FA Cup


Bruce to ring the changes

Steve Bruce has vowed to give his fringe players an opportunity to stake their claim when Hull City face Southend United in the FA Cup.

Bruce made nine changes to his side in the third-round victory at Middlesbrough earlier this month and the Hull boss will take the same approach against League Two outfit Southend in the fourth round on Saturday.

Defender James Chester will not feature after sustaining a hamstring injury, while midfielder Tom Huddlestone is suspended.

Recent signings Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long are cup-tied for the clash at Roots Hall after playing in the third round for Everton and West Brom respectively.

Defender Paul McShane is back in contention after recovering from an ankle problem and Bruce plans to reward the patience of players who have not had much action during the Premier League campaign so far.

“It’s an ideal time to give some members of the squad a game.” said the former Sunderland boss.

“There are some players that are desperate for a game and it’s only right that they should play.

“As we saw against Middlesbrough in the last round, the strength-in-depth of our squad is good.

“The players that have been on the fringes of the squad in the last couple of weeks will all get a game.

“Those players are all champing at the bit to play.”

Bruce also revealed that Sone Aluko and Robbie Brady are closing in on returning from Achilles and groin injuries respectively.

He added: “Aluko and Brady aren’t quite right yet, but both are making huge strides.

“I would have thought that, in the next week to 10 days, they will both be joining in with the team and that can only be good for everybody.”

Fri 24 January, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Stevenage v Everton

Stevenage will “sweat blood” to record the biggest win in their history against Everton in the FA Cup, according to manager Graham Westley.

The League One side, who are bottom, face Everton for the second time this season on Saturday in what is the first meeting between the two clubs at the Lamex Stadium.

When the teams clashed in the League Cup at the end of August, Everton ran out 2-1 winners after extra time at Goodison Park thanks to goals from Gerard Deulofeu and Marouane Fellaini.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez lifted the FA Cup in May with former club Wigan Athletic and will have designs on a prolonged run in the competition this season, providing the Premier League side can sidestep a fourth-round upset this weekend.

Stevenage have lost just three of their last 11 home games in all competitions to give Westley belief that his players can produce a shock.

“We don’t expect victory to come easily,” he said.

“But nobody in football or associated with the FA Cup would want us to go into the game with the mentality of doing anything but win the game.

“We’re under no illusions of the importance of the game and we will sweat blood to win it.

“Our very best chance of winning this tie is at the weekend, it’s a difficult surface out there, it’s not easy and there’s more bad weather forecast, but the pitch will be playable.

“The bonus for us is that we know the surface, we know the pitch and we’re geared for playing on it.”

Stevenage are 61 league places below Everton and Martinez’s side head into the game having only lost once in their last 16 games in all competitions.

That unbeaten run included a 4-0 victory over QPR in the third round and a 1-1 draw at West Brom on Monday.

However, Martinez is without a number of first-team regulars for the Stevenage clash.

“The only difference from the squad on Monday is Seamus Coleman,” Martinez said. “He picked up a minor soft tissue injury, so he’ll miss the weekend and we’ll assess him from there.

“He adds to Ross Barkley and Steven Pienaar who are still unavailable, on top of the long-term injuries to Arouna Kone, Darron Gibson and Gerard Deulofeu.

“Antolin Alcaraz is still recovering well but will be missing at the weekend. Apart from tha
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t, everyone else is available.”

Thu 23 January, 2014
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Lopes hoping to impress Pellegrini

Manchester City youngster Marcos Lopes hopes to use Saturday’s FA Cup tie with Watford as a chance to shine in front of Manuel Pellegrini.

The 18-year-old became City’s youngest ever goalscorer when he scored against Watford in the same competition last season and, after a handful of League Cup outings recently, he hopes to take advantage of a rare start.

Lopes has had to be patient at the Etihad Stadium with the likes of David Silva, Samir Nasri and Yaya Toure all playing in his preferred position, and he knows he must take the opportunity to impress Pellegrini this weekend.

“Cup games represent a big opportunity for younger the players at the club and I’m looking forward to being involved in more matches,” he told City’s official website.

“It’s a different level playing for the senior team – a high-intensity 90 minutes, but it’s good for me to learn with these players and play these games. I have to do my work and my job and hopefully I’ll get more chances.

“I’m ready and will give 100 per cent because these are the games when you can make an impression and for players like myself and Emyr Huws who have both been in and around the senior team for the past few weeks, it’s a great chance to improve as players and gain vital experience.”

Lopes joined City from Benfica in 2011, and represented Portugal during the UEFA European Under-19 Championships in 2013.

Thu 23 January, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Wigan Athletic v Crystal Palace

Wigan Athletic needed a replay to beat MK Dons in the FA Cup third round, so will need to up their game against top-flight Crystal Palace.

The holders were held to a 3-3 home draw against their League One opponents, before scoring two extra-time goals in Milton Keynes to keep the defence of their title alive.

On paper, Saturday’s visit of Palace, who won 2-0 at West Brom in the last round, should provide an even sterner test.

However, with Tony Pulis’ men struggling against relegation in the Premier League, the Welshman may be tempted to make wholesale changes with Hull City set to visit Selhurst Park on Tuesday.

Despite both having played in the top two tiers of English football for the last decade, Wigan and Palace have only met on three previous occasions, garnering one win apiece and a draw.

The only meeting to take place in Wigan ended in a 5-0 victory for the hosts in Nove
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mber 2003, with Andy Liddell, Geoff Hosfield and Nathan Ellington finding the net, while a young Leighton Baines came off the bench.

This will be the first clash between these teams in the FA Cup – a competition Palace have never won and which Wigan triumphed in for the first time last season.

Palace have not featured at this stage of the tournament since the 2009-10 season, when a 2-1 victory at Wolves booked a fifth-round tie with Aston Villa, which they subsequently lost.

The men from South London lifted themselves out of the relegation zone with victory over Stoke City last time out in the Premier League, while Wigan have failed to live up to expectations in the Championship.

However, the Lancashire side’s 3-0 defeat to Doncaster Rovers on Saturday was their first loss in seven league matches.

Manager Uwe Rosler will have to make do without Shaun Maloney (hip) and Gary Caldwell (Achilles) for the tie, while Ivan Ramis (groin) is also set to miss out.

However, the German could include new loan signings Nicky Maynard and Tyias Browning, who made their debuts for the club last weekend.

Wigan confirmed the acquisition of Chelsea’s Josh McEachran on loan on Thursday, and the midfielder could go straight into the squad for the clash as he did not feature in the competition during a spell at Watford earlier in the season.

Jack Hunt and Jerome Thomas are nearing a return for Palace, but this weekend’s clash is likely to come too soon for the duo.

Thu 23 January, 2014
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Oyston confirms Ince sacked by text

Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston has confirmed Paul Ince learned of his sacking as manager via text message.

