FA Cup


Portsmouth 1 AFC Bournemouth 2: King and Pugh sink brave Pompey

Josh King and Marc Pugh spared AFC Bournemouth’s blushed as they completed a 2-1 comeback victory over League Two Portsmouth in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Paul Cook’s hosts led when Gary Roberts, a goalscorer from the penalty spot in the previous round against Ipswich Town, broke the deadlock in the 43rd minute.

Bournemouth struggled for fluency after Eddie Howe made 10 changes to the side that drew 1-1 at Sunderland last weekend, but King – playing for the first time since January 2 following a hamstring injury – levelled the tie after substitutes Pugh and Matt Ritchie sparked an improved display.

When Portsmouth lifted the FA Cup as a top-flight club in 2008, Bournemouth had just slipped into the fourth tier having gone into administration.

The clubs have experienced wildly contrasting fortunes in the intervening years, Portsmouth’s well-documented financial woes plunging them down the divisions at the same time as Bournemouth have enjoyed a meteoric rise.

But there was no inferiority complex in evidence from Cook’s men at Fratton Park – the clinical and composed nature of their performance never better demonstrated than when they retained possession with an easy assurance in the extended build-up to Roberts’ opener.

Ultimately, they were unable to stem the Bournemouth tide during the last half hour and Pugh, having been a catalyst for much of his team’s better work, settled matters seven minutes from time.

Portsmouth applied pressure during the opening stages, with Bournemouth not entirely convincing under a flurry of corners before Adam Federici saved superbly from Marc McNulty’s bouncing 20-yard strike.

Bournemouth responded midway through the half as experienced striker Glenn Murray glanced a free-kick wide after being hacked down by Christian Burgess.

Portsmouth goalkeeper Ryan Fulton bettered Federici’s earlier stop when Juan Iturbe’s strike fizzed through a crowd of bodies and he tipped the ball on to his left post.

Fulton’s intervention was rewarded two minutes before half-time when Roberts collected McNulty’s square pass and coolly slotted home to crown a wonderful team move.

Roberts might have doubled his tally nine minutes into the second half as Kyle Bennett unpicked the Bournemouth defence, but he pulled an attempt across the face of goal.

Confidence was coursing through a Portsmouth side roared on by their vocal home support and, with his team struggling to gain any meaningful possession, Howe replaced Iturbe and Murray with Pugh and Ritchie after an hour.

Goal hero Roberts and Burgess departed to a standing ovations shortly afterwards, although Bournemouth fared better from the double changes – Ritchie and Eunan O’Kane combining for Lewis Grabban to blast over.

King narrowly failed to get the decisive touch on the end of a teasing left-wing cross but he made no mistake in the 71st minute when he glanced home from O’Kane’s pinpoint free-kick.

Matthew Clarke made a last-ditch tackle to deny Grabban and the impressive Fulton denied the Bournemouth forward in the 83rd minute.

But the loose ball looped toward Pugh at the back post and he smuggled it over the line to book a spot in the last 16.

Sat 30 January, 2016
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Aston Villa 0 Manchester City 4: Iheanacho hits hat-trick in FA Cup cruise

Kelechi Iheanacho scored a hat-trick as Manchester City cruised to a 4-0 victory at Aston Villa in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday.

The 19-year-old, who also netted against Norwich City in the previous round, scored from close range and netted a penalty inside the opening 24 minutes.

Iheanacho completed his hat-trick late on as he took advantage of some terrible Villa defending to beat Brad Guzan one-on-one, before Raheem Sterling sealed the victory as Manuel Pellegrini’s men continued their pursuit of four trophies.

With Sergio Aguero dropping to the bench for City as both sides made four changes, Iheanacho took full advantage of his opportunity up-front with an excellent individual display.

Villa came into the match unbeaten in five games and held City to a goalless draw at Villa Park in November, but they offered little resistance in a dreadful performance.

The visitors were ahead inside four minutes when a corner from Fabian Delph, who was given a frosty reception against his former club, was diverted across goal by Bacary Sagna. It looked like Fernando was poised to score, but his close-range header was blocked, allowing Iheanacho to stab home from two yards out.

Leandro Bacuna and Scott Sinclair were off-target with efforts as the hosts looked for a route back into the game, but City swiftly went two up.

Referee Mike Jones instantly pointed to the spot after ruling Bacuna had fouled Sterling as he attempted to get on the end of Jesus Navas’ cross. Sterling wanted to take the resulting penalty himself, but it was Iheanacho who coolly stepped up to send Guzan the wrong way.

Bacuna was furious and raised his hands to the head of Sterling in a clash between the pair moments later, with both players booked.

The feud continued as the Villa player then shoved the ex-Liverpool star off the ball, but he avoided a second yellow as Jones gave him a final warning.

Guzan got out quickly to make an important save from Fernandinho after the midfielder had latched onto Nicolas Otamendi’s flick-on, with City threatening to run riot.

Villa survived two second-half scares when Sterling had a shot saved by Guzan before the attacker failed to convert from a good headed opportunity a few moments later.

Willy Caballero was forced into a good save from a Carles Gil free-kick at the other end after a rash Otamendi challenge on Jordan Ayew had given the
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home side an opportunity from just outside the area.

Iheanacho put the result beyond doubt on 74 minutes when a disastrous backpass allowed him to run clean through on goal and h
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old his nerve to score. 

It was four just two minutes later when another loose pass allowed City in again. Fernandinho had a shot saved by Guzan and Iheanacho could not covert from the rebound inside the six-yard box but his acrobatic effort fell into the path of Sterling, who finished from close range.

Sat 30 January, 2016
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Aston Villa 0 Manchester City 4: Iheanacho hits hat-trick in FA Cup cruise

Kelechi Iheanacho scored a hat-trick as Manchester City cruised to a 4-0 victory at Aston Villa in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday.

The 19-year-old, who also netted against Norwich City in the previous round, scored from close range and netted a penalty inside the opening 24 minutes.

Iheanacho completed his hat-trick late on as he took advantage of some terrible Villa defending to beat Brad Guzan one-on-one, before Raheem Sterling sealed the victory as Manuel Pellegrini’s men continued their pursuit of four trophies.

With Sergio Aguero dropping to the bench for City as both sides made four changes, Iheanacho took full advantage of his opportunity up-front with an excellent individual display.

Villa came into the match unbeaten in five games and held City to a goalless draw at Villa Park in November, but they offered little resistance in a dreadful performance.

The visitors were ahead inside four minutes when a corner from Fabian Delph, who was given a frosty reception against his former club, was diverted across goal by Bacary Sagna. It looked like Fernando was poised to score, but his close-range header was blocked, allowing Iheanacho to stab home from two yards out.

Leandro Bacuna and Scott Sinclair were off-target with efforts as the hosts looked for a route back into the game, but City swiftly went two up.

Referee Mike Jones instantly pointed to the spot after ruling Bacuna had fouled Sterling as he attempted to get on the end of Jesus Navas’ cross. Sterling wanted to take the resulting penalty himself, but it was Iheanacho who coolly stepped up to send Guzan the wrong way.

Bacuna was furious and raised his hands to the head of Sterling in a clash between the pair moments later, with both players booked.

The feud continued as the Villa player then shoved the ex-Liverpool star off the ball, but he avoided a second yellow as Jones gave him a final warning.

Guzan got out quickly to make an important save from Fernandinho after the midfielder had latched onto Nicolas Otamendi’s flick-on, with City threatening to run riot.

Villa survived two second-half scares when Sterling had a shot saved by Guzan before the attacker failed to convert from a good headed opportunity a few moments later.

