata and I’ve said to Januzaj. But I’m very pleased that you [the media] are pleased with his performance.”

Van Gaal’s side moved up to third in the table at the weekend and they will be expected to progress past League Two Cambridge.

Richard Money’s men deservedly secured a money-spinning replay by holding the illustrious Premier League side to a goalless draw at the Abbey Stadium.

Cambridge had their chances to claim a shock victory in that stalemate, but it would take a Herculean effort to see off Van Gaal’s men at Old Trafford.

The visitors make the journey north on the back of a 3-2 defeat at Luton Town on Saturday which left them 14th in the table.

Johnny Hunt and Robbie Simpson scored after coming off the bench at Kenilworth Road to give Money something to think about when he comes to naming his side on Tuesday. 

The fourth-tier outfit will be backed by over 6,600 supporters at Old Trafford and that huge contigent will make the trip with hope rather than expectation of pulling off one of the biggest FA Cup shocks in the history of the famous competition.

The likes of Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera and Mata will be hoping for a recall for the hosts after being named among the substitutes against Leicester.

The winners of Tuesday’s tie will face a trip to either Preston North End or Sheffield United in the fifth round.

Mon 2 February, 2015
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Manchester United v Cambridge United: Van Gaal wants more of the same from Januzaj

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has urged Adnan Januzaj to show more consistency ahead of the FA Cup clash with Cambridge United.

Louis van Gaal has told Adnan Januzaj to prove he de
serves a place in Manchester United’s starting line-up ahead of Tuesday’s FA Cup fourth round replay against Cambridge United.

Teenage winger Januzaj made only his fifth Premier League start of the season in Saturday’s 3-1 victory over relegation-threatened Leicester City.

The Belgium international caught the eye against Nigel Pearson’s side, but Van Gaal warned the 19-year-old that he has to produce the goods on a regular basis in order to play a bigger part at Old Trafford. 

He said: “Every time you have to compare and that’s also the same with [Darren] Fletcher, who is a very good player, but I have to compare him with Michael Carrick and Daley Blind who are playing in that position.

“The competition is high and also that’s difficult to manage for players. Also for the player himself it’s difficult to manage.

“That’s why I want to help Fletcher [to secure a move away from Old Trafford].

“It is also like Januzaj – I have to compare him with [Juan] Mata, but in the next press conference you shall ask, ‘Why? Why? Why is Mata not playing?’

“I have to choose and now I choose Januzaj, but I’m very happy you ask about Januzaj and not for Mata.

“I’m looking every week and every day the players have to show it. I’ve said that to players, I’ve said to [Radamel] Falcao, I’ve said to Mata and I’ve said to Januzaj. But I’m very pleased that you [the media] are pleased with his performance.”

Van Gaal’s side moved up to third in the table at the weekend and they will be expected to progress past League Two Cambridge.

Richard Money’s men deservedly secured a money-spinning replay by holding the illustrious Premier League side to a goalless draw at the Abbey Stadium.

Cambridge had their chances to claim a shock victory in that stalemate, but it would take a Herculean effort to see off Van Gaal’s men at Old Trafford.

The visitors make the journey north on the back of a 3-2 defeat at Luton Town on Saturday which left them 14th in the table.

Johnny Hunt and Robbie Simpson scored after coming off the bench at Kenilworth Road to give Money something to think about when he comes to naming his side on Tuesday. 

The fourth-tier outfit will be backed by over 6,600 supporters at Old Trafford and that huge contigent will make the trip with hope rather than expectation of pulling off one of the biggest FA Cup shocks in the history of the famous competition.

The likes of Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera and Mata will be hoping for a recall for the hosts after being named among the substitutes against Leicester.

The winners of Tuesday’s tie will face a trip to either Preston North End or Sheffield United in the fifth round.

Mon 2 February, 2015
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Fulham v Sunderland: McCormack confident of progression

Premier League strugglers Sunderland travel to Fulham on Tuesday looking to book an FA Cup fifth round tie with Bradford City.

Ross McCormack hopes Fulham can continue their resurgence under Kit Symons when they welcome Sunderland to Craven Cottage in the FA Cup on Tuesday.

After a goalless draw at the Stadium of Light in the fourth round, the two sides go head-to-head again to earn the right to take on Chelsea’s conquerors Bradford City.

When Symons replaced Felix Magath in mid-September Fulham only had one point from seven matches, but the former Wales international has secured a further 33 points to move the club away from danger.

One of their many impressive performances under Symons came in the first meeting with Sunderland when they almost caused an upset.

McCormack was guilty of spurning a couple of presentable chances to win that game, while Colombian team-mate Hugo Rodallega struck the post in stoppage time

And the former Leeds United striker believes the newfound confidence within the club can help them pick up a Premier League scalp.

“It’s a good chance at Craven Cottage, where we’ve proven we can beat anyone – we can blow teams away and we’ll definitely be looking to do that,” he told the club’s official website.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say that we should have beaten Sunderland at their place, but if you look at the game they had quite a few chances.

“Betts [goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli] probably kept us in the game so I think a draw was a fair result in the end. If we were given that before the game, a clean sheet against a Premier League team and taking them back to the Cottage, I think we might have taken that.”