The former England international was relieved of his duties, together with assistants Alex Rae and Steve Thompson, on Tuesday after a dismal run that saw Blackpool pick up one point from nine Championship games.

It had been reported that Ince was informed of the club’s decision through a text message and this has now been corroborated by Oyston.

However, Oyston feels he was left with little choice due to Ince being away on a coaching course, which he had not informed the chairman he would be attending.

Oyston told Sky Sports : “Following a meeting on Sunday, I told them (Blackpool’s management team) in no uncertain terms that things had to change. Paul promptly went off on a coaching course and I heard nothing from Alex (Rae) or Steve Thompson.

“We couldn’t get hold of Paul so we relayed the message that we had decided to make a change and obviously informed him in writing.

“It was done by letter but obviously I informed them that we were making changes via text because I couldn’t get hold of them.

“I don’t want to get into mud-slinging. It’s a case of priorities and I’d have liked our management team to have placed player recruitment as their priority. We all agreed that was the only way of arresting our slide.

“I wasn’t made aware by Paul that he was going on a coaching course and would be disappearing off the face of the earth for two days. I was disappointed about that.”

Oyston claims the decision to dismiss Ince was taken with a heavy heart.

“It’s very unpleasant and only the second time I’ve had to make managerial changes in my 15 years at Blackpool. We’ve always majored on stability and trying to keep managers.

“It’s never pleasant to put people out of work. You don’t get into football to do that. On a personal level, I get along with all three of them and I think they’re all good people, but you’ve got to do what’s best for the football club.”

Wed 22 January, 2014
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Quagliarella and Vucinic free to leave Juventus; Rakitic rules out January move

Juventus director general Beppe Marotta has revealed he would allow Fabio Quagliarella and Mirko Vucinic to leave Turin in the January transfer window.

Juventus director general Beppe Marotta has revealed strike duo Fabio Quagliarella and Mirko Vucinic would be allowed to leave Turin if they submitted formal transfer requests this month.

Quagliarella and Vucinic have been hovering around the fringes of the first team this season, with Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente getting the majority of the playing time up front.

Tottenham have been linked with a move for both strikers in recent times, while Spurs’ bitter North London rivals Arsenal are reportedly considering a move for Vucinic.

“We have always said that the players decide their own fate,” Marotta told Sky Sport Italia. “If one of them were to come to us and say: ‘I want to leave because I’m not getting enough chances,’ we would try to grant their request.

“Obviously that would depend on there being offers for them because, if the offers aren’t there, you can’t grant their wish.”

Despite the aforementioned speculation, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger played down the club’s interest in signing Vucinic after the Gunners’ 2-0 win over Fulham at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

“We are looking at potential possibilities for us to get someone in, but we are not especially in for Vucinic,” said Wenger. “Some people have visual capacities that I don’t have.

“We are not on any special case. I would love to announce something that would excite you and me, but I don’t have the possibility to do it.”

Arsenal (16-3-3), currently sitting atop the English Premier League with 51 points, will play host to League One side Coventry City F.C. in the FA Cup fourth round on Friday, 24 January 2014.

The Gunners are priced at 1/10 to defeat the Sky Blues on Friday evening.

Rakitic rules out January move

Sevilla FC ace Ivan Rakitic has insisted he will not leave the Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán in January amid reports linking him with a sensational move to Atletico Madrid.

The Croatia international, 25, prevented Atleti from going top of La Liga with a second-half penalty on Sunday and has since ruled out a move away from Nervión.

“I like playing for Sevilla FC, in the present, future and always,” said Rakitic.

“I’m very happy here at this club, and my family are also happy here. I am not available right now.”

Rakitic, whose current contract is set to expire in the summer of 2015, has bagged 11 goals and six assists in 27 appearances (25 starts) in all competitions for Sevilla this season.

Mon 20 January, 2014
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Aguero return to boost City

Manchester City have been boosted ahead of their FA Cup third-round replay against Blackburn Rovers with the news Sergio Aguero is available.

The Argentine striker has been sidelined since mid-December, having limped out of City’s 6-3 win over Arsenal with a calf problem.

However, after missing eight matches in all competitions, the Argentine has resumed full training and could feature on Wednesday.

City boss Manuel Pellegrini said: “Sergio is working normally with the whole squad and he is in the squad list.

“He is a very important player for us. It doesn’t matter that we are scoring a lot of goals. Sergio will always will be an important player. We are very happy he is coming back.”

Pellegrini will be forced to cope without David Silva and Yaya Toure against Blackburn, although the duo could return for the visit of Cardiff City at the weekend.

“David Silva and Yaya Toure are (out) with small problems,” the Chilean added. “I hope they will be fit for Saturday.

“Yaya has the last two weeks played with a problem with his back, so it is a risk to continue doing that way. It is better for him to rest for two or three days.”

Tue 14 January, 2014
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Alcaraz hails Stones impact

Everton defender Antolin Alcaraz has tipped teenager John Stones for a big future after he impressed again on Saturday.

With Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin sidelined due to hamstring injuries, Alcaraz and Stones have stepped in at the heart of Everton’s defence in the last two matches.

The 19-year-old Stones – who joined from Barnsley in January last year – was the man-of-the-match in the Merseyside club’s 4-0 FA Cup win over QPR on Saturday after impressing in the Premier League draw at Stoke City.

“He (Stones) is a young lad and he has a big future,” Alcaraz told evertontv.

“He is a great player and I think he is going to improve a lot. He had a great game against Stoke and also now (against QPR).

“He has a lot of quality but he is a young guy and he needs more games to improve and learn.

“But if he continues in this way then he has a big future and he will make a big impact in the Premier League.”

Everton travel to Stevenage in the fourth round of the FA Cup later this month and Alcaraz – who won the FA Cup with Everton manager Roberto Martinez at Wigan Athletic last season – is hopeful of another lengthy cup run.

“We knew how important it was to win and we are through to the next round,” he added.

“We will do everything we can to get to the final at Wembley. It was a good memory last year and I want to repeat that again.”

Tue 7 January, 2014
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Football fan stabbed after Liverpool cup tie

Merseyside Police are investigating after a football fan was stabbed outside Anfield following Liverpool’s clash with Oldham Athletic.

A 35-year-old man, believed by police to be an Oldham supporter, was assaulted just outside Anfield after Liverpool’s 2-0 FA Cup third-round win over the League One side on Sunday.

The victim was transported to the Royal Liverpool Hospital after flagging down an ambulance on Lower Breck Road, but his injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.

A Merseyside Police statement read: “Merseyside Police is appealing for information after a man was assaulted in the Anfield area of Liverpool on Sunday 5th January, following the FA Cup third-round tie between Liverpool and Oldham Athletic.