Willy Caballero was forced into a good save from a Carles Gil free-kick at the other end after a rash Otamendi challenge on Jordan Ayew had given the home side an opportunity from just outside the area.

Iheanacho put the result beyond doubt on 74 minutes when a disastrous backpass allowed him to run clean through on goal and hold his nerve to score. 

It was four just two minutes later when another loose pass allowed City in again. Fernandinho had a shot saved by Guzan and Iheanacho could not covert from the rebound inside the six-yard box but his acrobatic effort fell into the path of Sterling, who finished from close range.

Sat 30 January, 2016
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Colchester United 1 Tottenham 4: Chadli double sends Spurs to fifth round

Two goals from Nacer Chadli helped Tottenham to a 4-1 win over Colchester United in Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round clash.

The home side, rock-bottom of League One, lost two players to injury early on after a heavy collision between team-mates and struggled to settle in a first half dominated by Spurs.

Chadli’s fine finish gave Mauricio Pochettino’s side the lead they deserved and both Erik Lamela and captain Harry Kane should have made the advantage more comfortable by half-time.

Colchester sharpened up after the break, but the killer blow came in the 64th minute when Eric Dier’s ambitious effort took a huge deflection before nestling in the far corner.

A header from Chadli made it 3-0 and, though Ben Davies scored an own goal just two minutes later, Tom Carroll struck soon afterwards to ensure the visitors a spot in the fifth round for the first time since 2012.

Colchester were dealt an early blow when Alex Wynter was taken off on a stretcher following a clash of heads with team-mate Tom Eastman, who required stitches for a nasty cut and was substituted a few minutes after returning to the pitch.

Spurs promptly took control of the game after the delay, with Christian Eriksen testing Jake Kean from close range before Erik Lamela clipped the base of the far post with a fine curling effort from 25 yards.

Eriksen rifled just over the crossbar from 20 yards at the end of a fast Spurs break, but the visitors got the breakthrough a minute later from an almost identical position. Lamela prodded the ball to Chadli and the Belgian made the most of time and space to fire right-footed into the far corner.

Spurs should have made it 2-0 before the break when Davies picked out Kane unmarked just six yards out, but his header was straight at Kean, who did well to turn the ball past the post.

Colchester looked far more settled early in the second half and Nabil Bentaleb almost turned a Darren Ambrose shot into his own net, though Chadli should have doubled the lead when he crashed an effort off the crossbar from just six yards after turning into space following Kane’s cut-back.

But another stroke of misfortune broke the resilience of the home side and handed Spurs a crucial second goal. Dier was allowed to stride unchallenged into the Colchester half and his hopeful strike from 30 yards looped off Matthew Briggs before bouncing into the far corner past the despairing dive of Kean.

Marvin Sordell spurned a great chance to halve the deficit when played clean through on goal, but he could only find the outside of the upright with just Michel Vorm to beat, and that miss proved costly as Chadli turned home Davies’ cross with a delicate header at the near post.

Davies bundled into his own net from after Gavin Massey’s shot came flying back off the post, but Carroll calmed any Spurs nerves with a neat finish after ghosting into the six-yard box to meet Chadli’s low cross.

Sat 30 January, 2016
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Roberto Martinez cannot afford a slip-up at Carlisle

Everton will be hoping to avoid an FA Cup defeat at League Two Carlisle on Sunday afternoon

Everton will be hoping to avoid an FA Cup defeat at League Two Carlisle on Sunday afternoon

Everton face a tricky game at League Two Carlisle on Sunday in fourth round of the FA Cup.

The tie looks like a banana skin waiting to happen for the Toffees and their beleaguered boss Roberto Martinez.

The game is one that Everton cannot afford to lose, or the Spaniard may just be living on borrowed time on Merseyside.

The majority of fans have lost faith in the former-Wigan boss and another defeat will see the number of his remaining fans dwindle.

Underachieving this season

Martinez had the cheek to suggest that his team are not underachieving this season, despite such a highly-rated team currently sitting in 12th spot in the Premier League table. The Spaniard surely cannot believe that. Is winning one of the last ten top-flight games underachieving? I think most people would give a definite yes to that question.

He says this is a new team and he is building for seasons ahead. The problem is Everton do not have time to be looking at seasons ahead, because the talented young players at the club will disappear looking for a club who are not in the bottom half of the table.

The likes of Gerard Deulofeu, Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku are all doing their jobs and it is proven in the teams goals for column in the Premier League this season.

The only teams that have scored more goals than the Toffees in the top-flight this season are Manchester City, Leicester and Tottenham. All three of the aforementioned teams are occupying positions in the top-four, yet Everton are in the bottom half of the table.

Poor organisation skills

I have to say I really like Roberto Martinez as a person and his positive attitude, but his reign is getting pretty hard to defend at the moment. The Spaniard’s almost naive nature of playing football is costing Everton at the moment.

Martinez comes across as a nice guy, but he seems like he couldn’t organise a whip-round, never mind a Premier League defence. The Toffees are punished so many times because of Martinez’s style of play, mainly passing the ball out from the back.

It is all very well playing possession-based, attacking football, but sometimes a team has to mix-up their style slightly in an effort to win games. Ironically in Martinez’s first season he was praised for his tactically adaptability, now he is being accused of having no plan B, as plan A is clearly not working.

He does have a very clear philosophy. Surely nowhere in that philosophy does it state that his team need to give away soft goals week-in week-out, because that is what is happening to Everton this season.

Highly-rated centre-back John Stones is one of the main culprits for the team conceding goals, not because he is a poor defender, but it appears he is just starting to believe his own hype and the transfer speculation may just be going to his head slightly.

Too many times he is taking risks that centre-backs should not take and it has cost Everton in the past few months. He does have potential, but he is not Frank Beckenbauer yet.

The way the seasons going, I believe that most Evertonians would not mind seeing the youngster leave the club in the summer. For all his potential, under Martinez he can be a liability.

Could be a high-scoring game at Brunton Park

Everton have a history of being victims of cup giant killings. The names of Shrewsbury, Oldham, Stockport, Port Vale and Millwall all spring to mind as lower league sides who have knocked the Toffees out of the domestic cups in the last two decades or so.

Carlisle are 11th in League Two and are another team that can score goals, but are not particularly great at the back. The Cumbrian’s are odds of 6/1 to beat the Toffees. Those odds reflect the current fragile state of confidence at Everton.

An FA Cup run is vital to Everton, but for Roberto Martinez more than anybody, because his reputation as a top-flight boss is starting to diminish by the game.

Making it to the Capital One Cup semi-final has not masked the fact that Everton are majorly underachieving with their current squad of players and the Toffees boss cannot afford a shock defeat at Brunton Park on Sunday.

Can Carlisle upset the odds against Everton on Sunday?

Sat 30 January, 2016
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Hughes wanted Adebayor at Stoke

Stoke City manager Mark Hughes has revealed his admiration for Emmanuel Adebayor and admitted he tried to sign him before the striker eventually joined Crystal Palace.

Hughes managed the Togolese striker during his time as Manchester City boss and will face his former player in the FA Cup fourth round when his Stoke side take on Palace.

Adebayor has not played club football since May when his Tottenham contract was cancelled but Hughes believes the 31-year-old still has the ability to cause his side significant problems.

“We talked about Ade and his situation but he’s based in London,” said Hughes.

“We knew early on that was where he was likely to end up, so we didn’t pursue it to any great extent other than a conversation. But he’s a good player.

“When he’s on top of his form he can be unplayable, he’s that good.

“He’s a big guy, with a lot of power who scores goals, that’s not a bad combination for a striker.

“I think they’ve made a good acquisition there.”

