FA Cup


Blackburn Rovers 1 West Ham 5: Emenike and Payet doubles complete comeback

Emmanuel Emenike scored his first goals for West Ham as they came from behind to beat Blackburn Rovers 5-1 in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday.

Blackburn had failed to beat West Ham in their last 11 meetings but an upset looked as though it could be on the cards when Ben Marshall steered in from outside the area to give them the lead.

Slaven Bilic’s side battled past Liverpool across two games in the previous round and drew on that resilience again to turn the game on its head, with Victor Moses’ shot evading Jason Steele’s grasp before Dimitri Payet’s fine free-kick made it 2-1.

Chris Taylor was sent off for a second bookable offence early in the second half to leave Paul Lambert’s side facing a mountain to climb to reach the quarter-finals, and Emenike struck just past the hour mark to put the visitors firmly in control.

Cheikhou Kouyate was given a straight red card for bringing down Adam Henley as he raced through on goal, but Emenike and Payet each doubled their tallies late on to secure safe progress for the visitors into the last eight.

The blustery conditions at Ewood Park made for a scrappy affair in the opening quarter of an hour, with Moses’ deflected shot and Hope Akpan’s wayward header the only half-chances of note.

But Marshall opened the scoring with the first moment of real quality in the match, turning into space 20 yards from goal before placing a low shot through the crowded penalty area and beyond the reach of Darren Randolph in the 20th minute.

West Ham drew level six minutes later, as Moses was given time and space to carry the ball to the edge of the box, and his low shot bobbled through the grasp of Steele and into the far corner.

And Bilic’s side took the lead nine minutes before the break, Payet’s brilliantly flighted free-kick from just outside the area leaving Steele with no chance.

Blackburn came out fighting in the second half, with Marshall testing Randolph from 25 yards out before Darragh Lenihan came close, but the home side’s hopes of a comeback were dealt a severe blow when Taylor was issued a second yellow card for tripping Moses.

Kouyate thought he had made it 3-1 when he tapped in at the far post after Steele denied Michail Antonio superbly, only for the offside flag to spare Blackburn – thought it proved a short-lived reprieve.

Steele denied Antonio again from close range but, after the ball escaped Moses and broke to Kouyate, the midfielder rolled it across the box to give Emenike the chance to tap the ball in unmarked.

Kouyate was dismissed with a quarter of an hour to play after he tripped Henley as he tried to race into the box, but West Ham surged further ahead when Emenike latched onto Payet’s long ball, danced around Steele and tucked the ball confidently home.

Emenike almost completed his hat-trick but he could only rattle the outside of the post from close range, but Payet capped the victory with the goal of the game, as he skipped clear on the halfway line before surging to the edge of the area and slotting low past Steele in the dying seconds.

Sun 21 February, 2016
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Chelsea 1/2 to win against Man City in this afternoon’s FA Cup clash

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Chelsea to win against Man City
Odds: 1/2 @ 888 Sport

Chelsea and Manchester City lock horns at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup fifth round this afternoon. The two sides are desperate to progress in the competition as their Premier League campaign has been suffering of late.

The hosts have had an affinity with the FA Cup, having won it four times in the last 10 years, and they’re coming off the back of good form of late too. Under interim manager Guus Hiddink, the Blues are enjoying a 10-game unbeaten run in the Premier League, and could be a challenge for City as a result.

As for the visitors, Manuel Pellegrini’s men aren’t in good form. They have suffered consecutive league defeats, and could have a weakened eleven with their manager looking to rest key players. As a result, Chelsea may well be in the driving seat to earn a big win.

With Chelsea’s Premier League campaign having little objective following their woeful start, they will be targeting the cup competitions as a chance for silverware. As a result, the Londoners are being backed by 888 Sport with odds of 1/2 to win against City.

Bet: Chelsea to win against Man City in this afternoon’s FA Cup clash @ 1/2 with 888 Sport >>

Sun 21 February, 2016
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Should Man Utd sack Louis van Gaal before the end of the season?

Experienced Dutch boss Louis van Gaal's future with Manchester United looks like a short one

Experienced Dutch boss Louis van Gaal looks to have very little time left at Manchester United

Manchester United fans have enjoyed a roller coaster ride of emotions since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club as boss in 2013.

David Moyes’ short stint as United boss is best left in the past, but when the Red Devils appointed experienced Dutch boss Louis van Gaal it seemed like a good fit.

He was regarded as the sort of experienced boss that could resurrect United’s ailing fortunes and bring back the glory days to the Red Devils.

To an extent he has helped the Red Devils, but only back into the race for fourth spot, which they are even struggling to achieve this season.

United travels to League One strugglers Shrewsbury on Monday night in the fifth round of the FA Cup in a potential banana skin for United and their under-pressure boss.

Would have been sacked at another big club

Manchester United had Sir Alex Ferguson in charge of the club for a long time and obviously developed a reputation for not sacking bosses. The Red Devils dispensed with the services of David Moyes after less than a year.

Maybe that is the reason why the Red Devils hierarchy are holding fire on sacking Van Gaal. The experienced Dutchman has spent an awful lot of money on assembling a squad that has taken United one step forward and two steps back this season.

Most other elite clubs would have sacked Van Gaal for the amount of money spent, the clubs lack of challenging for the Premier League title and general poor performance in the top-flight.

While clubs that have been managed properly in the likes of Leicester and Tottenham have flourished this season, big spending United have struggled to even stay in the top four this season and currently find themselves fifth in the table, six points behind Manchester City who surprising are fourth in the table.

How far have United really come under Van Gaal?

To judge it on sheer position in the Premier League table, United have not moved forward that much considering the man at the helm and the resources available to him. United finished seventh the season after Sir Alex left and they are just two places better off this season.

The standard of football cannot exactly be described as progressive either. In fact the style of football for much of the season could best be described as ‘cautious’ and that is being nice about it.

The recent 2-1 defeat at Danish side Midtjylland in the Europa League is not the worst result that United have experienced in recent years, but the mood around the club seems to be on par with when Moyes was in charge.

The United squad of players is more valuable than it was when Sir Alex Ferguson left. However the team is not performing much better than under Moyes, so United have not moved that far forward.

A matter of when and not if for Van Gaal’s exit

Dutch boss Louis van Gaal’s exit in the near future now looks likely.  Whether his exit comes before the end of the campaign or the summer seems to be the only question. The current favourite for the United job is former-Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho at odds of 1/5.

It seems that the Portuguese boss is the inevitable choice for the Old Trafford hot seat. It’s strange though he does not seem to be a universally popular appointment with the clubs fans, because of Chelsea’s poor displays this season and his often controversial managerial style.

Louis van Gaal’s coaching style has not always produced a dull style of football in the past, so it seems strange that all of a sudden his football philosophy is so cautious. Van Gaal is not a poor manager. He has proven in the past that he is a good manager, but he just does not seem to fit in at United.

How the experienced Dutchman has stayed in his position this long seems to be a mystery though and United cannot continue in a similar vein for much longer.

The Red Devils game at the New Meadow on Monday night has been made slightly more difficult by an injury crisis. However, the Premier League side should still have enough quality to defeat Micky Mellon’s side.

If the lower league side claim a win then it would more than likely spell the end of Louis van Gaal’s spell in Manchester and some would say it will be a few months to late.