“Officers were on routine patrol on Lower Breck Road, at around 5.15pm, when a 35-year old man, who is believed to be an Oldham supporter, flagged down a passing ambulance following a disturbance.

“He was taken to the Royal Liverpool University Hospital where he is receiving treatment for a stab wound. His injuries are not thought to be life threatening.

“The area is being forensically examined and inquiries into the incident are being carried out.

“Detective Chief Inspector Andy O’Connor said: “I want to reassure people that we are conducting a thorough investigation to establish the full circumstances surrounding the incident.

“This was a nasty assault which has left a man in hospital.

“The area was very busy with both football fans and passing motorists when the incident took place and I’m confident some people will have seen what happened.”

Mon 6 January, 2014
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Bournemouth fans cover coach cost for Burton

Fans of Championship club Bournemouth have raised more than £2,000 to aid supporters of FA Cup third-round opponents Burton Albion.

Bournemouth’s home tie against Burton was postponed on Saturday due to a waterlogged pitch at the Goldsands Stadium, with a decision reached just over an hour before the scheduled kick-off time of 3pm.

By that time, many Burton followers had already made the 185-mile journey to Bournemouth.

However, the same fans now look set to benefit from free coach travel should they wish to attend the rearranged fixture on January 14, after a group of Bournemouth supporters set up an online fundraising page.

The south-coast outfit gained promotion to League One at Burton in April 2010, and have fond memories of the treatment they received.

A message on the fundraising page read: “On 24th April 2010 AFC Bournemouth secured promotion to League 1 with a 2-0 victory over Burton Albion.

“The way our fans were treated that day from the pubs, to the stewards to their fans was just brilliant and has left great memories in many of our fans’ minds.

“We were due to meet them for the first time since that joyous day in the FA Cup but the game was postponed just over an hour before kick-off, with most away fans in the Bournemouth area having to face a frustrating day of travelling.

“As a sign of good will, David Whitehead came up with the idea of Cherries fans chipping in to help fund a coach for our friends at Burton Albion so they can experience free travel and enjoy the re-arranged fixture.”

By Sunday, £2,296 had been raised by Bournemouth fans – almost treble the stated target of £800.

Sun 5 January, 2014
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FA Cup: Manchester United 1 Swansea City 2

Swansea City celebrated their first win at Old Trafford after dumping Manchester United out of the FA Cup courtesy of a 2-1 success.

Ten-man United, who lost their opening game of 2014 to Tottenham on Wednesday, recovered from going a goal down early on as Javier Hernandez cancelled out Wayne Routledge’s opener, but failed to break down a stern Swansea back line in the third-round clash on Sunday.

And the 11-time FA Cup winners were punished for their lack of cutting edge when Wilfried Bony headed home in the 90th minute to pile the pressure on United manager David Moyes and inflict a fifth home defeat of the season and fourth in the side’s last six Old Trafford outings.

Things began badly for Moyes in his first FA Cup clash as United manager, when Routledge scooped an effort over a helpless Anders Lindegaard 12 minutes in.

However, the visitors’ joy was short-lived as Hernandez restored parity from close range four minutes later.

United had Fabio sent off 10 minutes from time for a rash tackle on Jose Canas and Bony then struck a dramatic winner when he buried Routledge’s cross in the dying stages.

Rio Ferdinand also hobbled off injured during another disappointing afternoon for the Premier League champions, while Swansea can now look forward to a fourth-round tie against either Birmingham City, Crawley Town or Bristol Rovers.

Moyes handed starting spots to goalkeeper Lindegaard and defenders Ferdinand and Alexander Buttner, while Danny Welbeck and Hernandez led the line in the absence of injured pair Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.

There were five changes from the Swansea side that lost to Manchester City in the Premier League on Wednesday. Captain Ashley Williams was on the bench with manager Michael Laudrup forced to contend with an injury list featuring the likes of Michu and Michel Vorm.

The hosts began the brighter and should have gone ahead after 11 minutes, but Hernandez failed to connect with an effort from inside the area after good link-up play between Welbeck and Chris Smalling.

United were made to pay soon after, when Alejandro Pozuelo played in Routledge, who produced a delightful lob over Lindegaard to put Swansea ahead.

Four minutes later, United were level, Hernandez making amends for his earlier miss to prod home Buttner’s cross inside the six-yard box.

After the early goals, chances dried up for both sides before Jonathan de Guzman and Buttner threatened from set-pieces for either side.

Hernandez wasted another opportunity a minute before the break, volleying Jonny Evans’ lofted ball wide of Gerhard Tremmel’s right-hand post.

The sides cancelled one another out in the early stages of the second half, with Swansea perhaps enjoying greater possession, without causing any problems.

Bony’s swerving effort had Lindegaard worried on the hour before it whistled wide, while Swansea’s resolute defending at the other end stifled United’s forward line.

United’s cause was not helped by the loss of Ferdinand to a suspected knee injury and the dismissal of his replacement Fabio, who was shown a red card for a late challenge on Canas 10 minutes from time.

And Bony compounded Moyes’ misery to secure Laudrup a first win in eight.

Sun 5 January, 2014
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Mourinho praises Chelsea reaction

Jose Mourinho praised the second-half reaction from his Chelsea players after they secured a 2-0 FA Cup victory over Derby County.

The Premier League outfit were frustrated in the first half as Derby defended resolutely at Pride Park, but the Portuguese’s words at the break brought added vigour and urgency to his side.

Goals from John Obi Mikel and Oscar duly secured Chelsea’s progress to round four, and Mourinho was pleased with the way his side raised their performance after the interval.

“The game was difficult,” he said. “In the first half we didn’t play bad, we played quite well but it was still 0-0 and 0-0 at half-time is a big risk because in the second half the opponent score and you are in trouble.

“I think the players got the message we needed extra intensity, we needed to put them in more difficult situations.

“I decided to change (Michael) Essien for Eden (Hazard) and bring an extra attacking player, fresh with speed one against one.

“I knew that could make it more difficult for them. The team played seriously, we won, job done against a good Championship team.”

Chelsea’s reward for victory over Steve McClaren’s side is a fourth-round tie against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.

Sun 5 January, 2014
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FA Cup: Liverpool 2 Oldham Athletic 0

Liverpool avenged last year’s shock FA Cup exit at Oldham Athletic with an unconvincing 2-0 win against the same opponents at Anfield.

Brendan Rodgers’ side sealed their place in the fourth round of the famous competition on Sunday thanks to Iago Aspas’ first goal for the club and a late James Tarkowski own goal.

Spanish forward Aspas volleyed home in the 54th minute as Liverpool turned the screw after the break, and the same player headed against the post just after.

Oldham – who beat Liverpool 3-2 in the fourth round last year, but lost 5-1 at Anfield in round three in 2012 – weathered the storm though, and almost snatched an equaliser when Michael Petrasso forced an excellent save from Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones with 16 minutes left.