Meanwhile, Palace coach Alan Pardew says he signed Adebayor to cause serious problems for opposition defences.

The former Arsenal, Real Madrid and Manchester City attacker has an impressive scoring record in English football and Pardew claims he was excited at the prospect of adding real quality to his front-line.

“Once a player reaches that level, and they’re bouncing around the big clubs, unless I become the manager of one of those I wasn’t going to see him (at his club),” he said.

“But he’s always been a player that I’ve always thought can disrupt games. He disrupts games, he can create a chaos factor, and you can’t underestimate that in the Premier League.

“You need a player who’s got x-factor, and for whatever physical shape he’s in, he will create a moment that could change the game, any game, and that of course is why he’s here.”

Sat 30 January, 2016
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Van Gaal targeting Premier League consistency after FA Cup triumph

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal hopes his side’s 3-1 win over Derby County in the FA Cup fourth round will prove the catalyst for more consistent league form.

United looked something like their former selves as they put the Championship outfit to the sword in an impressive second-half performance, with goals from Daley Blind and Juan Mata sealing the win after Wayne Rooney’s superb first-half opener was cancelled out by George Thorne.

Van Gaal said Derby’s attempts to press higher up the field as the game wore on allowed his side to find more space.

“I have to say Derby County in the second half were pressing forward more,” the United manager told MUTV.

“When we beat that pressure then there was more space and that was also the reason why we scored two goals.

“We have won every game in 2016 except the game against Southampton and that was because of the lack of confidence. We played at home and the fans were supporting us, so it [our performance] was a little bit ridiculous.

“But that’s how it was. Now the confidence is back, we dared to play again and in spite of the pressure of Derby County in the second half we met that pressure, we created chances and we scored fantastic goals I have to say.

“The second and third were fantastic combinations and fantastic finishes as well.”

The performance of Frenchman Anthony Martial, who assisted Rooney and Mata for their goals, was another subject of delight for the Dutch manager, even if the forward did disappoint in his opening 20 minutes.

“He started not so good, I think, but I said that to him and after the first 20 minutes he came into the match and he was fabulous,” he said.

“I am very happy that he is a Manchester United player because I think he shall be a great player for Manchester United for a long time.”

When asked by reporters at his post-game news conference about how he would celebrate the victory, Van Gaal said he would enjoy some fine wine given him to by the club’s chief-executive Ed Woodward after United beat Liverpool in the Premier League earlier in January.

“We drink a nice bottle of wine, probably the most expensive wine, because I have received that from Ed Woodward,” said Van Gaal.

“I get always expensive wine when we beat an opponent of out the top six. I don’t want to mention the name because it is a little bit extravagant.”

Van Gaal said his future was never riding on the result of one game in particular.

“It is not a question of one match. It is difficult to understand but it is a process. It is a period of three years. This board is very intelligent to understand that. It is not a question of one match,” the Dutchman said.

Sat 30 January, 2016
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United´s clinical finishing the difference – Clement

Manchester United’s cutting edge proved to be the difference in their 3-1 FA Cup fourth-round victory over Derby County at the iPro Stadium, according to Paul Clement.

Wayne Rooney opened the scoring in the 16th minute with a superb curling strike but United were pegged back before the interval by George Thorne’s neatly-taken goal.

However, the 11-time cup winners were not to be deterred and went ahead again through Daley Blind’s low effort before Juan Mata wrapped up the win from inside the area with seven minutes left.

And Derby manager Clement believed their Premier League opponents’ star players separated the two teams.

“You’re always worried about those quality players, like Mata and [Anthony] Martial, off the back of our midfield,” he told the BBC.

“They were clinical, their movement and finishing was the difference.

“I thought we gave them a good game, it wasn’t an easy game for them. We had some good passing spells and our goal was an excellent goal, a good finish from our holding midfielder – although I don’t know what he was doing up there!

“I’m disappointed we didn’t keep it tighter for a bit longer so we could go into the last 15, 20 minutes with a chance. For a team who is lacking confidence they played well tonight.”

Fri 29 January, 2016
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Van Gaal dreaming of FA Cup glory

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal is dreaming of winning the FA Cup after a 3-1 fourth-round win at Derby County eased the immediate pressure on his shoulders.

The Dutchman’s side are already out of the Champions League and League Cup, while they sit fifth in the Premier League, but goals from Wayne Rooney, Daley Blind and Juan Mata on Friday kept their hopes of a first FA Cup trophy since 2004 alive.

Van Gaal was thrilled with the way his team performed against their Championship opponents and talked up the importance of the competition after the match.

“The Premier League is very important but the FA Cup is the greatest cup in England with a long and important history,” he told BBC Sport.

“We have not won it for a long time so we dream of it, but after two wins you can’t say that we will win it.

“It [the performance] was maybe better than we had trained. We played at the right time against the resistance of Derby. 

“We gave their goal away but at half-time I said that it was a good performance, keep it up and we will win – and we did.”

The goal from centre-back Blind with 25 minutes remaining restored United’s lead after George Thorne had struck for Derby in the first half and Van Gaal praised his player’s desire.

“Blind’s goal? You have to sniff it and he sniffed it,” said the manager. “It was a great goal.” 

Fri 29 January, 2016
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Manchester United cannot think of Wembley yet – Mata

Manchester United playmaker Juan Mata insists he is not allowing dreams of Wembley to enter his mind after scoring in the 3-1 FA Cup win over Derby County on Friday.

Wayne Rooney and Daley Blind also scored either side of George Thorne’s equaliser as the visitors moved into the fifth round and eased the immediate pressure on manager Louis van Gaal.

But Mata, who scored for the first time in 15 matches, urged his team-mates not to start thinking ahead even though United have not won the competition since 2004.

Asked about the away fans singing of Wembley, the 27-year-old told BBC Sport: “We are just thinking step by step. 

“I know it has been a few years since the last time Manchester United has won it but I think we have to focus on each round. Here we did our job and we are looking forward to the next game.

“It was really important for us. It is not easy to come here to Derby. Even though they are not in the Premier League they are a good team, they press, they are physically very strong and I think we did a good job. 

“We came here to play football, we played much quicker than in the last games and I think that scoring three goals and having even more chances to score was, at the end of the day, a very good performance.”

Blind was also impressed with United’s display and revealed what drove him to be in the penalty area to score the crucial second goal despite playing at centre-back.

He said: “I passed the ball to Juan and thought I am this close to the goal now, I will make a move forward. 

“When I was in the box I was just thinking maybe I should go to the first post where the striker normally [is] and Jesse [Lingard] gave the perfect ball and I touched it once, it was a good goal.”

The Netherlands international was reluctant to discuss what the victory meant for under-fire Van Gaal.

“We just came over here to focus on this important game and we did what we needed to do – winning and going to the next round,” he said.

Fri 29 January, 2016
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Derby County 1 Manchester United 3: Rooney, Blind and Mata boost Van Gaal

Second-half goals from Daley Blind and Juan Mata gave Manchester United a 3-1 win over Derby County in the FA Cup fourth round, easing the immediate pressure on manager Louis van Gaal.

Wayne Rooney continued his recent renaissance as his sixth goal in as many games – a brilliant curling shot – gave the visitors an early lead at the iPro Stadium.

Derby levelled before the break through George Thorne’s well-taken strike, but cool finishes from Blind and Mata inside the final 25 minutes saw United progress over their Championship opponents.

In the build-up to the game, Van Gaal angrily denied reports he had offered to resign following defeat to Southampton last time out and this victory should buy him time as he looks to turn the club’s season around.