Should Man Utd sack Louis van Gaal before the end of the season?

Sun 21 February, 2016
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Mellon laughs off United problems ahead of Shrewsbury FA Cup tie

Shrewsbury Town manager Micky Mellon laughed off suggestions that Sunday’s FA Cup fifth-round opponents Manchester United are experiencing tough times ahead of their match.

The Premier League giants are in real danger of missing out on Champions League qualification after a title challenge looked more likely in November, but Mellon said he’d happily trade places as he told reporters about the struggles of managing a relegation-threatened League One club.

“I think I have built my fourth team this season. I started the season with people asking about my philosophy. I keep redoing it. I lost probably five players in the first month,” he said.

“So you have to get others, but you can’t buy them.

“We don’t have a training ground, we come 29 miles to here, we get sandwiches from the local butty shop, the soup arrives just about half warm and we wash our own training kit.

“But we still count ourselves very fortunate we are in football.”

And Mellon is feeling particularly fortunate for having drawn Manchester United.

“I am like a big schoolboy when it comes to football,” Mellon said with a smile.

“I still dream, I have ambition, I have managed against Manchester United about 1,000 times in my playground career, this time I’m doing it for real.

“I want my players to believe. I hate it when a player loses ambition. What sometimes happens at this level is that the ambition goes, then the imagination goes, and you can’t improve them.”

Should Mellon do the unthinkable and post a win over United, it could very well spell the end of Louis van Gaal at Old Trafford, and the Shrewsbury man does not think they have to look too far for a replacement.

“I don’t buy into the idea that [United assistant manager] Ryan [Giggs is] not forceful enough. I think he’s very steely-minded, very clear about how he wants the game played, has a good presence about him,” he said.

“But I don’t believe you’ll know if anybody’s going to be a manager until they’re in that technical area, they get beat and certain things get thrown at them, how they deal with it – that’s when you’ll know.”

Sun 21 February, 2016
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Thames Valley Police investigate fan behaviour at Reading v West Brom

Thames Valley Police have confirmed they are investigating a number of unsavoury incidents that marred the FA Cup fifth-round tie between Reading and West Brom 

West Brom midfielder Chris Brunt was hit in the face by a coin thrown by one of his own club’s supporters after full-time and a police statement revealed various other incidents are under examination – included a bottle being thrown in the direction of a Reading player during the hosts’ 3-1 triumph at the Madejski Stadium.

One supporter was arrested for a racially aggravated public order offence after a steward was abused.

“We are investigating a number of incidents during today’s FA Cup match between Reading and West Bromwich Albion at the Madejski Stadium,” said Sergeant Richard Noone.

“There were a number of incidents of disorder during the second half, including objects being thrown between those sitting in the home section and those sitting in the away section. A bottle was also thrown in the direction of a Reading player.

“Also, during the second half, a 37-year-old man from Sandwell, West Midlands, was arrested for a racially aggravated public order offence.

“The arrest was in connection with an incident during which a steward was verbally abused. The man who was arrested has been released on police bail until April 1.”

Sergeant Noone confirmed police will be speaking to Brunt about the coin-throwing incident and urged anyone with information to come forward.

West Brom described the behaviour of the coin-throwing supporter as “sickening” in a statement after the match and said the they will work with police to identify anyone guilty of wrongdoing.

Goalkeeper Ben Foster also criticised the behaviour of the West Brom fan who apparently targeted Brunt, labelling them a “disgrace” in a tweet.

He posted: “Whoever threw that coin at Chris Brunt today, thousands if not millions of kids will see or hear about it. You’re a disgrace.”

Darren Fletcher opened the scoring for West Brom but Paul McShane, Michael Hector and Lucas Piazon ensured Reading progressed into the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Sat 20 February, 2016
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Howe laments Bournemouth attacking failures

Eddie Howe bemoaned AFC Bournemouth falling short in the key moments as they were knocked out of the FA Cup by Everton on Saturday.

Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku struck after the interval at the Vitality Stadium to seal a 2-0 triumph for the visitors, although things could have panned out very differently had Charlie Daniels not seen a first-half penalty saved by Joel Robles.

Barkley’s opening goal went past Adam Federici via a deflection off Dan Gosling and Howe reckoned his side were lacking in luck as well as attacking conviction.

The Cherries boss told BBC Sport: “Everton had the extra quality and in key moments in the game we did not take our chances.

“It looked like we were going to score the rebound from the penalty save, but that is one of those things, players eager to get on the end of it. No blame on Charlie, though.

“Charlie has been outstanding and it’s the life of a penalty taker. It’s an unfortunate moment for us.

“We were well in the game at half-time. It was a real 50-50 but the deflected goal was key.”

Bournemouth will now turn full attention to their league run-in. The south-coast club are four points clear of the bottom three with 12 games to go.

Howe made seven changes to his previous Premier League XI, while Everton were unchanged, and the Bournemouth boss put that down to differing aims for the clubs.

He explained: “I have been on record many times saying the league is our priority.”

Sat 20 February, 2016
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League Cup heartbreak has inspired Everton – Martinez

Roberto Martinez says Everton are inspired to reach Wembley as a result of their League Cup semi-final heartache after they saw off AFC Bournemouth 2-0 in the FA Cup fifth round.

Goals from Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku sealed the visitors’ place in the quarter-finals following a crucial first-half penalty save from Joel Robles.

Everton were beaten in the last four of the League Cup by Manchester City in controversial circumstances, with Kevin De Bruyne’s goal in the 3-1 second-leg win for City allowed to stand despite the ball having clearly gone out of play in the build-up.

And Martinez, for whom the decision still rankles, says his side are determined to go far in the FA Cup to make amends for that defeat.

“I thought it was a really important performance for us,” he told BBC Sport. “In the first half we were not anywhere near our level but the second half was a real change.

“We scored twice and it put us in a position we were in before [in the Premier League match], we had a 2-0 lead here last time but could not manage the game but this time we did.

“Another clean sheet keeps the consistency from our last four performances. We look a really strong team now going into the final part of the season and I am really proud of going into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

“We will take it step by step. It was important that we showed we can adapt to this game, now we want to get a really good period in the league. The only thing that has been missing has been wins at home and we are looking to change that.

“The League Cup semi-final gave us an inspiration to want to be at Wembley every chance we can. Clearly the group is hungry for that kind of occasion.”

Sat 20 February, 2016
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FA to investigate Brunt coin incident

The Football Association is to investigate the incident in which West Brom midfielder Chris Brunt was struck by a coin thrown by one of the club’s supporters following the FA Cup tie at Reading on Saturday.

The coin struck Brunt just below his left eye as he went to applaud the visiting contingent seconds after the final whistle, prompting the Northern Ireland international to gesticulate angrily as he sought to find the culprit.

Brunt said he was “disgusted and ashamed” by the supporter’s actions, while Baggies boss Tony Pulis described it as “barbaric” and “criminal”.

And the FA has confirmed it will conduct its own probe into events at the Madejski Stadium.

A statement read: “The FA is investigating the incident in which an object was thrown at Chris Brunt at the end of the Reading v West Brom game as well as the crowd disturbances in the away section of the stadium.

“We strongly condemn any such behaviour and will work with both clubs and the authorities to identify those responsible.”

Brunt’s anger at being hit was matched by some of the West Brom fans, with several people attempting to accost the person they believed was responsible.