But Liverpool, who will travel to Burton Albion or AFC Bournemouth in the fourth round, sealed their win when Raheem Sterling’s strike deflected in off Tarkowski in the 82nd minute.

Rodgers rested star striker Luis Suarez, midfielder Philippe Coutinho and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet but recalled captain Steven Gerrard for his first start in almost a month.

Jones deputised in goal for Liverpool, while just two members of the Oldham team that beat Liverpool last year – Jonathan Grounds and James Wesolowski – started for Lee Johnson’s side.

Gerrard, who returned from a hamstring injury against Hull City on Wednesday, was the victim of a crunching tackle from Oldham captain Korey Smith in the first minute and it set the tone in a frustrating first half for Liverpool.

They rarely threatened the Oldham goal, with Luis Alberto going closest in the 14th minute when he shot just wide after a smart lay-off from Victor Moses.

A poor first half saw Rodgers turn to the bench, as Coutinho and Lucas were introduced in place of Alberto and Moses.

Coutinho swung in two testing corners, the second of which was just headed over by Gerrard, before Aspas broke the deadlock nine minutes after the break.

Sterling was the provider, causing panic in the Oldham defence with a jinking run, and his ball across the penalty box was allowed to bounce before Aspas volleyed in.

Aspas almost doubled his account two minutes later, but his glancing header from another Sterling cross hit the post, and Coutinho’s follow-up was denied by the legs of Oldham goalkeeper Mark Oxley.

Sterling then declined to shoot after charging forward, instead opting to cut back, but Coutinho could only blaze over the bar.

After weathering the storm, Oldham fought back, with Philliskirk again going close from distance before Petrasso span away from Agger and forced a great save from an outstretched Jones.

Rodgers was forced to play his trump card, bringing on Suarez, but it was Sterling who helped wrap up the win, with his strike – that was going wide – going in after an unfortunate Tarkowski deflection.

Sun 5 January, 2014
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Brown delighted with Hull draw

Southend United manager Phil Brown is relishing the prospect of taking on former club Hull City in the FA Cup fourth round.

Brown led Hull to the Premier League in 2008 and kept the club in the top flight before being placed on gardening leave the following season, which ended in relegation.

An unsuccessful spell at Preston North End followed for Brown before he took charge of League Two Southend in March 2013.

The 54-year-old will now welcome Hull, who are back among England’s elite clubs under Steve Bruce, to Roots Hall on January 25 or 26.

“You couldn’t write the script; it really is what the FA Cup is all about,” Brown told Southend’s official website.

“It’s a great draw for me personally coming up against Hull, but also for the players to test themselves against a Premier League side.

“We’ve beaten two teams from our division (Morecambe and Chesterfield), two good teams, and then convincingly beaten a Championship side (recording a 4-1 triumph over Millwall), so we deserve a crack at Hull.

“One of my ambitions when I arrived at Southend United was to fill the stadium and I think we can do that against Hull.

“I know Steve Bruce very well – we get on – and he’s got a good team together, so it’ll be a cracking FA Cup tie.

“It’s also nice to have the draw at home. If we’re going to try and go further in this competition, I felt it was important we were at home.

“There’s two big games before then (in League Two) which the players need to focus on, but it’s a game we can all look forward to in the near future.”

Sun 5 January, 2014
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FA Cup: Derby County 0 Chelsea 2

Chelsea booked their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup with a hard-fought 2-0 victory at in-form Championship side Derby County.

John Obi Mikel marked his 300th appearance for Chelsea with his fourth goal for the club to break the deadlock, rising to meet a Willian free-kick in the 66th minute at Pride Park.

Oscar then doubled Chelsea’s lead four minutes later with a powerful strike from the edge of the penalty area that Derby goalkeeper Lee Grant was unable to keep out.

Ramires, who was booked for diving in the second half, also clipped the top of the crossbar late on as the seven-time FA Cup winners finished the third-round encounter strongly.

Chances were at a premium throughout with Oscar and Ramires coming closest for the visitors in the first half, while Derby, who contained their top-flight opponents well for the opening hour, rarely threatened Mark Schwarzer.

Victory for Jose Mourinho’s side means Chelsea will face Stoke City at Stamford Bridge in the next round in the only all-Premier League tie.

The hosts were forced into two changes as injuries ruled out Craig Bryson (groin) and Johnny Russell (fractured cheekbone), so Jeff Hendrick and Simon Dawkins came in.

Mourinho made six changes from the Chelsea side that beat Southampton on Wednesday as Schwarzer took over in goal from Petr Cech and Samuel Eto’o replaced Fernando Torres in attack.

Derby created the best chance of the opening exchanges with 13 minutes gone as they attacked down the left, but Jamie Ward was unable to meet Craig Forsyth’s cross and Ashley Cole cleared the danger.

A mistake by Michael Keane in the 22nd minute saw the unmarked Eto’o released into the Derby half. Andre Wisdom and Jake Buxton muscled the Cameroon international off the ball, however, before he could get his shot away.

Chelsea finished the half the stronger, but wasted chances to break the deadlock through Ramires and Oscar.

Clear-cut opportunities after the restart were few and far between before Chelsea took the lead just after the hour.

Mikel rose unmarked at the front post to meet a Willian free-kick from the left and his flicked header beat Grant from five yards.

Oscar finally got his goal in the 70th minute with a well-struck effort from inside the penalty area. The Brazilian created room on the edge of the box and lashed a shot at goal that found a way past Grant.

Substitute Torres, who had replaced Eto’o, had two chances in the closing minutes of the match, but was denied by Grant on both occasions and the woodwork frustrated Ramires as Chelsea went in search of a third.

Sun 5 January, 2014
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FA Cup: Sunderland 3 Carlisle United 1

Sunderland saw off a spirited Carlisle United side 3-1 at the Stadium of Light on Sunday to secure an FA Cup fourth-round spot.

Gus Poyet’s side, who sit bottom in England’s top flight, made the most of a break from their league woes to book a home clash with Kidderminster Harriers or Peterborough United, but were made to work hard against the League One outfit.

After dominating the early stages of the first half, the hosts took the lead 34 minutes in through a stunning free-kick from Adam Johnson.

David Amoo fouled Craig Gardner on the edge of the area and Johnson curled the ball home left-footed, but Sunderland’s lead was shortlived.

Matty Robson was the man on the scoresheet for the visitors two minutes before half-time, pouncing on a loose ball to score after the home defence failed to clear Amoo’s cross.

Sunderland restored their lead soon after the restart thanks to a large slice of luck, with the unfortunate Sean O’Hanlon turning Johnson’s effort over goalkeeper Greg Fleming, before a debut goal from substitute El-Hadji Ba finished off Carlisle a minute from time.