With United sitting fifth in the Premier League and their chances in the Champions League and League Cup already over, the FA Cup and the Europa League are their only remaining realistic chances of silverware.

The Dutchman made two changes to his team as Guillermo Varela and Mata replaced the injured Matteo Darmian and Ander Herrera, who dropped to the substitutes’ bench, while hosts Derby were unchanged despite losing 4-1 to Burnley last time out.

Anthony Martial threatened early on, but failed to find the target from an excellent position after a good move involving Rooney and Marouane Fellaini, before the England captain put United ahead in emphatic fashion in the 16th minute.

After exchanging passes with Martial at the left corner of the penalty area, Rooney ignored claims of offside to curl a wonderful dipping effort past Scott Carson and into the far corner.

David de Gea was equal to Nick Blackman’s back-post header as the hosts looked for a swift response, but the Spain goalkeeper was unable to prevent a 37th-minute equaliser.

A clever pass from Chris Martin sent Thorne clear in significant space as he raced through the middle of United’s defence and the midfielder smoothly took one touch before beating De Gea with a left-footed strike.

Blackman then cut inside and lashed an effort just wide as Derby went into the half-time break with the momentum.

Another Blackman shot was just off-target at the start of the second half, while Mata was narrowly wide with a close-range diving header at the other end after Jesse Lingard’s cross deflected into his path.

With 65 minutes on the clock, United moved back in front. A good passing move led to Lingard’s low cross from the right which found centre-back Blind and he finished with an impressive first-time shot.

The win was sealed with seven minutes remaining when Martial, who was a persistent threat down the left, found Mata after a good run and cut-back, with the Spain playmaker finding the bottom corner for his first goal in 15 games.

Fri 29 January, 2016
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Everton are not underachieving – Martinez

Everton manager Roberto Martinez insists it is unfair for critics to claim his team are underachieving as they are still a work in progress.

The Toffees lost 4-3 to Manchester City on aggregate in their League Cup semi-final tie, which concluded at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.

That leaves the FA Cup – where Everton travel to play Carlisle United in the fourth round on Sunday – as the club’s only realistic trophy opportunity this season.

Everton have disappointed in the Premier League and sit 12th in the table having won only one of their last 10 top-flight matches, but Martinez thinks it is too early to make any judgements on his squad.

“You cannot be underachieving when this team is new,” Martinez said.

“This team has been formed over the last two-and-a-half years and we are developing something that is going to be very powerful for the future.

“That process is not going to be overnight or straightforward. You need to go through painful experiences to develop the know-how of a winning team.

“In my eyes we have one of the most competitive squads in the league with four or five players with the best potential in Europe and that has been down to a clear strategy.

“We have achieved this squad not having the blank cheque of £500m, which other clubs have had to become a competitive team overnight.”

Martinez thinks Everton are not far from challenging for a Champions League place and revealed he was happy to take criticism for his team’s lack of recent wins.

“It would be very easy for us to say we can’t really compete against the top four, accept where we are and fight every short-term target,” he said.

“But we have an overall approach of wanting to get into the top four and we are showing signs we are starting to do that.

“As a manager you need to accept that we need to get wins. I will never come out with excuses and try to justify lack of wins.

“I feel we are close to getting what the fans deserve but I will accept any criticism and I will be the one fronting that. I share their frustrations at a lack of wins, but I am the first one who has a strong belief we will be successful at the end of it.”

Fri 29 January, 2016
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Carlisle United v Everton: Emotional Brunton Park hoping for upset

Carlisle United will be cheered on by a sold-out Brunton Park as they face Premier League side Everton in the FA Cup hoping to lift spirits on and off the pitch.

Cumbria was affected terribly by flooding as storms battered the UK in December, with Brunton Park hit to such an extent that water rose as high as the crossbars and koi carp were found in one of the goalmouths.

Carlisle players and staff have tried to help local people get their lives back on track, taking to the streets to help clear houses of damaged goods, while fans of Sunday’s opponents have also pitched in – Everton fans raising more than £7,000 to help with the relief fund.

And Carlisle fans are set to show their support on Sunday, with Brunton Park set to be near its 18,000 capacity come kick-off.

Having played home games in Blackpool, Blackburn and Preston while their stadium was unusable, Carlisle returned home against York City last weekend – a 1-1 draw played out on a relaid pitch and in front of their biggest crowd of the season so far (7,461).

Club captain Danny Grainger told BBC Sport: “Everyone has been fantastic. Football clubs and fans have looked after us, they really have.

“We’ve been really looked after, so hopefully we’ve repaid them [fans] by getting this glamour tie.

“No Premier League team wants to come to a League Two team in the FA Cup. It’s one of those games where shocks can happen.

“There’s always one in every round. Why can’t it be us? We’ve taken Liverpool to penalties [in the League Cup] and on another night we would have won that game.

“It’s a no-pressure game for us, we get to enjoy it. All the pressure is on Everton. We’ve been through a lot in the last eight weeks and it prepares you well.”

Local boy Grainger will miss the cup tie due to an ankle injury, much to manager Keith Curle’s disappointment.

“He’s a goal threat, a goal scorer and he sets a good example,” Curle said of his captain. 

“It’s disappointing for him, but the pleasing thing is I know he will tackle his injury in the same way he’s tackled everything else this season. That’s with his usual levels of determination and enthusiasm.”

Everton’s season may well rest on their FA Cup hopes after they were knocked out of the League Cup by Manchester City at the semi-final stage in midweek, while they are 12th in the Premier League after a run of five games without a win.

“I am not a manager who is going to try and justify a defeat or try to find someone to blame because that will not give us glory at the end of the period,” manager Roberto Martinez said.

“We need a long and well-thought strategy in order to become a winning team again and I will be the one to give my life to trying to work towards that.”

Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy could be given a first start since January 6 and December 28 respectively after calf and groin injuries, while Joel Robles will continue as Martinez’s cup goalkeeper.

Fri 29 January, 2016
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Pellegrini rules out signing De Bruyne replacement

Manchester City will not sign a replacement for the injured Kevin De Bruyne before the transfer window closes, manager Manuel Pellegrini has said.

The Belgium international faces up to 10 weeks on the sidelines after damaging a medial knee ligament during the 3-1 League Cup win over Everton this week.

But Pellegrini is not concerned about a lack of cover for De Bruyne and says the way City have coped with the absences of David Silva and Sergio Aguero at different stages of this season shows they do not need to panic-buy before Monday’s deadline.

“We knew after the game it was a serious injury – not a season-ending injury as it was not a cruciate, but an important injury and will be out for eight to 10 weeks,” Pellegrini said on Friday.

“It’s important for the club not to play with Kevin. We must continue playing with the whole squad if we want to be a competitive team.

“It’s one less important player but we must continue with optimism and give responsibility to the squad.

“It’s not our intention to bring in anyone in January. In some moments we couldn’t play with Sergio or David and now we play without Kevin.”

Pellegrini confirmed De Bruyne will join captain Vincent Kompany, Eliaquim Mangala, Aleksandar Kolarov, Wilfried Bony and Samir Nasri on the sidelines for Saturday’s FA Cup clash with Aston Villa.

“The same injuries as last week – Vincent, Mangala, Kolarov – I hope they will return next week to at least work with the squad,” said the Chilean.

“Eight to 10 weeks more for Nasri and Kevin and I hope in a couple of weeks Bony will be fit again.”

Having reached the final of the League Cup this week, City remain on course to challenge for an unprecedented quadruple, yet Pellegrini is anxious not to look too far ahead.

“I don’t know if it’s realistic or not but we’re not thinking about that – just about Villa, then the next game,” he said.

“It’s important to continue being involved in all competitions and to show you’re a strong team in all of them.