The visitors took the lead through Darren Fletcher, but went down 3-1 to the Championship side thanks to goals from Paul McShane, Michael Hector and Lucas Piazon.

Sat 20 February, 2016
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AFC Bournemouth 0 Everton 2: Barkley and Lukaku send Martinez´s side through

Everton progressed to the FA Cup quarter-finals after battling to a 2-0 win against AFC Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.

The two sides played out a thrilling 3-3 Premier League draw in November when Junior Stanislas scored a 98th-minute equaliser, but Saturday’s contest was a decidedly more scrappy affair settled by a deflected effort from Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku’s strike.

Joel Robles proved the hero for Everton in the first half as he saved Charlie Daniels’ penalty and Barkley made the home side pay when his shot looped over Adam Federici early in the second period.

Dan Gosling spurned a presentable headed chance, but Bournemouth struggled to create much of note and Lukaku’s simple finish 12 minutes from time sealed it for Roberto Martinez’s side.

Barkley scuffed a shot straight at Federici after a strong burst into the box, but openings were scarce in a scrappy first half.

Juan Iturbe looked the liveliest of Bournemouth’s forwards early on and he dragged a shot narrowly wide after a fine run from halfway right through the heart of Everton’s midfield.

Lukaku was denied by Federici’s leg after he cut into the box from the right before Bournemouth were gifted the chance to take the lead when James McCarthy blatantly used his arm to control a cross inside the box, but Daniels’ penalty was well saved to his left by Joel.

And Everton duly punished Bournemouth’s missed opportunity by snatching the lead just after the break – albeit in fortuitous circumstances.

Barkley collected Tom Cleverley’s pass just to the left of the area and his curling effort came off Gosling’s foot and over the despairing Federici.

Lukaku thought he had added a second as he rolled the ball beneath the keeper from close range, but the assistant’s flag came to Bournemouth’s rescue, while Stanislas saw a free-kick bounce inches wide after striking the wall.

Gosling nodded a teasing Stanislas cross straight at Joel before substitute Matt Ritchie scooped an effort over the bar from close range as Eddie Howe’s side continued to push forward in search of an equaliser.

Barkley came close to a fine second as he curled just wide following some fine build-up play, but Lukaku promptly secured Everton’s passage to the sixth round, tapping home from inside the six-yard box after Gareth Barry’s clever flick-on at the near post.

Martinez introduced Oumar Niasse for his Everton debut in the closing 10 minutes as the visitors eased into the last eight for the fourth time in five years.

Sat 20 February, 2016
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Pulis calls for police action against ´barbaric´ coin-throwing West Brom fan

Police must take action against a West Brom supporter who hit Chris Brunt with a coin, Tony Pulis said after his side were knocked out of the FA Cup by Reading.

Brunt approached the club’s supporters after the 3-1 defeat at the Madejski Stadium and was struck near his left eye.

Pulis described the fan who threw the coin as “barbaric” and called for police action.

“The fact that the fella has done that is just… it’s barbaric,” he said. “I just hope the police get involved, I think they have to get involved in this.

“I don’t think you can allow that to go by, it’s criminal.”

Pulis added that Northern Ireland international midfielder Brunt was left very upset by the incident.

“Every decent supporter of the football club will be absolutely devastated that this has happened to them and their football club,” he said.

“Chris has a cut and it’s not too far away from his eye, it’s just under his eye and it’s an inch away from striking him in his eye.

“If that happens, then we’re talking about a very, very serious problem.

“For Chris to have a coin thrown at him from his own supporters having been at the football club for such a long time, it’s appalling.”

West Brom took the lead through Darren Fletcher’s goal, but Paul McShane, Michael Hector and Lucas Piazon scored to send the Championship side into the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Sat 20 February, 2016
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McDermott condemns ´outrageous´ coin-throwing incident

Reading manager Brian McDermott promised his club would do everything they can to track down the fan responsible for throwing a coin that struck West Brom’s Chris Brunt.

After the FA Cup fifth-round tie at the Madejski Stadium – which West Brom lost 3-1 – Brunt went over to the visiting fans, but was struck underneath his left eye by a coin thrown from the crowd.

The Northern Ireland international said he was “disgusted and ashamed” by the incident, while McDermott was similarly scathing in his reaction.

“That’s outrageous really, it’s not right and proper,” he said. “We will cooperate, I am sure, and make sure we find the person who threw it.”

The unsavoury incident took some of the attention away from an impressive victory for Reading, who fell behind to Darren Fletcher’s effort before goals from Paul McShane, Michael Hector and Lucas Piazon sealed a shock win and a place in the quarter-finals.

“There’s a great camaraderie between the players and staff and there was a fantastic atmosphere here, so it gives the boys confidence going in against Rotherham [in the Championship on Tuesday],” McDermott said.

“Considering who you’re playing against, a Premier League side, who know what they’re doing and they know how to win games. They’ve won at Everton last week. 

“Tony [Pulis] has put out a strong side, so it’s a great result for us and we’ll look forward to the draw.

“To get a couple from set-plays is fabulous, especially against that team. I know that Tony would pride himself on not conceding from set-plays.”

Sat 20 February, 2016
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Flores: Watford´s FA Cup run an amazing journey

Watford’s first run to the FA Cup quarter-finals since 2007 is an “amazing journey” for the club, head coach Quique Sanchez Flores said after Saturday’s 1-0 win against Leeds United.

A Scott Wootton own goal decided a tight match at Vicarage Road, keeping Watford’s dreams of winning the competition for the first time alive.

Flores, who made six changes to his starting line-up, for the match, hailed the Hornets’ progress into the quarter-finals.

“It’s necessary to enjoy and share this experience. It’s an amazing journey for us,” the Spaniard said.

“We took control, we played well and we deserved to go through to the next round of the FA Cup.”

Speaking to BBC Sport, Flores added: “To win the match is the most important thing for us, and to avoid a replay for us.

“We were better in the second half than the first half. We took control with the ball and we had more attempts.”

Flores praised January signings Mario Suarez and Nordin Amrabat for their positive performances.

“They are completely ready to be protagonists in the team, they are very important players,” he said.

Leeds manager Steve Evans described Wootton’s second-half own goal as a “cruel” way for his team to exit the competition. 

“It’s a cruel way to go out of the cup,” he said. “We were quite resolute and I can’t ask my players to have given any more.

“I felt for Scott Wootton. He got caught in two minds and he’ll be hurting after that.”

Sat 20 February, 2016
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Watford 1 Leeds United 0: Wootton own goal sends Premier League side through

A Scott Wootton own goal was enough to steer Watford into the FA Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 2007 as Leeds United were beaten 1-0 at Vicarage Road.

Wootton was under little pressure at the back post when he diverted Ben Watson’s whipped centre past his own goalkeeper eight minutes into the second half.

Watford had the ball in the net again shortly after, but Etienne Capoue’s neat finish was chalked off for a Troy Deeney foul.

A third clean sheet in their last four home outings in all competitions helped Watford progress in the first FA Cup meeting between these teams and the Premier League side will have one eye on a trip to Wembley as well as securing their top-flight status. 

Quique Sanchez Flores made six changes from Watford’s 2-1 win at Crystal Palace last weekend, with top scorer Odion Ighalo among those rested. A dead leg ruled out Liam Cooper and Leeds manager Steve Evans replaced the defender with Sol Bamba.