Poyet brought Gardner and Wes Brown back into his starting XI, although captain John O’Shea remained absent due to a persistent shoulder problem.

Former Sunderland midfielder Graham Kavanagh made three changes to Carlisle’s team, handing starting berths to Bradley Potts, Lewis Guy and O’Hanlon.

Jozy Altidore found himself one-on-one with Fleming after 16 minutes courtesy of a throughball from Johnson, but Carlisle’s keeper came out on top.

Sunderland maintained the pressure and Gardner was next to threaten from long range following a dangerous corner from the home side.

Vito Mannone was called into action for the first time on 21 minutes when he tipped Prince Buaben’s driven strike round the post after it evaded a clutch of Sunderland defenders.

Altidore then failed to get sufficient contact on a teasing Ondrej Celustka cross before Johnson’s free-kick eventually handed Sunderland the lead their early dominance warranted.

The winger’s third goal of the season, all of which have come at the Stadium of Light, looked set to put Sunderland in front at the interval only for Robson to draw Carlisle level.

Sunderland retook the lead four minutes into the second half when Johnson’s volley was diverted into the Carlisle goal courtesy of a deflection off the covering O’Hanlon.

Having already conceded one lead, Poyet’s men appeared determined to gain a two-goal cushion but struggled to convert their superior possession into clear-cut chances.

Debutant Duncan Watmore showcased his eagerness to impress after being introduced a minute after the hour, the 19-year-old forcing a smart save from Fleming after neat interplay with Altidore.

Carlisle continued to pose a threat on the counter, but Ba completed the scoring following Altidore’s lay-off as Sunderland progressed to the next round of a competition they last won in 1973.

Sun 5 January, 2014
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Pulis disappointed by Cup turnout

Tony Pulis feels more could be done to attract crowds to FA Cup matches after just 12,700 people watched Crystal Palace knock out West Brom.

Dwight Gayle and Marouane Chamakh both found the net at The Hawthorns on Saturday to send Palace into the fourth round for the first time in four seasons.

However, with so few people in the stands, Pulis believes the competition may be in danger of losing some of its magic.

“There’s got to be some way of filling stadiums up, especially for third round and fourth round ties at Premier League grounds,” he said. “That has to be looked at because it is a wonderful competition.

“For all of what is going on, we’ve go to try as a nation to make sure we keep it a great competition by filling stadiums for games – that’s certainly a help.

“It’s difficult because it’s just after new year, people have spent a lot of money, so you understand that.

“But, as I said, there’s got to be a way at this time of year that clubs can attract full houses, how they do it you’d have to ask chief executives.”

With attendances poor at grounds across the country, including a showing of just 6,960 as Wigan Athletic took on MK Dons, West Brom boss Keith Downing insisted the club had made an effort to tempt fans to the stadium.

“The club cut the prices so they tried to get people in,” he said.

“But this area is still a difficult area, it’s still trying to survive economically, and it’s tough for people to keep on producing money to watch football.”

Sun 5 January, 2014
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Prediction: Manchester United vs Swansea

4th January 2014

Manchester United will attempt to banish their Premier League blues with FA Cup triumph over Swansea, although the Red Devils will have to make do without two key forwards. Meanwhile, their opponents are hoping to end a seven-match winless run, and having seen quite a few sides win at Old Trafford this term, the Swans have reason for optimism.

This season is clearly not going according to plan for Manchester United, and it is clear David Moyes will have to invest heavily in the January transfer window in order to save the current campaign. We can safely say the Red Devils are out of the title race in the Premiership following the home defeat to Tottenham, so domestic cups are clearly their best chance of lifting some silverware. And while David Moyes’ side have already reached Capital One Cup semi-finals where they will face struggling Sunderland, their FA Cup campaign is likely to prove much more difficult. The time has come for Manchester United to fear home games against mid table sides and it is hardly surprising they won’t be too many punters backing the Red Devils to win at 9/20. Injury problems continue to mount for David Moyes, with Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young joining Robin van Persie, Phil Jones and Marouane Fellaini in the infirmary. And even if Danny Welbeck appears to be in pretty good form at the moment, the absence of Wayne Rooney is going to seriously affect the creative department, meaning we could see another difficult home game for United.

Swansea City were always going to find it hard to repeat the season like last when they enjoyed plenty of success on all fronts and won the Capital One Cup title, with their European campaign adding an extra strain on the somewhat thin squad. The Swans did well to make it to Europa League knockout stages, but they were then pitted against star-studded Napoli side, and they don’t look capable of upsetting the odds in that encounter. Meanwhile, their league performances have left a lot to be desired, although injuries to key players Michu, Vorm and Dyer certainly played a part. Swansea have slipped in the danger zone following a six-match winless run, and no wonder Michael Laudrup is looking to ring changes for the FA Cup tie against Manchester United, with their Premier League campaign clearly a priority. That, however, does not mean that the Swans will roll over for their more illustrious opponents, but they will rather try and frustrate the hosts with a defence-minded approach. Michu, Nathan Dyer, Michel Vorm and Pablo Hernandez are out injured, whereas Leon Britton is doubtful through illness.

Conclusion

Manchester United will be struggling up front without Rooney and Van Persie and they could need quite a while to penetrate Swansea’s defence. The Red Devils remain the favourites to go through and will probably secure their place in the next round, but I believe we can pretty much rule out a big win.

Verdict: Under 2.5 goals

Best Odds: 23/20

Bookmaker: William Hill

Sat 4 January, 2014
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McDermott calls for Leeds investment after career low

Leeds United manager Brian McDermott described his side’s FA Cup exit to Rochdale on Saturday as his “worst moment in football”.

Scott Hogan and Ian Henderson scored the goals that saw the League Two club spring an upset at Spotland as Rochdale reached the fourth round for the first time in 11 years.

The 2-0 defeat extended Leeds’ winless run to five matches in all competitions and McDermott called for investment in the Championship team after what he stated was a low point in his career.

“I would probably say that is my worst moment in football,” he told BBC Radio Leeds.

“This will be a driver for me in the coming weeks. We need to invest in this team, it needs help. We seem to have run out of steam.

“We have to do it for those who travelled today and (we are) desperately, desperately sorry we put on a performance like today. Rochdale played well and it is their day.”

While McDermott had no complaints about the result, Rochdale counterpart Keith Hill also felt his players deserved their moment in the spotlight.

“It’s a tremendous win. We had a gameplan and the players executed it superbly,” he said.

“The players trusted me and each other. No-one can argue we didn’t deserve that win.”

Sat 4 January, 2014
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Downing downhearted after West Brom exit

Keith Downing bemoaned an opportunity missed as an under-strength West Brom side lost 2-0 to Crystal Palace in the FA Cup third round.