“It’s the same team we play that we played in November – we started in Remi Garde’s first game. We drew against them in their stadium so I think tomorrow will be a similar game and very difficult also.”

Fri 29 January, 2016
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Pulis confirms Sandro talks as West Brom suffer McManaman blow

Tony Pulis has confirmed that West Brom are interested in signing QPR midfielder Sandro after revealing Callum McManaman faces a lengthy spell out through injury.

McManaman has suffered ankle ligament damage which will keep him out for between four and six weeks, Pulis told the media on Friday.

With central midfielder James Morrison sidelined for up to two months with a knee problem and Darren Fletcher struggling for full fitness, West Brom are set to turn to Sandro in a bid to bolster their squad before transfer window closes.

“We are interested in Sandro but nothing has been done yet, that’s ongoing. Whether we can do a deal or not we will have to wait and see,” Pulis said.

“We are working on it, if we can get a deal done, we will get a deal done and if we can’t, we can’t, and we will have to move on.

“It is potentially a loan with a view to a permanent if we can do it.”

West Brom face two key games against Premier League strugglers Swansea City and Newcastle United next week, but Pulis insists he will field a strong side against Peterborough United in Saturday’s FA Cup fourth round.

“It’s a three-game week but I have made my feelings about this competition very clear – I will be fielding a strong team to win the game,” he said.

Fri 29 January, 2016
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Pulis confirms Sandro talks as West Brom suffer McManaman blow

Tony Pulis has confirmed that West Brom are interested in signing QPR mi
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dfielder Sandro after revealing Callum McManaman faces a lengthy spell out through injury.

McManaman has suffered ankle ligament damage which will keep him out for between four and six weeks, Pulis told the media on Friday.

With central midfielder James Morrison sidelined for up to two months with a knee problem and Darren Fletcher struggling for full fitness, West Brom are set to turn to Sandro in a bid to bolster their squad before transfer window closes.

“We are interested in Sandro but nothing has been done yet, that’s ongoing. Whether we can do a deal or not we will have to wait and see,” Pulis said.

“We are working on it, if we can get a deal done, we will get a deal done and if we can’t, we can’t, and we will have to move on.

“It is potentially a loan with a view to a permanent if we can do it.”

West Brom face two key games against Premier League strugglers Swansea City and Newcastle United next week, but Pulis insists he will field a strong side against Pete
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rborough United in Saturday’s FA Cup fourth round.

“It’s a three-game week but I have made my feelings about this competition very clear – I will be fielding a strong team to win the game,” he said.

Fri 29 January, 2016
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Prediction: MK Dons vs Chelsea

Championship strugglers MK Dons will be looking to pile more misery on Premier League holders Chelsea and attempt to at least earn a lucrative replay when they face their more illustrious opponents. Buoyed by the valuable victory over rivals Arsenal, the Blues will fancy their chances of winning at Stadium mk.

MK Dons

Officially established in 2004, Milton Keynes Dons Football Club have achieved decent success in their first decade, having secured their first ever promotion to the Championship last summer. The club have also become famous for their impressive youth academy, and they will definitely be hoping for more success in the future. The Dons have done fairly well since making it to the second tier as currently sit above the relegation zone, albeit mere two points ahead of their releegation rivals. Decent home performances have certainly helped as the team picked up 19 points from 14 home fixtures, while losing 9 of 14 away matches. The Dons began their FA Cup campaign with a 2-2 draw at Northampton and it was the 3-0 triumph in the replay that saw them set up a clash with Premier League champions Chelsea. The club haven’t enjoyed too much success in the competition in the past, losing three straight home games in the FA Cup ahead of said victory over Northampton, so we doubt they will be able to match the revived Blues on Saturday afternoon.

Team News

MK Dons manager Karl Robinson has recalled midfielder George Baldock from a loan spell at Oxford United, but he is ineligible for this year’s FA Cup.

On the other hand, Scottish defender Kyle John McFadzean is available for selection after serving a one-match suspension for accumulation of yellow cards.

Chelsea

This will definitely go down as one of the most disappointing seasons in recent years for Chelsea, as the Premier League holders currently trail leaders Leicester huge 19 points. The Blues have long ago been ruled out of the title chase, but they did well to keep the slim top 4 hopes alive with a 1-0 triumph over Arsenal at the Emirates. The match would have probably gone in the other direction if Per Mertesacker hadn’t been sent off so early into the game, but Chelsea made the most out of the opportunity that presented itself to record a much needed morale-boosting victory. The Blues are now on an eight-match unbeaten run and will want to record a comprehensive triumph over MK Dons to secure progress to the FA Cup fifth round, with Guus Hiddink almost certain to field a strong side at mk Stadium. Having won last two away fixtures, while keeping clean sheets in last three games on the road, Chelsea have been rightly made favourites to emerge victorious.

Team News

Guus Hiddink has received a major boost as Diego Costa recovered from a knee injury, but it remains to be seen whether the Spaniard will be risked at mk Stadium.

Belgian superstar Eden Hazard should finally get a chance to shine, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek and and Kenedy expected to play a part as well.

Key Factors to Consider

  • This will be the first ever meeting between MK Dons and Chelsea
  • MK Dons lost three of last four home games in the FA Cup
  • Chelsea conceded just one goal in last six away matches
  • The Blues are unbeaten in eight games (W4 D4)
  • Diego Costa has scored five goals in last five outings

Conclusion

MK Dons have been struggling for form of late and they definitely lack the quality needed to match a side like Chelsea. The Blues are finally showing some improvement and having restored some of the lost confidence by defeating Arsenal on the road, we are backing them to record a comfortable victory in Buckinghamshire.

Verdict: Chelsea/Chelsea

Best Odds: 17/20

Bookmaker: William Hill

Fri 29 January, 2016
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Beating United could rebuild my reputation – Warnock

Stephen Warnock is eager to make up for lost time and produce an FA Cup upset when Derby County take on Manchester United in the fourth round on Friday.

Despite being named in England’s squad for the 2010 World Cup, the 34-year-old left-back’s career came to a stuttering halt six months later when then Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier deemed him unworthy of a first-team place.

Warnock has been unable to reproduce the form that enabled him to win two international caps but feels he has the opportunity to rebuild his reputation with a shock win in the cup.

“I had a difficult time at Villa when Gerard Houllier came in,” the former Liverpool defender said.

“I thought I was playing well at the time, but all of a sudden I was left out of the squad and things took a bit of a slump.

“Sometimes you get ­scapegoated as a troublemaker, or something like that, but I thought it was harsh.

“Nobody ever gave me an explanation or a reason for it, and that was the toughest part. Every time I went in to try and ask about it, he didn’t want to have the conversation.

“If it was because some of us were on too much money, it would have been nice to be told that. But it was never mentioned to me and in the end I jumped ship to Leeds to rebuild my career.

“Villa and Derby could possibly trade places at the end of this season, but it would be incredibly sad if Villa ended up in the ­Championship because it’s a massive club.”

Pride Park Stadium plays host for the fourth-round tie against 11-time tournament winners United, and Warnock believes the Championship side can pull off the unexpected.

“We look at it as a good time to play United because they have been in a bad spell – but they will look at Derby and think the same way,” he added.

“To be honest, I don’t take any pleasure from seeing United struggle.

“Although I grew up in Liverpool, and it’s one of those situations you’d love to have seen as a kid, when you ­understand how hard it is to get out of it, you realise how they must be feeling.”

Fri 29 January, 2016
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Van Gaal: I will never quit Manchester United

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal says he will never quit his role at Old Trafford, dismissing claims he offered his resignation to executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.