The hosts, yet to win the FA Cup, had two early sights of goal, captain Deeney having a header deflected wide in the first minute before Miguel Britos saw his own header fly well over.

Nordin Amrabat looped a header into Marco Silvestri’s arms before Britos had a big chance at the back post, but the defender put another header wide as Watford dominated aerially.

Jose Holebas saw his strike deflect just wide as the Premier League side cranked up the pressure, with the visitors’ first chance arriving against the run of play after 25 minutes.

A terrific counter-attack led by Mirco Antenucci worked an opening for Stuart Dallas, but his tame shot was saved easily by Costel Pantilimon. Dallas then dragged wide after brilliant build-up play by Souleymane Doukara.

Dallas saw another effort deflect wide shortly before half-time as the Championship side, who have now won just three of their last 12 matches in all competitions, continued to grow into the contest.

But any momentum that Leeds were gaining came to a halt as Watford broke the deadlock shortly after the interval, Wootton inadvertently turning Watson’s excellent cross into his own net.

Capoue thought he had doubled Watford’s lead after 57 minutes when he beat Silvestri from close range, but referee Michael Oliver disallowed it for a push by Deeney.

Liam Bridcutt tested Pantilimon when he let fly with a long-range drive after 64 minutes and, with two minutes to go, Doukara lashed a shot over after being played in by Wootton, but Leeds were unable to find an equaliser. 

 

Sat 20 February, 2016
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Reading 3 West Brom 1: McShane, Hector and Piazon spring Cup shock

Goals from Paul McShane, Michael Hector and Lucas Piazon earned Reading a place in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup thanks to a surprise 3-1 comeback victory over West Brom on Saturday.

Having lost to eventual winners Arsenal at the semi-final stage last season, Reading are enjoying another strong Cup run in 2015-16, providing a highlight amid a stuttering Championship campaign.

After a first half low on goalmouth action at the Madejski Stadium, the game sprung into life early in the second period with two goals in five minutes.

West Brom’s Darren Fletcher – a winner of this competition with Manchester United in 2004 – opened the scoring with a well-taken angled drive, adding to his stunning goal in the replay against Peterborough United in the previous round.

But Reading responded swiftly and McShane – who featured from the bench for Hull City in the final against Arsenal two years ago – headed in from a set-piece to claim his first goal for Reading.

And it got even better for Brian McDermott’s side as, 18 minutes from time, Hector glanced a header home at the far post before substitute Piazon added the third in stoppage time to condemn their Premier League opponents to a surprise exit.

In a quiet opening to proceedings, the only effort of note came in the 12th minute when Chris Brunt – selected as one of two changes for West Brom – fired a 30-yard free-kick comfortably over the crossbar.

Reading’s first attempt at goal midway through the half came from an unlikely source as McShane fizzed a shot agonisingly wide of the right-hand post from just outside the box.

The home side threatened again seven minutes prior to half-time as Oliver Norwood whipped in a cross for Hal Robson-Kanu, who saw his header tipped over by Ben Foster.

James McClean fired wildly off target from 20 yards as Tony Pulis’ men began the second half brightly and they were rewarded with the opening goal in the 54th minute.

From the right touchline, Salomon Rondon played a low ball into Fletcher just inside the area and the Scotland international made the most of the generous space afforded to him by controlling and dispatching a clinical finish into the bottom-left corner.

However, the lead lasted just five minutes as Norwood sent in an inviting free-kick from the left and McShane glanced in a header from six yards despite the best efforts of Foster, who got a hand to the ball, but could only parry it into the roof of the net.

And it was another excellent Norwood delivery that allowed Reading to forge ahead as the midfielder curled in a cross towards the back post and Hector got the better of Jonas Olsson to nod in from close range.

West Brom missed two glorious chances to force a replay with five minutes remaining as first Saido Berahino failed to get a clean connection on a ball across the six-yard box and then Fletcher poked a tame finish straight at Ali Al-Habsi when unmarked at close range.

With the final action of the game, Piazon was teed up by fellow replacement Ola John, composing himself before rifling past Foster to seal Reading’s place in the last eight. 

Sat 20 February, 2016
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Under-pressure Van Gaal recalls goalkeeper from National League North side Stockport County

Manchester United have recalled 18-year-old goalkeeper Dean Henderson from a loan spell at Stockport County as beleaguered manager Louis van Gaal attempts to plug the gaps in his injury-hit squad.

Van Gaal’s first-choice David De Gea hurt his knee in the warm-up prior to the 2-1 defeat at Midtjylland in the Europa League on Thursday, prompting Sergio Romero to start in the Spaniard’s absence.

Romero will keep his place for Monday’s FA Cup fifth-round clash at Shrewsbury Town with England youth international Henderson – who has been playing in the National League North – likely to be on the bench as the club’s other goalkeepers either injured or unavailable.

Sam Johnstone is not fit, Joel Castro Pereira is cup-tied having played for Rochdale earlier in the competition, while former Barcelona stopper Victor Valdes is on loan at Standard Liege.

Van Gaal goes into the game knowing a defeat could prove the final straw for the United fans who voiced their displeasure at the midweek setback in Denmark.

But he will be without a host of key men at Greenhous Meadow with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Phil Jones, Ashley Young, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marouane Fellaini and Adnan Januzaj all set to miss out.

Sat 20 February, 2016
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Shrewsbury Town v Manchester United: Underdogs sense opportunity against under-fire Van Gaal

Louis van Gaal knows the pressure is on to avoid an FA Cup upset as his confidence-shorn Manchester United side visit League One Shrewsbury Town in the fifth round on Monday.

On paper there is a gulf in class between United, 20 times champion of England and 11-time winners of the FA Cup, and a Shrewsbury side battling for survival in the third tier.

But United travel to Shropshire in crisis after a 2-1 Premier League defeat to Sunderland was followed by a toothless 2-1 loss at Midtjylland in the Europa League, with goalkeeper David de Gea adding to Van Gaal’s woes by getting injured in the warm-up in Denmark.

To put that defeat in context, Midtjylland formed in 1999 – the same year United famously completed the treble, but the performance on Thursday was worlds apart from that all-conquering class.

Local newspaper reports suggest Van Gaal now has three matches to save his job, while rumours that he will be replaced by former protege Jose Mourinho refuse to go away.

Midfielder Michael Carrick is all too aware that a repeat performance cannot be tolerated against a Shrewsbury side that sense an opportunity for a shock.

“I don’t think it’s a concern – I think Monday’s a different game,” Carrick told United’s official website.

“But we need to be so much better than we were on Thursday night. We know what to expect but it’s going to be tough and Thursday’s game proves that if you’re not at your best then you can slip up, so we need to be ready for that.

“Football’s a funny game and sometimes it throws up different things but we know what to expect at Shrewsbury – it’s not going to be an easy game.”

Shrewsbury are just three points above the drop zone in League One, but Micky Mellon’s men have already shown their mettle in the cup this season.

A third-round win at Cardiff City was followed up in dramatic circumstances as they put Championship high-flyers Sheffield Wednesday to the sword in round four.

Wednesday were leading 2-1 with just three minutes remaining, but Shaun Whalley levelled proceedings before Jack Grimmer snatched a 97th-minute winner.