Caretaker manager Downing made eight changes from his side’s 1-0 victory over Newcastle United on New Year’s Day, and West Brom struggled to break Palace down, despite having the better chances in the second half.

Dwight Gayle put the visitors ahead midway through the first half at the Hawthorns, before substitute Marouane Chamakh sealed Palace’s progress in stoppage time.

“It’s a competition we wanted to progress in and today was disappointing,” said Downing. “We were a little short of how we have been in the last four games

“We conceded a poor goal. Tony Pulis’ sides are always difficult to break down and giving them a goal meant that our task was doubly tough.

“We kept going but without creating too much.

“Credit to Palace, they were resolute in their defending.”

Sat 4 January, 2014
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FA Cup: Blackburn Rovers 1 Manchester City 1

A below-par Manchester City were held 1-1 by Championship side Blackburn Rovers in their FA Cup third-round tie at Ewood Park on Saturday.

Last year’s beaten finalists will need to continue their impeccable home form when the two replay at the Etihad Stadium after Scott Dann cancelled out Alvaro Negredo’s first-half opener.

Towards the end of what was a mostly low-key 45 minutes, Negredo handed City a half-time advantage, with a simple finish from close range following a dangerous David Silva corner.

Any hopes of a simple progression were halted five minutes before the hour however, when captain Dann made the most of a Costel Pantilimon error to equalise, with Rovers able to frustrate and threaten 10-man City in equal measure during the remainder of the tie.

Manuel Pellegrini stated on Friday that he would look play a strong side in the competition and he kept to his word, with regulars such as Fernandinho, Silva and Negredo all handed starting spots, while the Chilean named Joleon Lescott captain after dismissing reports the defender could leave City in January.

For the hosts, Paul Robinson made his first start since December 2012 having suffered a blood clot on his lung while Rudy Gestede was preferred to leading scorer Jordan Rhodes up front.

City enjoyed much of the ball in the opening exchanges but were let down by their final ball while Rovers’ first effort on target came courtesy of Dann’s header, which was easily saved with by Pantilimon.

It sparked the hosts’ first spell of pressure as Tom Cairney’s free-kick delivery and another Dann header caused problems for City’s back line.

Negredo and Silva both came close midway through the half before City eventually went ahead through the former on the stroke of half time.

The former Sevilla man latched on to Dzeko’s header from Silva’s set-piece, calmly converting at the far post amid disagreements and shouts of offside from the Blackburn defence.

Dann had Blackburn level 10 minutes after the interval however, with Pantilimon largely culpable, as he flapped at a routine header from Gestede, allowing the home skipper in for a simple finish.

City had not lost or conceded a goal in their previous five FA Cup ties against lower division opposition and quickly set about scoring a second.

Negredo acrobatically headed wide with an open goal gaping, after Robinson saved from Dzeko, before the hosts’ goalkeeper was alert to deny substitute Jesus Navas’ long-range strike.

City piled on the pressure late in the game but to no avail, and Pellegrini’s men were not helped by the dismissal of Dedryck Boyata late on after receiving a second yellow card for a poorly-timed challenge on DJ Campbell.

Sat 4 January, 2014
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Gabbidon: Cup run can boost survival hopes

Crystal Palace centre-back Danny Gabbidon believes a run in the FA Cup can boost the side’s Premier League survival hopes.

Tony Pulis’ men have slipped back into the Premier League relegation zone after the side could only draw 1-1 at home to Norwich City on New Year’s Day.

Palace now face a trip to The Hawthorns to take on West Brom in the FA Cup third round, with Pulis expected to rotate his squad following a busy end-of-year schedule.

Gabbidon feels that whoever plays will produce a competitive performance and is hopeful the match can provide a platform for a top-flight survival bid.

“Sometimes cup runs can help,” he said. “It’s something up to the manager whether he wants to change players, but sometimes when you’re in a run of form you want to keep playing as well.

“You just look forward to the next game; it’s one we want a good result from. I don’t know what’s in the manager’s mind. At the end of the day, it’s another game and one we want to win.”

With the transfer market once more open for business, Gabbidon is expecting new arrivals at Selhurst Park to boost the team’s chances of staying up.

He added: “Competition is good for places, the new manager has come in and he’s going to have his own ideas.

“There will be areas we need to improve on and the boss will have his eye on certain players he wants to bring into the team.

“We’ll see what happens in the next few weeks. If we can bring two or three more bodies in, that can improve the team. Hopefully we can then kick on for the second half of the season.”

Fri 3 January, 2014
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Downing targets FA Cup success

West Brom caretaker coach Keith Downing is hoping to emulate Wigan Athletic’s FA Cup achievement and win a “special” tournament.

The Midlands outfit begin their quest for a first triumph in the tournament since 1968 with a home tie against Crystal Palace in round three on Saturday.

West Brom’s recent record in the tournament leaves a lot to be desired, with the club falling at this stage in two of their last three attempts.

But Downing is focused on progression in a tournament he holds in the highest regard, and pointed to Wigan’s unlikely victory in the final last season as his inspiration.

“We haven’t progressed in recent times in cup competitions and so we want to try to change that record and go as long as we can in the competition,” Downing said.

“There’s still a buzz about it, there’s still a feeling about the competition for Saturday and we’ll go out there and try to get through to the next round.

“It’s something we can win. Wigan have done it before, Birmingham City have done it in the League Cup. It goes to show you can win it, you’ve got to have the luck of the draw and the rounds as you go on.”

West Brom have already beaten Palace at The Hawthorns this season, courtesy of a 2-0 victory in November, but Downing is expecting a sterner test from Tony Pulis’ men.

He added: “”I have total respect for Tony Pulis, whatever side he puts out will be organised and hard to beat.

“They certainly are a different Palace side to the one who came here at the start of November.

“They’ve picked up some reasonably good results, went to Manchester City and showed some real resilience and could have won it or got a better result.”

Fri 3 January, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Sunderland v Carlisle United

Graham Kavanagh has challenged his Carlisle United side “to put the club on the map” by dumping Sunderland out of the FA Cup on Sunday.

Kavanagh, in his first managerial position after taking charge of the League One team in September, is one of four former Sunderland players at Carlisle – along with Pascal Chimbonda, Liam Noble and Paul Thirlwell – harbouring hopes of springing a third-round upset at the Stadium of Light, although a calf injury looks set to rule the latter out.

Despite having a strong affinity with the Premier League strugglers, who currently prop up the top-flight table, Kavanagh insists there will be no room for sentiment as he targets a shock victory.

“On a personal level it’s great for me,” Kavanagh told the Sunderland Echo.

“I still live over that way and Sunderland is a club I have close to my heart. I still look out for their results and a lot of my friends are Mackems.

“Having said all of that, I’m going there to try to win.

“The chances of us winning are probably slim. But it’s about what we do on the day.