The Dutchman reportedly tendered his resignation after Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Southampton – Charlie Austin’s strike condemning United to his sixth Premier League defeat of an underwhelming campaign.

But Van Gaal hit out at the media during his news conference on Thursday, labelling as “awful and horrible” reports he had to be persuaded to stay by Woodward.

The United boss has faced severe criticism over a lack of attacking play and some indifferent results, but insists he wants to see out his contract, which expires at the end of next season.

Asked about claims he offered to walk away from the job, Van Gaal told reporters: “I have not mentioned that, ever. I am always fighting.

“I have signed a three-year contract here. It’s a process, not one game, and I want to continue until the end.

“When I’m not willing to do that, I don’t think I would have started here one and a half years ago.

“When I have signed for clubs, I have always spoken a long time with the CEO or with the owners, not only at United, but also at Bayern Munich and Barcelona, and I have the faith that they always support me.

“But that gives more pressure to you, because you must fulfil the expectations they have of you. Of course we can fulfil those expectations. We are now only halfway.”

With United fifth in the Premier League and out of the Champions League and the League Cup, their FA Cup quest continues with a trip to Championship side Derby County in the fourth round on Friday.

And Van Gaal, referencing reports on three occasions that he had been sacked, acknowledged: “I cannot lose any more, because then I am condemned for the fourth time that I have been sacked.

“Then maybe you will have written the truth, because sometimes it happens.”

Thu 28 January, 2016
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Aston Villa v Manchester City: Okore seeks FA Cup catalyst

Aston Villa defender Jores Okore says a positive result in Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round clash with Manchester City can be a catalyst in their bid to avoid Premier League relegation.

Remi Garde’s men are six points adrift at the foot of the table and needed a replay to get past League Two side Wycombe Wanderers in the third round.

While Villa are now five matches unbeaten in all competitions, their improvement will be tested by a City side full of confidence after reaching the final of the League Cup at the expense of Everton on Wednesday.

Villa were finalists in the FA Cup last year, as Tim Sherwood steered the club away from the drop zone in his first few months in charge.

And while the former Tottenham manager was dismissed in October, Okore believes success in the knockout competition can trigger improvement in the league again this season.

“We need to go out and keep that run going. As long as we create chances we can go out and win,” he told Villa’s official website.

“Last season’s run to the final was really special. It was amazing to go to Wembley and go that far in a tournament with some quality teams.

“We had a run last year and hopefully if we can get a good result this weekend we’ll see even more confidence coming back in the team and maybe we can get the same kind of run and can do the same this year.

“The semi-final win over Liverpool gave us a little spark and we showed we can beat any team on our day.

“It gave us a spark and we went and won the game – it helped us retain our Premier League status – hopefully that can happen again this time round.”

City boast a four-match unbeaten run against Villa and remain in contention to win the Premier League, Champions League, League Cup and FA Cup.

The second-leg victory over Everton on Wednesday came at a cost, as goalscorer Kevin De Bruyne appeared to suffer damage to ligaments in his knee and ankle that looks set to rule him out for up to six weeks.

Sergio Aguero is in good form with seven goals in seven games to compensate for De Bruyne’s absence, while Villa’s Ashley Westwood also feels City’s Spanish playmaker David Silva will pose a considerable threat.

“David Silva is by far the toughest opponent I’ve faced,” Westwood said. “Ever since I’ve played in the Premier League I’ve thought the same.

“He’s like a ghost at times, you don’t know where he is. He’s a top player.”

Thu 28 January, 2016
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Portsmouth v AFC Bournemouth: Distin relishing Fratton Park return

Sylvain Distin is relishing a return to Fratton Park when AFC Bournemouth visit his former club Portsmouth in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday. 

Veteran centre-back Distin spent two years at Portsmouth between 2007 and 2009, helping the club to a famous FA Cup victory in the 2008 final against Cardiff City.

Distin was then sold to Everton as financial turmoil engulfed the club.

Since his time at Fratton Park, the contrast in fortunes between south-coast rivals Portsmouth and Bournemouth has been vast.

While Pompey plummeted from the Premier League to League Two in just three years, the Cherries rocketed up from the fourth tier to the top flight in five years – the clubs crossing paths in League One in the 2012-13 season.

And for Distin, 38, the chance to renew acquaintances is exciting.

“At the start of your career you don’t really realise it is going to end at some point and you just play game after game,” he told The News.

“So being able to come back to a place where I had such a good time and good memories is fantastic.

“I never had the chance to say goodbye to the fans, how I left happened really, really fast.

“I was about to sign a contract, then the following day was asked to leave because the club needed the money.”

Bournemouth under manager Eddie Howe have proved no pushovers in their maiden Premier League season – they are four points clear of the relegation zone in 16th place after 23 matches.

Portsmouth boss Paul Cook is fully aware of the challenge his side will face, but is looking forward to the underdogs pitting their wits against top-flight opposition.

“I just think it’s a great occasion. The build-up builds slowly from Friday then into the expectancy of a Premier League club coming to Fratton Park,” he said.

“From days gone by this was a normal fixture for us but it isn’t [any] more. It’s a game we’re looking forward to and one we want to win. 

“The reality of … playing a strong team [is] if they turn up and play well, then we’ll have our hands full. We’re looking forward to it.”

Cook’s men are fifth in League Two, having lost 1-0 to promotion rivals Oxford United last weekend.

Thu 28 January, 2016
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Colchester United v Tottenham: Lloris wants to push for trophies

Hugo Lloris believes Tottenham’s great team spirit could prove to be vital in their chase for silverware as they prepare to take on Colchester United in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men have been in sublime form this season and are still in the running to potentially win the Premier League, Europa League and FA Cup.

The League Cup in 2007-08 represents the last time Spurs lifted a trophy, but Lloris is hopeful of ending that wait in 2015-16.

“Team spirit is one of the key things for the next three or four months – we have to do it all together,” Lloris told the official Spurs website. 

“We have to push ourselves together. Spirit is so important in football because it’s a collective sport and of course we need more – we need fitness, tactics and technique – but it’s true that it’s much easier when the spirit is great.

“Being a footballer is fantastic but it’s even more fantastic when it’s like this because every day is a good day to share and you’re happy to go to work and put the effort in to win. 

“We always want to improve and to develop our mentality to become a winning team. The road is still long but we feel we are improving all together and we are starting to be very hungry for the next few months and next few years. 

“The team is young but we are nearly at the level to be ready to compete [for trophies]. It’s just a matter of time but, with this mentality and this atmosphere, things are improving quicker than normal.”

Tottenham have not progressed beyond this stage since reaching the semi-finals in 2012, with Leicester City, Arsenal and Leeds United ending their cup dreams over the past three seasons.

Spurs’ form this term gives them reason for optimism, however, having lost just three times in their past 20 games in all competitions. Additionally, Pochettino’s men have scored in 14 successive competitive games away from home.

Hosts Colchester, meanwhile, will be fully aware of their underdog status heading into the game.

Kevin Keen’s side dropped to the foot of the League One table following their 3-0 defeat at the hands of Scunthorpe United on Saturday. The Essex club saw off Wealdstone, Altrincham and Charlton Athletic on their way to the fourth round of the FA Cup, but have been struggling in the league and are without a win since October. 

Thu 28 January, 2016
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Crystal Palace v Stoke City: Pardew buoyed by Adebayor arrival

Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew is unsure whether new striker Emmanuel Adebayor will start against Stoke City on Saturday, but says his new signing has already lifted the mood at Selhurst Park.

The former Arsenal, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Tottenham striker agreed a deal with Palace for the remainder of the season this week, having left Spurs by mutual consent in September.