Shrewsbury now have their eyes on a bigger scalp, and Mellon has told his players to embrace the occasion – even if victory upsets his 12-year-old son, who is on the books at United.

“He will be supporting his dad because his mother has told him,” Mellon said ahead of Shrewsbury’s first-ever meeting with United.

“He needs to know where his bread is buttered and it is still getting buttered at our house. 

“He has been at the club since he was four and they have totally brainwashed him into being everything United.”

Mellon added: “Somebody said to me it’s a one-off game and asked if I would be telling my players to play the game and not the occasion.

“I said ‘no way’. Get involved in the occasion and get excited, get full of adrenalin, get full right up to your eyeballs and run about like a nutcase.”

Sat 20 February, 2016
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Everton 23/20 to win against Bournemouth in tonight’s FA Cup fifth round clash

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Everton to win against Bournemouth
Odds: 23/20 @ Betfair

Everton travel to Dean Court to face Bournemouth this afternoon in the FA Cup fifth round. The Blues are favourites to come out on top given their impressive away form this season, as well as opponents Bournemouth perhaps prioritising survival in the Premier League.

Everton are somewhat ruling themselves out of a lofty finish in the division, so manager Roberto Martinez would love to try and win some silverware as he did for former side Wigan Athletic. There’s a quarter-final place currently at stake, and Bournemouth have hit a badly timed slump in form.

The Cherries have suffered consecutive defeats in the Premier League, and are likely to rest a number of key players too. As a result, a travel-happy Everton should take advantage. Unbeaten in their last seven outings on the road, the Toffees are in pole position to pick up a result today, and they certainly have a squad capable.

Betfaire are backing the Merseysiders with odds of 23/20 for Everton to see past Bournemouth in this evening’s FA Cup encounter to book their place in the final eight of the competition.

Bet: Everton to win against Bournemouth in tonight’s FA Cup fifth round clash @ 23/20 with Betfair >>

Sat 20 February, 2016
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Is Manuel Pellegrini right to field youngsters in the FA Cup?

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini is set to field some youngsters in the Citizens FA Cup fifth round game at Chelsea

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini is set to field some youngsters in the Citizens FA Cup fifth round game at Chelsea

The FA Cup fifth round clash between Chelsea and Manchester City on Sunday at Stamford Bridge should be the tie of the round.

Unfortunately though City have a European engagement with Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League on Wednesday, so are set to rest a number of their regular players.

Sweet FA help for European competitors

City boss Manuel Pellegrini has been critical of the FA in how they have arranged the competition and the fact they do not take into account the fact teams are playing in the Champions League.

The Chilean told Sky Sports: “In other leagues, they try to help the teams in the Champions League a little bit more, because it is not so difficult to change one game on one day.

“I don’t want to talk lightly about this but the people in charge must study it. The other leagues do it so we must do it here too, if you want to be successful in Europe. Something must change.

“The FA Cup is difficult because it’s on a weekend, so you must postpone games and arrive at the end of the season with more to play. There are so many games at the end and it is difficult to play all of them. Some things are not correct in this cup.

“Unfortunately for us, because of injuries and we have to play in the Champions League, we just have 13 first-team players available to play, so we will see what the best team is that we can play in the FA Cup.”

Poor old Manchester City

Poor old Manchester City having to cope with an injury crisis and too many games. Maybe they should move all City’s games to accommodate the Citizens and their burgeoning fixture list. The old saying if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen seems to spring to mind in this one.

Manchester City have spent the last half a decade spending a fortune and not only strengthening their senior playing staff, but creating an academy fit for kings, well Sheikhs really.

City are likely to field a number of youngsters at Stamford Bridge in that FA Cup game, with the likes of Cameron Humphreys, Brandon Barker and Manuel Garcia set for a run-out at Chelsea. Those youngsters will get a chance to prove that they are good enough to feature for City.

Not many players have come through the City academy and into the first team in recent years, as the Citizens have continued to spend to stay on the shirt tails of the likes Leicester and Tottenham at the business end of the Premier League.

City have been all about lashing out money in recent transfer windows with the likes of Nicolas Otamendi, Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling arriving at Etihad Stadium. All those who say that they are sick of people talking about the money City have spent need to take a reality check and see where they are in the table.

The fact is those new signings have produced mixed results for the club. Instead of turning City into a dominant force with two high-quality players in each position, they are a team with questions marks all over the field. Is half of the City team capable of playing at the highest level?

The answer is probably not and that comes down to poor recruitment. The Citizens may currently have injuries, but a club with the ambitions of City should be better equipped to deal with such problems.

Pellegrini claims his side have 13 players out injured, but in reality its closer to seven players. City could quite easily field a first eleven completely comprising first team regulars at Chelsea. However, with the Champions League tie on Wednesday, the City boss is obviously prioritising the clubs European campaign.

An example for youngsters at City

Pellegrini’s inevitable naming of an understrength team has made Chelsea the favourites for progression into the quarter-finals at odds of 4/5.

However this game could be a showcase of some of City’s youngsters. Nigerian youngster Kelechi Iheanacho has impressed this season with some vital goals, mostly off the substitute bench.

The youngster scored a hat-trick in the last round at Aston Villa. The 19-year-old is likely to start upfront against Chelsea and will be looking to make an impact yet again. His recent appearances for City give those youngsters a hope of making it in the first team at City.

Whatever team lines-up for City at Chelsea, Pellegrini will know that the pressure is now on to gain results, or City’s season could unravel very quickly and too many games will no longer be a problem.

Is Manuel Pellegrini right to field the youngsters in the FA Cup?

Sat 20 February, 2016
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Watford 8/13 to win against Leeds United in the FA Cup fifth round this afternoon

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Watford to win against Leeds
Odds: 8/13 @ Bet 365

Premier League side Watford welcome Championship outfit Leeds United to Vicarage Road for the fifth round of the FA Cup this afternoon. A place in the quarter-finals is at stake, and the home side are big favourites given recent form.

The Hornets are coming off the back of two wins and a draw from their last four league games, and have proven to be formidable on home soil too. Watford have already beaten Newcastle United and Nottingham Forest to make it this far, and the poor form of visitors Leeds should see them through.

United are currently languishing in the bottom-half of the Championship, and have particularly struggled for results away from home. The Yorkshire club have failed to win six of their last seven games on the road in the division, making them underdogs this afternoon.

Watford are certainly the form side of the two, and will be taking the competition seriously regarding their squad selection. As a result, Bet 365 are giving odds of 8/13 for the Hornets to come out on top to reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

Bet: Watford to win against Leeds United in the FA Cup fifth round this afternoon @ 8/13 with Bet 365 >>

Sat 20 February, 2016
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Arsenal 4/9 to win against Hull City in the FA Cup fifth round this afternoon

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Arsenal to win against Hull City
Odds: 4/9 @ Coral

Arsenal host Hull City in the FA Cup fifth round this afternoon, which is a repeat of the 2014 final and 2015 FA Cup third round clash. The Gunners came out on top in both meetings and are big favourites to repeat the feat today.

The winner will book their place into the quarter-finals, and with Arsene Wenger’s men having greatly improved their recent form, they are in the driving seat to progress on home soil. Arsenal endured a blip in the league a few weeks ago, but have turned things around at the perfect time.