“It’s the FA Cup and it throws up all kinds of surprises every year. There’s no reason why we can’t be one of them.

“Games like this are a chance to put the club on the map. If you go there and get a win then people up and down the length of the country talk about it.”

For Kavanagh – who was signed for Sunderland by Roy Keane in August 2006 and then helped the club clinch promotion back to the top-flight in the same season – the timing of this weekend’s reunion with his former employers could play into his favour.

Gus Poyet’s men have won just two of their previous 10 games and suffered a morale-sapping 1-0 home defeat to Aston Villa on New Year’s Day in their last outing.

However, Sunderland have enjoyed success in a knockout competition this season, progressing to a two-legged League Cup semi-final against Manchester United.

Carlisle are 15th in League One, have suffered three defeats in their last five games and are without an away win since October.

The two sides have not faced each other since January 1995 when Sunderland won a third-round replay 3-1 at Brunton Park, while Carlisle’s last victory over the north-east club came back in April 1974.

Defender Marcos Alonso is in line to make his Sunderland debut after joining on loan from Fiorentina this week, with Poyet expected to ring the changes to give some of his fringe players the chance to impress.

Carlisle have doubts over defensive duo Max Ehmer (shoulder) and Courtney Meppen-Walter (groin/thigh) as well as on-loan Manchester United striker Tom Lawrence (foot).

Fri 3 January, 2014
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Can Roberto Martinez mastermind another FA Cup triumph?

Can Everton boss Roberto Martinez guide his new team to an FA Cup triumph this season?

Can Everton boss Roberto Martinez guide his new team to an FA Cup triumph this season?

Everton and their fans have been starved of trophies for nearly two decades now.

Former-boss David Moyes was much-maligned for not winning silverware in his 11 years on Merseyside. However, current boss Roberto Martinez did win a trophy last season, the FA Cup.

Everton open their FA Cup campaign with a third round home tie against high-flying Championship outfit QPR at Goodison Park on Saturday.

Triumph

Last season was a bitter-sweet one for Wigan and Martinez. The Latics lost their fight for Premier League survival, but claimed their first ever piece of silverware against mega-rich Manchester City.

The game was the ultimate David vs. Goliath contest. Hardly anybody gave Wigan a hope in the match, but they defied the odds to claim victory.

Wigan, who by most peoples standards are a modest football club with a relatively small budget, against Manchester City who have spent hundreds of millions in the last couple of years in an attempt at world domination.

The underdogs Wigan came out on top thanks to a great team spirit and some very tactically astute moves from their highly-rated young boss.

Not only did the Latics defeat Manchester City in the FA Cup final, but they also stunned Everton at Goodison Park in the quarter-final, beating the Toffees 3-0 with three quick-fire first half goals enough to earn progression into the semi-finals.

Some say that the victory at Goodison Park and the FA Cup win was enough to persuade Everton chairman Bill Kenwright to appoint Martinez as David Moyes’ successor. He has not been a bad choice so far.

Positive

Everton under Martinez seem to be a far more positive team and that rubs off on the fans. The Spaniard’s positivity was enough to help Wigan win the cup last season. It has also been enough to help Everton became realistic contenders for the top four in the Premier League this season.

Balance

Martinez has to get the balance right of competing on both fronts. The fight for the top four places in the Premier League is a tough one at the moment and the FA Cup could be a distraction for some teams.

However, Everton fans will be looking for their team to be competitive in both competitions this season. The clubs history is a trophy filled one, but the club are currently experiencing the longest trophy draught in the clubs history.

Moyes was often criticised for picking weakened teams in cup competitions, which saw the Toffees exit both the FA and league cup at early stages on many occasions during his tenure. I get the feeling that Martinez knows how important the FA Cup is to Everton fans and will no doubt pick a team against QPR that should be strong enough to claim victory.

Tricky

The Hoops may be a Championship side, but they are currently third in the second tier looking for a quick return to the top flight after last season’s relegation from the Premier League. It is a potential banana skin and Everton’s recent FA Cup history tells us to expect the unexpected.

The likes of Shrewsbury and Oldham have produced major upsets against Everton in the FA Cup and Martinez will beware of that, although QPR are a far better side than the aforementioned pair. A Rangers win would not be that much of a shock, but it would still be a surprise.

Injuries

Injuries have taken their toll on the Everton squad in recent weeks. England left-back Leighton Baines has just returned after a lengthy lay-off. However, his international colleague Phil Jagielka is expected to be out injured for a month and central defensive partner Sylvain Distin missed the 1-1 draw with Stoke on Boxing Day through injury.

The Toffees are also currently without mercurial attacking midfielder Gerard Deulofeu, who gave them something different in attack. The next few games will be a major test of the Toffees superb form so far.

The festive period has saw mixed fortunes with a home defeat against Sunderland, a win against Southampton and then a draw at Stoke in their last outing. No doubt the injuries have had an effect on those results.

Chance

Under Martinez Everton fear nobody and go into every game expecting to win. With the Spaniard in charge the belief amongst everybody at the club has grown this season. Martinez has already proved he has what it takes to win a trophy at such an early stage of his career. There is no reason why he cannot repeat the trick with a very good Everton team.

Can Roberto Martinez mastermind another FA Cup triumph?

Fri 3 January, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Liverpool v Oldham Athletic

Liverpool will have a score to settle against Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup on Sunday after losing to them in the competition last season.

The League One side pulled off a stunning 3-2 victory at Boundary Park to dump Brendan Rodgers’ side out of the FA Cup in the fourth round last January.

Premier League high-flyers Liverpool also faced Oldham in a Lancashire derby the previous season and had no such trouble at Anfield as they coasted to a 5-1 victory.

The two sides will meet for a third consecutive season in the famous competition this weekend and it would be a major surprise if Liverpool were unable to progress to the fourth round on home soil.

Rodgers’ charges have made Anfield a fortress this season, winning nine of their 10 Premier League games at home and scoring 27 goals in the process.

Liverpool have won the FA Cup seven times, but last lifted the trophy in 2006 and assistant manager Colin Pascoe is determined to end their wait for more Cup glory.

He said: “The FA Cup is a special trophy. We’ll assess if everyone is fit, and pick a team that will go out to win the game.

“The youngsters have trained well and I’m sure they’ll be ready if they’re called upon, but we’re looking for a good performance.

“For a club like Liverpool, who want to win trophies, the FA Cup is a fantastic trophy. We’ve won it seven times, we want to make it eight.”

Pascoe confirmed that captain Steven Gerrard (hamstring) could return to the starting line-up after make his return from the substitutes’ bench against Hull City on New Year’s Day.

Daniel Sturridge (ankle), Jon Flanagan (hamstring) and Joe Allen (abductor) are expected to be back in training in the next two weeks.

Rodgers is expected to make changes, with the likes of Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto hoping to be given a chance from the start.