The 31-year-old has not played a competitive match since scoring for Togo against Liberia in June, having fallen out favour at White Hart Lane, and questions over his attitude have partly contributed to Adebayor’s highly incentivised, short-term deal.

Pardew has fitness concerns over Yannick Bolasie (knock), Dwight Gayle and Bakary Sako (both hamstring), while a decision on Adebayor’s role will be made in the coming days.

“Our initial look at him has been good, so we’re buoyed by that,” Pardew told reporters on Thursday.

“He looks good in training, fit and well, he’s focused on doing a good job for Crystal Palace and we’ve incentivised his contract to do that in terms of him being a success here.

“I see in him a desire to get his career back on track and I think I can help him. I hope it’s a win-win situation. You can’t underestimate the quality he has.

“I’ve tried to sign him twice before, once at West Ham and once at Newcastle, so he’s a player that’s been on our radar for a while.

“He’s a character that needs to be loved and I think with the group, the staff and the fans we have, he’s going to get that.”

Stoke go into Saturday’s fourth-round clash following League Cup semi-final heartbreak against Liverpool on Tuesday, when they were beaten on penalties at Anfield.

Mark Hughes’ men edged past League One Doncaster Rovers in their FA Cup opener at the start of the month, but will be without Charlie Adam (calf) and Geoff Cameron (ankle) this weekend.

Ryan Shawcross could play a part after a back problem, while Stephen Ireland is set to feature as Hughes seeks to end a four-match winless run against Palace.

“I think that recent experience of going up against Crystal Palace will come into our thinking,” he said.

“It’ll be a good test and a good challenge for us. They’re a team that are looking to achieve things in a similar way that we are and it’ll be a good match-up.

“Adebayor has been a great player. I enjoyed working with him when I had him at Manchester City and it’s a good acquisition for them. When he came into [City] he was like a house on fire and did well.

“He later had a few problems with the FA but I was sacked by then so it didn’t really affect me!”

Thu 28 January, 2016
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Nottingham Forest v Watford: Flores respects FA Cup

Watford head coach Quique Sanchez Flores insists he is taking the FA Cup seriously as his team prepare for a fourth-round tie at Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

The away side have only won one of their last six Premier League matches, but they still sit 10th in the table and were able to beat Newcastle United this month to reach this stage of the competition.

Forest, meanwhile, defeated QPR to get through and come into the tie on a solid run of form having not lost in their last 13 matches, conceding only seven goals during that span.

The two teams met at the City Ground last April, with Watford winning that Championship fixture 3-1 on their way to promotion and Flores is looking forward to a traditional cup occasion.

“I admired the FA Cup a lot from a distance when I was in other leagues,” Flores told the club’s official website.

“It is a very historic competition and I remember a lot of finals when I was younger. We respect a lot this competition, we try to pick the best team that is possible in this moment and hopefully we have the possibility to go for the win as well.

“We have to think about everything, so now is the perfect time to take other players who are training well and who deserve to play. It is necessary for everybody to do their best and to have a very good performance.

“We have to play with very good players so we will try to choose the line-up well, but all the players who go to the pitch will have my confidence.

“It is amazing to think that maybe 4,000 Watford fans will follow our team again. I love them because they follow us during the season every time.

“I say it always, we are making a big effort every single week with an idea to show them that we have a big spirit, soul and ambition to transmit the dreams of the Watford fans.”

Forest defender Eric Lichaj is aware his team will have to produce a performance with few mistakes if they are to challenge a side of Watford’s quality.

He said: “It is a Premier League team so they will have some quality players. We will have to be on top form to do something special.

“Hopefully the fans will be roaring for us, we can get a few goals and we will see what happens. Everyone is working together and you can tell defensively we are on point.”

Thu 28 January, 2016
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Nottingham Forest v Watford: Flores respects FA Cup

Watford head coach Quique Sanchez Flores insists he is taking the FA Cup seriously as his team prepare for a fourth-round tie at Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

The away side have only won one of their last six Premier League matches, but they still sit 10th in the table and were able to beat Newcastle United this month to reach this stage of the competition.

Forest, meanwhile, defeated QPR to get through and come into the tie on a solid run of form having not lost in their last 13 matches, conceding only seven goals during that span.

The two teams met at the City Ground last April, with Watford winning that Championship fixture 3-1 on their way to promotion and Flores is looking forward to a traditional cup occasion.

“I admired the FA Cup a lot from a distance when I was in other leagues,” Flores told the club’s official website.

“It is a very historic competition and I remember a lot of finals when I was younger. We respect a lot this competition, we try to pick the best team that is possible in this moment and hopefully we have the possibility to go for the win as well.

“We have to think about everything, so now is the perfect time to take other players who are training well and who deserve to play. It is necessary for everybody to do their best and to have a very good performance.

“We have to play with very good players so we will try to choose the line-up well, but all the players who go to the pitch will have my confidence.

“It is amazing to think that maybe 4,000 Watford fans will follow our team again. I love them because they follow us during the season every time.

“I say it always, we are making a big effort every single week with an idea to show them that we have a big spirit, soul and ambition to transmit the dreams of the Watford fans.”

Forest defender Eric Lichaj is aware his team will have to produce a performance with few mistakes if they are to challenge a side of Watford’s quality.

He said:
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“It is a Premier League team so they will have some quality players. We will have to be on top form to do something special.

“Hopefully the fans will be roaring for us, we can get a few goals and we will see what happens. Everyone is working together and you can tell defensively we are on point.”

Thu 28 January, 2016
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West Brom v Peterborough United: Olsson backs Rondon to start scoring

Jonas Olsson is confident Salomon Rondon is the man to help ease West Brom’s problems in front of goal, starting with the FA Cup fourth-round tie at home to Peterborough United on Saturday.

Tony Pulis’ team have only scored once in their last three matches in all competitions – a Rondon strike to see off Bristol City away in a third-round replay – with the likes of Saido Berahino, Rickie Lambert and Victor Anichebe struggling to find the back of the net.

Berahino’s record in the FA Cup of six goals and four assists in his last five matches suggests he should be the man to fire West Brom into the fifth round, however, he continues to be out of favour under Pulis.

The 22-year-old has been the subject of intense transfer speculation this month with Tottenham still reported to be interested in signing the striker after chasing him in the off-season.

Berahino’s form has dipped due to the uncertainty over his future, leading Pulis to drop him to the bench and prompting talk of a rift between the pair.

Pulis has rejected those suggestions but whether he will start the England Under-21 forward this weekend remains to be seen.

Rondon’s involvement has also been questioned after Pulis said he was struggling from fatigue following last weekend’s goalless draw with Aston Villa, but Olsson believes the Venezuela international – who has four goals in 22 appearances in all competitions – is more than ready to lead the line.

“We need to be a bigger threat up front, but we’re working on it,” Olsson is quoted as saying by the Birmingham Mail.

“He’s [Rondon] looked sharp. We did some crossing, some finishing, some small-sided games, and he looked very sharp.

“He is a very strong guy and I think he’s been doing really well since he came.”

West Brom – who look set to be without Chris Brunt (calf) and James Morrison (hamstring) – are looking to reach the fifth round for a second successive season, but are struggling for form, with only one win in the last five in all competitions.

Peterborough travel to The Hawthorns with similar problems after going three games without a win, the League One side bereft of success since beating Preston North End in the third round.

Graham Westley’s side will be without top scorer Conor Washington, who has been sold to QPR, while Adil Nabi is ineligible under the terms of his transfer to the club from West Brom.