Coming off the back of consecutive league wins, the Londoners are in great shape to reach the final eight. They have had an easier route in the competition this season, having faced Sunderland and Burnley at home prior to this afternoon’s clash at the Emirates, but nevertheless have to deliver with a result.

Hull City are no slouches, but the Tigers don’t have a good head-to-head record with Arsenal in the past. Their away form has spiraled of late too, with City having lost four and drawn one of their previous eight league games on the road. As a result, Coral are giving odds of 4/9 for Arsenal to come out on top.

Bet: Arsenal to win against Hull City in the FA Cup fifth round this afternoon @ 4/9 with Coral >>

Sat 20 February, 2016
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Carrick desperate to avoid another humiliation

Michael Carrick stressed Manchester United cannot afford a repeat of their Europa League performance if they are to see off Shrewsbury Town in Monday’s FA Cup encounter.

United were surprisingly beaten 2-1at Midtjylland in Denmark as their disappointing season continued in the first leg of the Europa League last 32.

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And Carrick is desperate to avoid another upset next week as he targets a quarter-final berth in the FA Cup.

“Monday is a different game but we do need to be so much better than in Denmark. We know what to expect, it’s going to be tough,” Carrick was quoted as saying by The Sun.

“The game in Denmark has shown if you are not anywhere near your best you can slip up and we need to be ready for that. Football’s a funny old game and it throws up different things.

“It’s good that it’s coming round quickly. We have to pick ourselves up and go again, there is no other way.

“Hopefully, we can get back to rewarding the fans, starting on Monday. Next week will be another day, another game, and we need to be better.

“We can’t perform like that and expect to win games. We’ve got to be better irrespective of the opposition, so we will be better and looking to go through.”

Sat 20 February, 2016
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Carrick desperate to avoid another humiliation

Michael Carrick stressed Manchester United cannot afford a repeat of their Europa League performance if they are to see off Shrewsbury Town in Monday’s FA Cup encounter.

United were surprisingly beaten 2-1at Midtjylland in Denmark as their disappointing season continued in the first leg of the Europa League last 32.

And Carrick is desperate to avoid another upset next week as he targets a quarter-final berth in the FA Cup.

“Monday is a different game but we do need to be so much better than in Denmark. We know what to expect, it’s going to be tough,” Carrick was quoted as saying by The Sun.

“The game in Denmark has shown if you are not anywhere near your best you can slip up and we need to be ready for that. Football’s a funny old game and it throws up different things.

“It’s good that it’s coming round quickly. We have to pick ourselves up and go again, there is no other way.

“Hopefully, we can get back to rewarding the fans, starting on Monday. Next week will be another day, another game, and we need to be better.

“We can’t perform like that and expect to win games. We’ve got to be better irrespective of the opposition, so we will be better and looking to go through.”

Sat 20 February, 2016
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Blackburn Rovers v West Ham: Bilic to name strongest XI despite injury concerns

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic has no intention of fielding a weakened side in Sunday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie at Blackburn Rovers despite having several injury concerns.

The Hammers are looking to reach the quarter-final of the world’s oldest cup competition for the first time since 2010-11 and a trip to the Championship side presents a great opportunity to make the last eight.

Bilic has enjoyed a fine debut campaign in the West Ham hot seat and they are just seven points adrift of the Premier League’s top four with 12 matches remaining.

With West Ham going well in the league, the Croatian may have been tempted to rest several of his stars at Ewood Park – particularly given he is shorn of the likes of Andy Carroll (adductor), Enner Valencia (ankle), James Tomkins (calf), Winston Reid and Joey O’Brien (both hamstring) to injury.

But Bilic intends to put out his best XI in a competition he considers the greatest in the world.

“We don’t need to rest players, we will play our strongest team because it is an important game and we want to win,” he said.

“Blackburn are a huge club. When I played, they were massive in England and that wasn’t so long ago. It will be a massive test for us.

“And the FA Cup should remain as the greatest cup competition, it is fantastic. We should do whatever necessary to keep it special.”

West Ham midfielder Pedro Obiang added: “I have not had the chance to play at Wembley and have only seen it on television so I would love the chance to play there.

“I came to England with the Spain Under-18 team but didn’t get the chance to play there. We all travelled to London but unfortunately I didn’t play.”

Blackburn have found the going tough in the second tier this season and Paul Lambert’s side are 18th – just eight points above the drop zone.

Goals have been the biggest problem for the Lancashire club and their return of 28 represents the third-lowest in the Championship.

A 3-0 win over Fulham last time out has lifted the mood, though, and defender Shane Duffy says Blackburn – who beat Swansea City and Stoke City in last season’s competition – can take confidence into the West Ham clash.

“They are a good team but this is the FA Cup, we’ve got a bit of confidence after the win over Fulham and we can go and take it out there to show West Ham how good we are,” he told the club’s official website.

Fri 19 February, 2016
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Prediction: Tottenham vs Crystal Palace

Premier League title contenders continue to impress on all fronts and having edged closer to the Europa League last 16 stage, they now aim to secure progress to the FA Cup quarter-finals. Standing between Spurs and that objective will be Crystal Palace, a side that struggle in the Premiership, but have so far enjoyed a successful Cup campaign.

Tottenham

Tottenham Hotspur were in danger of earning the perennial underachievers tag having repeatedly failed to realise pre-season ambitions after the club had invested considerable amounts of money into the playing squad. There was nothing to suggest that this season would be any different, but things slowly fell into place and Spurs went on to exceed expectations for the first time in quite a while. Up until few weeks ago, they were not even mentioned in the same breath with the title contenders, but five Premier League wins later and Tottenham sit in second, mere two points behind leaders Leicester City. It was the 2-1 triumph over Man City at Etihad Stadium that proved team’s title ambitions, while the 1-1 draw at Fiorentina in Europe League, achieved with an under-strength side, suggested Spurs could challenge for other trophies as well. With Mauricio Pochettino now widely expected to revert to his strongest side and his key men brimming with confidence, struggling Crystal Palace clearly have nothing to hope for ahead of the trip to White Hart Lane.

Team News

The likes of Harry Kane, Eric Dier, Moussa Dembele and Kyle Walker will all be recalled to the side after they were rested in midweek.

Key defender Jan Vertonghen has moved to reveal that he expects to return in six weeks, while Hugo Lloris and Clinton N’Jie miss out as well.

Crystal Palace

The FA Cup clash against Tottenham will mark the return of controversial striker Emmanuel Adebayor to White Hart Lane, with the Togolese forward making it clear he would celebrate a goal if he scored on Sunday afternoon. However, Crystal Palace are in no position to threaten anyone as they are going through a very rough patch at the moment. The Eagles are on the verge of slipping into the danger zone having failed to win any of their last nine Premier League fixtures (D3 L6), taking just one point from last seven. And while they did well to record narrow wins over Southampton and Stoke in the FA Cup, it is highly unlikely they will extend the run at White Hart Lane. With next week’s clash against relegation rivals West Bromwich of great importance, manager Alan Pardew could decide to rest some of his star players in North London, and it is no as if he has such a big squad, especially now that quite a few first team regulars are on the sidelines.

Team News

Alan Pardew has moved to confirm that Yannick Bolasie and Bakary Sako are unlikely to be risked in the Tottenham clash, and they are expected to return next weekend.