Oldham manager Lee Johnson added three new signings to his squad ahead of the match.

Defender Adam Lockwood and midfielders David Worrall and Gary Harkins could make their debuts in the third-round tie.

Oldham are languishing in 19th place in the third tier following a run of six league games without a win.

Fri 3 January, 2014
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Adebayor set to face Arsenal

Tottenham head coach Tim Sherwood has revealed Emmanuel Adebayor is ready to lead the line against former club Arsenal on Saturday.

Adebayor, who scored 62 goals for Arsenal in three and a half seasons with the club, has displayed fine form since Sherwood took over from the sacked Andre Villas-Boas at White Hart Lane, registering four goals in five games.

However, the Togo striker was forced off through injury after scoring the opener in Tottenham’s 2-1 New Year’s Day win at Manhchester United.

Speaking ahead of his side’s third-round tie at the Emirates Stadium, Sherwood confirmed Adebayor had overcome the minor setback.

“I spoke to Ade after United and he said he cramped up in all areas, but thankfully it has settled down and he’s ready to perform,” said the 44-year-old.

Despite ruling Erik Lamela (thigh), Kyle Naughton (ankle and hamstring), Paulinho, Jan Vertonghen (both ankle) and Gylfi Sigurdsson (calf) out of this weekend’s game, Sherwood is eagerly anticipating the meeting with Arsenal.

Tottenham have been boosted by Jermain Defoe, Andros Townsend and Lewis Holtby returning to training, while Sandro and Younes Kaboul are set to do likewise next week.

Asked about the prospect of facing Arsenal, Sherwood replied: “It’s the biggest game for any Tottenham person, and the manager particularly.

“We would love to play a lower league team, but it’s Arsenal at the Emirates and we can’t wait.

“It’s a huge competition. I played (in) a few semi-finals but never won it. It would be fantastic to take Tottenham to the final.

“It would be the pinnacle of my short managerial career if we went to the Emirates and won and we were still in the hat.

“We’ll try to get our offensive players on the ball as much as we can and we feel we can cause them some problems.”

Sherwood refused to be drawn on reports linking Tottenham with a move for Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott.

“I’m not looking for any players at moment, I’m just looking to clear that treatment room and assess it once we’ve got players back,” he explained.

“He (Lescott) is a good player isn’t he? There are a lot of good players at a lot of different clubs and at the moment he’s at Manchester City so I can’t comment on that.”

Fri 3 January, 2014
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Barton defends the magic of the FA Cup

QPR midfielder Joey Barton has launched a staunch defence of the FA Cup following renewed criticism of the much-maligned competition.

Heading into third-round weekend – usually a highlight of the British sporting calendar – Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has caused a stir by admitting he could do without the distraction of the FA Cup as his priority is clinching Premier League survival.

Lambert went a step further by claiming that other top-flight managers share his opinion, in the season after Wigan Athletic stunned Manchester City at Wembley in May before being relegated from the top flight the following week.

Barton has hit back by insisting that the FA Cup remains a special tournament to compete in.

“Regardless of what managers and chairmen think. Us players love playing in the FA Cup. We all dreamt of scoring the winner at Wembley,” Barton posted via his official Twitter account.

“Few of us are lucky enough to get to live that dream. Sad to see clubs tossing it off now because staying up is more important.”

Barton took to the popular social media platform to voice his views on the world’s oldest club competition ahead of QPR’s trip to face Everton, the club he supported growing up.

The 31-year-old added: “Training finished. Ice baths. Then on to Goodison Park for the FA Cup 3rd tomo (sic). Love the FA Cup and at Everton. Stuff of boys dreams.

“Love playing there. Proper football stadium. Its where I 1st watched a match. Cannot wait for KO. My little boy mascot. Great day for all.”

Fri 3 January, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Arsenal v Tottenham

Two of the FA Cup’s most successful sides meet on Saturday when Arsenal host north London rivals Tottenham in the third round.

Manchester United have won the competition 11 times, more than any other team, but Arsenal are just one behind on 10 and Tottenham sit third on the all-time list with eight.

The last major trophy Arsene Wenger’s charges collected was the FA Cup in 2005, following a penalty shootout victory over Manchester United.

The Emirates Stadium outfit have been unable to add to their honours roll since then, but have maintained a consistent challenge for the Premier League title this season.

Arsenal occupy top spot in the table, with three straight victories giving them a total of 45 points after 20 matches.

The leaders’ latest triumph came in a 2-0 win over Cardiff City on New Year’s Day, courtesy of late goals from Nicklas Bendtner and Theo Walcott.

England international Walcott believes a never-say-die attitude can help Arsenal end their trophy drought.

“If you want to win titles then you have got to go to the end and the thing about this team at the moment is that we never give up,” he said. “Every game that we win, the belief gets stronger and stronger.”

Tottenham are also in good form heading into the clash, with new head coach Tim Sherwood overseeing three wins and a draw in four Premier League matches at the helm.

A 2-1 victory at Manchester United on Wednesday was particularly impressive, and leaves the White Hart Lane club just two points adrift of the UEFA Champions League places.

Forward Emmanuel Adebayor has played a key role in Tottenham’s resurgence under Sherwood, including scoring the opener against United, but faces a battle to be fit to face his former side after being taken off on a stretcher against the reigning champions.

The two sides last met in the competition at Old Trafford in April 2001, with Arsenal winning 2-1 to reach the final.

Arsenal also triumphed over Tottenham at the last-four stage in 1993, before going on to complete an FA and League Cup double.

Thu 2 January, 2014
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Lambert ´could do without´ FA Cup

Paul Lambert has admitted he could do without the FA Cup and the Aston Villa boss believes other Premier League managers share his opinion.

The famous competition represents Villa’s only realistic chance of winning a trophy this season and not since 1957 have the midlands club lifted the FA Cup.

Villa have won the competition seven times, but Lambert’s priority is to ensure his side stay in the top flight ahead of Saturday’s third-round clash with League One outfit Sheffield United.

He said: “It’s not just become about money, because everyone wants to try and win something.

“I think success is important for your own career and if you’re a footballer you want to try and win things, but from a football club business point of view everybody knows the Premier League is the one everyone wants to get into and stay in because of the finances.”

When asked if he could do without the FA Cup, Lambert said: “I think if you ask the majority of them (other Premier League managers), if they’re being honest I think they probably would do, yes.

“Survival in the league is vital, like ourselves we don’t have a massive squad so the points are really important and if everybody was being honest they’d say the same.

“That’s realistic, anybody who says different I’m not sure they’d be telling the truth. The Premier League is the most vital thing that anybody wants to get into and we’re no different.

“The cup competitions you want to get through and we’ll pick a team we think can get through, but your main one is the league.”

Thu 2 January, 2014
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