Victory for Peterborough would see them reach the fifth round for the first time since 1986, but they have never beaten West Brom in their three previous FA Cup meetings and the Baggies are unbeaten in their last 11 home matches against lower league opposition in the competition.

Thu 28 January, 2016
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Van Gaal hits out at ´awful and horrible´ media stories

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has hit out at “awful and horrible” media stories that he offered to resign in the wake of last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at home to Southampton.

The Dutchman has faced severe criticism this season and the pressure was cranked up when United slipped to their sixth Premier League defeat of the campaign last Saturday – Charlie Austin’s debut goal adding to Van Gaal’s woes.

In the aftermath of the loss it was reported that Van Gaal offered to resign, but was persuaded to stay on by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.

However, former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Van Gaal denied the speculation before launching into a tirade against the media.

“I think I have mentioned that [resigning] ever,” Van Gaal said ahead of Friday’s FA Cup fourth-round tie at Derby County. 

“You make your own stories. Then I have to answer. I am not doing that. It is awful and horrible but you can write [what you want].

“It is the third time I am sacked and I am still sitting here. I am obliged to do that [attend news conferences]. A lot of people ask in a disrespectful way. I have always faith.

“When you lose it is worse. I predicted before Southampton. 

“Now I cannot lose any more because then for the fourth time I have been sacked. Then it might be the truth.”

Van Gaal also vowed to carry on fighting to improve United’s position of fifth in the Premier League.

He added: “When you lose a game, especially in the last minute, you are fed up. 

“But it is your duty as a manager and a player to stand up again and to do what you have to do, because that is a professional attitude.”

Thu 28 January, 2016
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Carrick set to return for United, Darmian out

Manchester United could be boosted by the return of Michael Carrick for Friday’s FA Cup fourth-round tie against Derby County, but full-back Matteo Darmian misses out. 

England midfielder Carrick has not played since coming on as a late substitute in the 2-1 win against Swansea City at the start of January, a match which marked his 400th United appearance, due to an unspecified injury.

However, the former Tottenham star may feature at the iPro Stadium on Friday, although he is not expected to play a full 90 minutes.

“It is very good that he is coming back,” manager Louis van Gaal said.

Van Gaal also confirmed Darmian will not be available. The right-back suffered a head injury in last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at home to Southampton but his injury is not considered serious.

Defender Phil Jones (foot) and midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger (knee) remain absent and Van Gaal refused to put a timescale on their return.

“I cannot say [if they are close],” he added. “Every time I make a remark about injuries it is always difficult because injuries have developments and you have to wait and see.”

Thu 28 January, 2016
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Prediction: Derby vs Manchester United

With stuttering form seriously hurting their promotion bid, Derby County will be looking to their FA Cup campaign to provide the much needed spark ahead of the season finale. Following the home loss to Southampton, Man Utd are pretty much in the same position, meaning that we are likely to witness a nervy affair between two sides very low on confidence.

Derby

Derby County bosses made a bold decision to appoint former Carlo Ancelotti assistant coach Paul Clement as the new manager in the summer, but the highly rated tactician wasted no time in impressing the club management and fans alike after arriving at iPro Stadium. Under his command, the Rams climbed to promotion places in the Championship, but their excellent run of results finally came to an end at the turn of the year. Derby County have experienced all sorts of problems in recent weeks, failing to win any of their last five league fixtures and suffering heavy defeats to Birmingham City (0-3) and Burnley (4-1) in their last two games. The Rams did manage to defeat Hartlepool on the road to set up a clash with Manchester United in the FA Cup fourth round, and no doubts that Paul Clement and his charges will give their best to pile more misery on the Red Devils and at the same time kick-start their own season. The manager admits he will ask for advice from friend and colleague Carlo Ancelotti, which goes to show that he is ready to do whatever it takes to arrest the recent slump in form.

Team News

Craig Forsyth and Max Lowe are out for the remainder of the season through knee and hamstring injuries respectively, while new signing Marcus Olsson will have to wait for his chance on the bench.

Manchester United

If we look at Manchester United’s results this season, they are not that disappointing since nobody really expected the Red Devils to challenge for the Premier League title, but with the fans having become used to attractive attacking displays under Sir Alex Ferguson, nobody can blame them for calling for Louis van Gaal’s resignation. Not even the oldest of fans can probably remember the last time Man Utd looked so disappointing going forward and it is fair to say that their performances this season have not been easy on the eye. And with even the manager himself admitting that he was far from happy with how this campaign is panning out, it is probably just a matter of time before he gets the boot. Until that happens, he will have to try and ensure that the Red Devils show some improvement between now and the end of the season, which is not going to be an easy task. And even though Derby County have been struggling of late, Manchester United are not exactly in a good position to qualify for the next stage.

Team News

Ashley Young has been ruled out for a couple of months, while Matteo Darmian is rated doubtful after suffering a head injury in the Southampton clash.

Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia continue to miss out, but Bastian Schweinsteiger should be fit to play.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Man Utd won nine of last thirteen games vs Derby (D2 L2)
  • Under 1.5 goals were scored in two of their last three meetings in Derbyshire
  • Derby have seven wins in last ten home fixtures
  • Man Utd are unbeaten in last three away games in FA Cup (W2 D1)
  • Both teams scored in five of Man Utd’s last seven away fixtures

Conclusion

Both sides head into the game low on spirits after some disappointing performances in the league, so don’t expect either side to risk too much going forward. With a tight game on the cards at iPro Stadium, our advice is to bet on half-time draw.

Verdict: Draw at half-time

Best Odds: 11/10

Bookmaker: bet365

Thu 28 January, 2016
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Clement to call on Ancelotti advice to beat United

Derby County manager Paul Clement will be calling on the help of mentor Carlo Ancelotti as he plots Manchester United’s FA Cup downfall.

Clement and his Derby side will welcome Louis van Gaal’s struggling United to town on Friday.

The Derby manager has been at the helm of the Championship club since June after the club sacked current Newcastle United manager Steve McClaren and arrived with a high profile having spent several years working under Ancelotti – first at Chelsea, then at Paris-Saint Germain and most recently at Real Madrid.

He has managed 30 games at Derby, winning 14, drawing 10 and losing six games but knows a big upset against United would prove a massive managerial milestone and he said he would not be scared to call on Ancelotti for advice.

“I am in touch with Carlo a lot and if I really need him I know he will be there for me. I will speak to him before the game on Friday,” he said.

“You have to take the advice of those close to you and block out the noise. He said he was coming to our training ground a while ago, and he said he was coming to the United game, and now says he can’t. He has obviously got better offers at the moment.

“He’s super calm. He will tell me to work with the players, get close to the players and ignore everything else. He always used to say ‘control what you are in control of.'”

Derby are winless in their last five games but remain promotion candidates with 49 points from 28 games – just six points shy of automatic promotion to the Premier League.

Clement even went as far as to suggest that should his Derby side knock United out of the FA Cup at the fourth round it would not be a giant killing – given United’s poor form.

The 47-year-old manager watched first-hand as Southampton defeated United 1-0 at Old Trafford last weekend and Clement said his FA-Cup winning experience with Chelsea could be telling.

“I’m not sure it will quite be a giant-killing if we get a good result on Friday but it will be an upset, and we all know there has been lots of those over the years in the FA Cup,” he said.

“Assuming we perform well, it’s a fantastic opportunity – both clubs are in a difficult period. United have had an awful December and a mixed January and we’ve been going through a tricky period.

“But I’ve won the FA Cup twice before with Chelsea and we’ll be going strong. It’s a challenge we are really looking forward to up against a team that is not in great form but is a massive club with a great history, and you know on any day they can produce a great performance.”

Thu 28 January, 2016
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