The result was less impressive for Sunderland and they will be desperate to make the fifth round for the third time in four seasons.

Gus Poyet’s side failed to win for the 12th time at home in all competitions this season, but they quickly recovered with a vital 2-0 Premier League triumph over Burnley on Saturday.

Victory included Jermain Defoe’s first Sunderland goal following his move from Toronto FC earlier this month, and he is eager to add to his tally in the Cup.

“It’s a massive game, especially when you look at who we could get after if we progress,” he told Sunderland’s official website. “You never know what can happen, especially in the FA Cup, I’m looking forward to that one.

“On the back of a win everyone will be confident going into the game. Hopefully we can go there, relax and play. I’m sure we’ll create chances and I believe that we’re good enough to win the game.”

Poyet will be able to recall Jack Rodwell for the trip to London after he served his one-match suspension last weekend, having been sent off in the first game.

However, Lee Cattermole and Wes Brown remain doubtful as they recover from knee injuries.

Mon 2 February, 2015
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Stoke City 4/6 to see past Rochdale in Monday night’s FA Cup clash

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Stoke to win against Rochdale
Odds: 4/6 @ Ladbrokes

Stoke City face Rochdale in the FA Cup fourth round this evening, with manager Mark Hughes desperate to avoid an upset. The past weekend saw the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Southampton all knocked out of the competition, which batters Stoke’s chances of making a deep run this season.

City have been in decent form ahead of their meeting against Rochdale too, losing just once in their last five Premier League games. Their League One opponents are coming off the back of consecutive league victories, so they too are in good spirits.

One Achilles heel for Dale could surprisingly be their home form, however. The playoff chasers have won just once in home soil in their last five games, so Stoke will be looking to make difficult from the start.

And as a result, Ladbrokes are giving odds of 4/6 for the Potters to win tonight against Rochdale, which would see them into the draw for the FA Cup fifth round – to be made today also.

Bet: Stoke City to see past Rochdale in Monday night’s FA Cup clash @ 4/6 with
Ladbrokes >>

Mon 26 January, 2015
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Foster: Anichebe unplayable

West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster lauded the qualities of team-mate Victor Anichebe following his weekend FA Cup heroics.

Ben Foster believes West Brom striker Victor Anichebe can be “unplayable”, as evidenced in the FA Cup victory over Birmingham City at the weekend.

Anichebe netted both West Brom goals in a 2-1 win at St Andrew’s, twice using his strength in holding off Paul Robinson to fire home.

And Foster, who was called upon in the second half after starting goalkeeper Boaz Myhill was forced off with a hand injury, believes Anichebe can act as a focal point for West Brom’s attacking play.

“He was unplayable at times on Saturday,” Foster told the club’s official website.

“If you get the ball into his feet with one defender marking him, then that is trouble.

“I don’t care who you are, you will not be able to stop him bulldozing his way through.

“Vic has shown that if you can get the ball into his feet he will turn defenders, he is fantastic at doing that.

“It is what he does regularly in training and the gaffer has noticed that, it is an incredible strength to have.

“We need to play to our strengths, it is as simple as that.”

Mon 26 January, 2015
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Gil has hit the ground running – Lambert

Carles Gil scored on his full debut in a 2-1 FA Cup win over Bournemouth, and Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert hailed his impact.

Paul Lambert singled out the performance of new signing Carles Gil after the Spaniard found the net in Aston Villa’s 2-1 FA Cup victory over Bournemouth.

Gil, making his first start since arriving from Valencia earlier this month, opened the scoring with a stunning 51st-minute strike on Sunday, before Andreas Weimann added a second 20 minutes later.

Substitute Callum Wilson netted a late consolation for the Championship leaders, but Lambert was relieved to see his side into the fifth round. 

“We needed to try to get through,” he was quoted as saying by BBC Sport. “All credit to the team. I thought we deserved the win.

“Gil is lighting the place up and it was a world-class goal. Being a foreign player you can take time to adapt or hit the ground running and he has done the latter.

“He does the same in training. In training you can’t get the ball from him as he has a low centre of gravity.

“I’m delighted to get through. It’s a big win.”

Villa had scored just one goal in their previous six matches in all competitions prior to Sunday’s win, and Lambert says he can see the light at the end of the tunnel after that slump.

“The supporters went through a hard time just like the players,” he added. “The win today will certainly help us.

“We took a lot of knocks but all credit to the lads, they never let their heads down, even in training.”

Sun 25 January, 2015
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Brighton and Hove Albion 2 Arsenal 3: Walcott and Ozil among the goals for holders

Arsenal took another step towards the successful defence of their FA Cup crown with a fourth-round win over Brighton and Hove Albion.

Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil shrugged off their respective injury frustrations to score a goal apiece in Arsenal’s 3-2 FA Cup fourth-round win over Brighton and Hove Albion.

England winger Walcott set the tone for a dominant first-half display from the holders with the opener in just the second minute, while Ozil – making his first start since October – added the second before half-time.