Meanwhile, Jason Puncheon, Joe Ledley, Kwesi Appiah and James McArthur all remain in the treatment room, whilst Pape Souare is banned.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Spurs have won four of last six matches vs Crystal Palace (D1 L1)
  • Palace scored just once on their last four visits to the Lane (D1 L3)
  • Tottenham won both Premier League fixtures against Eagles this term
  • Crystal Palace suffered six defeats in last seven EPL matches
  • Tottenham have seven wins in last eight games on all fronts

Conclusion

Tottenham Hotspur have been in tremendous form of late and with several key men set to return, they can be trusted to extend the impressive run. Meanwhile, Crystal Palace are completely out of confidence after losing six of last seven Premier League fixtures and taking also into account that a host of first team regulars are out of contention, a comfortable home win appears on the cards.

Verdict: Home win

Best Odds: 7/10

Bookmaker: William Hill

Fri 19 February, 2016
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Prediction: Watford vs Leeds

Premier League high flyers Watford now have a chance to secure their place in the final stages of the FA Cup, with the Hornets again pitted against a Championship side. Leeds United have failed to impress in the league campaign, but they hope the good FA Cup run will provide a much needed boost ahead of the new season.

Watford

This season has proved a major success for Watford Football Club, who were predicted a difficult relegation tussle only to find themselves in the top half of the standings after two thirds of the Premier League campaign. The Hornets enjoyed a bright start and never looked back, with the attacking partnership of Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney thriving in England’s elite competition. And while the Premiership survival is already secured, Watford are now shifting their focus towards the FA Cup, a competition they came close to winning in 1984, losing to Everton in the final at Wembley. Manager Quique Sanchez Flores wants his side to emulate one of the most successful teams in the club’s history, and with struggling Leeds United next, the Hornets look a good bet to make it to the last eight. The Vicarage Road outfit enjoyed 1-0 wins over Newcastle United and Nottingham Forest in rounds three and four, and they seem they can record another victory without conceding.

Team News

Jose Manuel Jurado (calf) and Miguel Britos (dead leg) are both rated doubtful, but Quique Sanchez Flores hopes to have them both available for selection.

Meanwhile, Joel Ekstrand and Tommie Hoban remain sidelined through hamstring and groin injuries respectively, and they have yet to play this season.

Leeds

One of England’s most famous clubs have been on a major downtrend of late and this season is proving quite difficult as well. The Whites have utterly failed to mount a serious promotion challenge as they now sit 14 points behind the play-off positions, so the only comfort is that they will not have to worry about survival, boasting an 11-point cushion between themselves and the bottom three. With that in mind, we can safely say that the FA Cup campaign has been the sole reason for joy this term, as Leeds United defeated the likes of Rotheram United and Bolton Wanderers to reach round five. But, having failed to score a single goal in two game since beating the Trotters at Reebok Stadium, the Whites clearly face an uphill task against in-form Watford, who seem very motivated to reach the final stages of the competition. And considering that Leeds lost last three meetings against the Hornets, conceding 10 goals in the process, the trend looks likely to continue.

Team News

Leeds United manager Steve Evans has suggested that star striker Chris Wood is a major doubt for the Watford clash as he battles a hamstring problem.

Full-back Gaetano Berardi also faces a fitness test, while the boss has hinted he will make a number of changes to the side that shared spoils with Middlesbrough.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Watford won last three meetings between the two sides
  • Over 2.5 goals were scored in each of last six games between Watford and Leeds
  • The Hornets kept eight clean sheets in fourteen home games this term
  • Leeds scored in five of last six away fixtures
  • Watford reached the FA Cup final in 1984

Conclusion

Watford are showing no signs of slowing down and with Quique Sanchez Flores expected to field a strong side in Saturday’s clash, we are backing the Hornets to make it to the quarter-finals. Leeds United have been largely disappointing this term and considering that their top scorer Chris Wood is far from the desired level of fitness, we believe they will record fourth straight loss in meetings with Watford.

Verdict: Home win

Best Odds: 13/20

Bookmaker: William Hill

Fri 19 February, 2016
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Adebayor: I will celebrate if I score against Tottenham

Crystal Palace striker Emmanuel Adebayor insisted he would have no problem celebrating a goal against former club Tottenham in their FA Cup fifth-round tie on Sunday.

Adebayor will return to White Hart Lane for the first time since he was released by Tottenham in September last year after falling out with the club. 

However, despite spending over four seasons with Tottenham, the 31-year-old said he would not think twice about celebrating against his ex-club.

“I play football, why am I not going to celebrate against Tottenham?” Adebayor said. “Today I don’t play for Tottenham. 

“Scoring goals is what I do best in my career. If I score against Tottenham, trust me, I’m going to celebrate. 

“If I’m on the pitch and I score and I’m not going to celebrate I would rather tell the manager I’m not going to play because what is the point of scoring goals and not celebrating?

“For me, apart from having my baby, the best thing is whenever I score my next goal. So if I score against Tottenham, I don’t know why I shouldn’t celebrate.

“I had my good times at Tottenham and I had my bad moment. Today they are having a good time as a club, I’m very happy for them, but I’m going there to play against them.”

Adebayor also took a shot at Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy for making his exit at the club “complicated”. 

“With the club itself, it wasn’t a good relationship with the chairman, Daniel Levy, as he made everything complicated,” Adebayor added. 

“But at the end of the day, I know where I am from and if you want something, you have to stand strong for it, and I stand strong for what I think.

“My relationship with [Mauricio] Pochettino was beautiful. I think we have a very, very good relationship with man-to-man conversations. We always talk and he told me at the time: ‘Emmanuel, I can’t count on you anymore,’ and I understood that. 

“I realised my time at Tottenham was over and I moved on.”

Fri 19 February, 2016
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Reading v West Brom: McDermott out to shock Premier League strugglers

Reading manager Brian McDermott maintains Saturday’s opponents West Brom represent a sizeable hurdle to their hopes of another strong FA Cup run, despite the visitors’ unconvincing form of late.

Tony Pulis’ men required replays to get past Bristol City and Peterborough United and set up a fifth-round tie at the Madejski Stadium, having taken just five points from their last five Premier League outings.

A Salomon Rondon winner was enough to claim maximum points against Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday – a result that eased growing concerns over slipping into the relegation mire.

West Brom are unbeaten in seven FA Cup games against lower-league opposition since losing to Reading in the third round five years ago, and McDermott insists his side will need to impress this weekend.

“I went to see West Brom against Peterborough and watched them against Everton. We know what we are coming up against,” said the Reading boss, who will likely be without Danny Williams and former West Brom striker Matej Vydra due to hamstring troubles.

“This is a team who have got results over a period of time and a manager who knows how to get results. Tony Pulis is someone I have really admired over the years.

“He gets good results and he has done really well as a manager. He will play to the strengths of his team.

“They’ve got two players up top in Saido Berahino and Salomon Rondon who get it into feet and they can do stuff with the ball. And Stephane Sessegnon, Chris Brunt, Darren Fletcher, Craig Gardner are all boys who have got talent.”

West Brom will need to win away at Reading for the first time since January 1995 if they are to reach the quarter-finals for the second season running at the first attempt, while Reading went one better last term with a run to the semis. 

Reading – 15th in the Championship – avoided top-flight opposition last season before bowing out to eventual winners Arsenal in the last four and will take on a West Brom side likely to be missing Gareth McAuley (hamstring).