Having offered precious little in terms of an attacking threat prior to the break, Brighton reduced the arrears early in a much-improved second-half showing when Chris O’Grady capitalised on some poor Arsenal defending to score.

Hopes of a stirring comeback on a weekend of upsets appeared to be dashed when Tomas Rosicky volleyed in Olivier Giroud’s chipped pass from the edge of the box.

There was still time for Sam Baldock to set up a nervy finish with a measured 75th-minute finish, but Arsene Wenger’s men held firm.

Arsenal started with the confidence of a side enjoying a three-match winning run without conceding a goal, their most recent triumph having come against Premier League champions Manchester City.

Walcott and Ozil were unused substitutes in that game but came to the fore at the Amex Stadium, the former opening the scoring inside 90 seconds with his first goal in more than a year.

When the sides last met at the same stage in 2013, Walcott broke Brighton hearts with an 85th-minute winner in a game that also ended 3-2, but he was much quicker off the mark on Sunday, collecting Calum Chambers’ right-wing cross with his first touch and steering home with his second.

Brighton struggled to stem the flow of attacks and fell two behind midway through the half as Ozil turned neatly in the box and swept a precise finish beyond David Stockdale following Rosicky’s neat pass into feet.

A rare foray forward from Chris Hughton’s side saw Baldock fire high and wide from 12 yards just before the half-hour mark, but when Brighton finally did manage a shot on target it changed the complexion of the match.

It came five minutes into the second half when Rosicky’s poor clearance allowed O’Grady to seize possession in the box and he showed excellent composure to fire a low shot past the flat-footed Wojciech Szczesny.

The goal energised the home fans and suddenly Brighton seemed to harbour hopes of matching Bradford City’s stunning FA Cup turnaround against Chelsea on Saturday, with Phil Parkinson’s side having come from 2-0 down to win 4-2.

That notion was soon dispelled, though, as Rosicky scored the pick of the bunch in the 59th minute. The Czech looked one way and played a pass the other before volleying the return ball from Giroud beyond Stockdale.

Baldock’s chipped finish gave Brighton a glimmer of hope, but a record home crowd were denied the equaliser that would have forced an unlikely replay as Arsenal – who saw Alexis Sanchez clip the crossbar with a late free-kick – marched on to round five.

Sun 25 January, 2015
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Aston Villa 2 Bournemouth 1: Gil helps under-fire Lambert breathe easy

Aston Villa reached the FA Cup fifth round thanks to goals from Carles Gil and Andreas Weimann in a 2-1 home win against Bournemouth.

Carles Gil marked his first Aston Villa start with a wonderful goal in a 2-1 victory over Bournemouth in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday.

Paul Lambert’s men have found goals hard to come by of late – scoring just once in their previous six outings in all competitions prior to the tie – but Gil’s stunning 51st-minute strike, along with an Andreas Weimann effort 20 minutes later, will give the club’s fans cause for optimism.

Championship leaders Bournemouth looked bright during the first half and went close twice through midfielder Shaun MacDonald, who saw one effort cleared off the line by Kieran Richardson.

Eunan O’Kane also looked dangerous for the visitors at Villa Park, but the home side came out for the second period with renewed energy.

After going close moments earlier, Gil – who arrived from Valencia for an undisclosed fee earlier this month – curled in a sublime left-footed strike to give Villa the lead.

Weimann found the net in the 71st minute, but substitute Callum Wilson set up a tense finish with a goal three minutes into stoppage time for Bournemouth, who have scored more goals in one match – an 8-0 win at Birmingham City in October – than Villa have managed at home all season in the Premier League (seven).

However, Villa clung on to take their place in the fifth round with their first goals since beating Blackpool 1-0 in round three.

Villa announced a new long-term deal for Fabian Delph in the build-up to kick-off, but there was no place for the England midfielder in Lambert’s matchday squad, while Bournemouth made eight changes from their last Championship outing.

It was the visitors who forced the first opening, with MacDonald sending a deflected effort over the crossbar after good work by Ryan Fraser.

Shay Given then had to get down to keep out a Harry Arter strike from the edge of the penalty area, before Weimann headed just wide at the other end.

Former Swansea City midfielder MacDonald continued to cause problems for the Villa defence and was denied by a Richardson block on the line after rounding Given in the 18th minute.

Despite making wholesale changes, Bournemouth were holding their own against top-flight opposition and O’Kane saw an effort tipped around the post by Given shortly after the half-hour mark.

Gil found the side-netting after some neat build-up play from Christian Benteke at the beginning of the second half, but the Spaniard was on target with a sensational strike soon after.

After cutting onto his left foot on the right of the penalty area, Gil sent a wonderful curling effort beyond Lee Camp and into the Bournemouth net.

Weimann appeared to have made sure of a place in the next round when he slotted home from 12 yards after a cutback from Alan Hutton, but Bournemouth refused to go down without a fight.

Substitute Simon Francis fired just wide before fellow replacement Wilson squeezed the ball past Given from close range.

Despite the late drama, Villa held on for a result that marks the first time they have won by more than one goal since a 3-1 Premier League victory against Hull City in May.

Sun 25 January, 2015
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