“We want to have a memorable season and one of the ways to do that is to go as far as we can in the FA Cup,” added McDermott, who guided Reading to the quarter-finals in 2011 during a previous spell in charge.

“If we can get the result on Saturday we’re in the last eight of the FA Cup so we’re getting closer.

“Last year we got to the last four and 40,000 people turned up at Wembley and we’d love to have that opportunity again.”

Thu 18 February, 2016
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Watford v Leeds United: Flores harbours FA Cup final ambition

Quique Sanchez Flores hopes to take another step towards replicating the heroics of the Watford side that reached the FA Cup final in 1984 by beating Leeds United in Saturday’s fifth-round match.

Watford’s best performance in the competition came in the 1983-84 edition, when they ended as runners-up after a 2-0 defeat to Everton at Wembley.

Flores’ team overcame Premier League rivals Newcastle United in the third round before a slender win at Championship side Nottingham Forest.

Watford have never faced Leeds in the FA Cup but hold the advantage in their head-to-head record in all competitions, winning 10 of their 24 encounters in all competitions compared to seven victories for Leeds.

The Spanish coach wants a shift in focus from his team as they look to make the final for the first time in 22 years.

“The league is our main priority, of course, and we are really close, but now we are able to change the mentality when we are going to play in the FA Cup,” said Flores.

“Our focus this week is on the FA Cup, we are playing at home with our fans, so we accept the responsibility to try and win this match.

“We respect this competition and, of course, we would like to repeat the experience this club had in 1984 when they played in the final against Everton.”

Watford have been a surprise package in the Premier League this season and sit comfortably in ninth position after 26 matches.

Although Leeds are languishing in the bottom half of the Championship, Flores anticipates a challenge of top-flight calibre at Vicarage Road.

“I was analysing the Middlesbrough game [a 0-0 draw] and their other matches with our staff, and they have a good team,” he added.

“They play in the way that other Premier League teams play – with power, they try to play football, they have three players in the middle who play well – so we need to think well about this match.”

Leeds manager Steve Evans acknowledged his team face a difficult challenge against Watford, but expects a top performance from his side.

“We are taking on the second biggest success story of the Premier League this season,” he said.

“We have been working hard on a plan. This isn’t a league game, there’s no coming back. If you are average on the day, you’re out.”

Watford have concerns over the fitness of Miguel Britos (dead leg) and Jose Manuel Jurado (calf), while Joel Ekstrand (hamstring) and Tom Hoban (groin) remain sidelined.

Chris Wood is expected to miss out for Leeds due to a virus, but Gaetano Berardi could be in line for a first start since November.

Thu 18 February, 2016
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Prediction: Bournemouth vs Everton

The first of three all-Premier League ties in the FA Cup fifth round will see relegation strugglers AFC Bournemouth take on underperforming Everton at the Vitality Stadium in Dorset. And while both sides should be more concerned with their league campaign, they can be trusted to try and secure progress to the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth have gotten used to defying the odds as they first clinched the Championship title last season before overcoming a difficult start to the Premier League campaign to move away from the relegation zone. There is still a lot of work ahead of the Cherries, but had someone offered them a four-point cushion between themselves and the bottom three with 12 games to go, they would have grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Talented manager Eddie Howe was very unfortunate to have both Callum Wilson and Max Gradel pick up serious injuries in the opening exchanges, but January recruit Benik Afobe has helped the team kick-start their season. The good run of results eventually came to an end as the Cherries suffered back to back defeats to Arsenal and Stoke at their Vitality Stadium, and with the manager expected to rest some first team regulars in the FA Cup clash against Everton, we would not be surprised if they make it three home defeats on the bounce.

Team News

The hosts have no fresh selection worries, but there will be changes to the side, with Sylvain Distin, Juan Iturbe, Lewis Grabban and Matt Ritchie all expected to start.

Everton

Having failed to meet the expectations last term and with his side experiencing problems this season as well, Roberto Martinez is clearly under pressure and he is not in a position to take any game lightly. The home loss to West Bromwich came at a bad time as the Toffees had notched up three 3-0 wins in a row, and they would have climbed to eighth had they defeated the Baggies at Goodison Park. Nevertheless, Everton have got a perfect opportunity to not only return to winning ways but also remain in the hunt for the FA Cup trophy, and this is why the manager is expected to field a strong side at Vitality Stadium. Martinez will use the opportunity to make several changes to the side, but that is unlikely to damage his side’s chances of progressing to the next stage. The Toffees came incredibly close to winning at Bournemouth in the Premier League encounter, but eventually had to settle for a 3-3 stalemate as Junior Stanislas scored in the eighth minute of injury time.

Team News

Roberto Martinez has confirmed that John Stones has recovered from a hamstring injury, while January recruit Omar Niasse is expected to make his debut.

Key Factors to Consider

  • The two sides shared spoils in their only meeting so far
  • Bournemouth have lost three of last four home games
  • Both teams scored in six of their last eight home fixtures
  • Everton recorded a 3-0 win in each of their last two away matches
  • The Toffees suffered two defeat on the road this term (W8 D7)

Conclusion

AFC Bournemouth have struggled for form of late and they seem to have more important things on their mind at the moment. Meanwhile, Everton have been quite impressive on the road and it would appear as though they want this win more than the opposition. We, therefore, believe the Toffees will make it to the quarter-final.

Verdict: Away win

Best Odds: 5/4

Bookmaker: bet365

Thu 18 February, 2016
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AFC Bournemouth v Everton: League collapse not on Martinez´s mind ahead of FA Cup showdown

Roberto Martinez insists Everton will not think about avenging their late Premier League collapse against AFC Bournemouth when the two go head-to-head in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday.

Eddie Howe’s side played out a thrilling 3-3 draw with Everton in November, with Junior Stanislas scoring a 98th-minute equaliser after Bournemouth had battled back from 2-0 down in the final few minutes.

Late goals have cost the Merseysiders against Chelsea and Stoke City in the Premier League since then, but their FA Cup form has looked far more comfortable, with wins against Dagenham and Redbridge and Carlisle United coming with little threat of an upset.

And Martinez wants his players to focus fully on securing a spot in the sixth round on Saturday, rather than become distracted by memories of their capitulation on their last visit to the Vitality Stadium.

“We didn’t take advantage of our two-goal lead,” Martinez said. “From that point of view, we all recognise Bournemouth are an attacking side, they’ll always score goals.

“We learned what happened there but the FA Cup is its own tournament. Even though we’re both Premier League sides, I think it will be a completely different scenario and it’s important we adapt to those 90 minutes quickly.”

Martinez has declared John Stones fit in what will prove a boost to his inconsistent defence, though Muhamed Besic (hamstring) is struggling and new signing Oumar Niasse will likely have to wait for his debut a little longer after undergoing minor wrist surgery. Joel Robles, who has only conceded once in his last four appearances, will continue in goal.

Eyebrows were raised when Martin Atkinson was named referee for the game after Martinez slammed his failure to spot that the ball had gone out of play in the build-up to Kevin De Bruyne’s goal in their League Cup semi-final loss to Manchester City, but the Everton boss dismissed any concerns over his appointment and described as “one of the best” in the country.

For Bournemouth, who were put out of the League Cup by Everton’s city rivals Liverpool, Saturday’s game represents a welcome reprieve from their Premier League survival push
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after three consecutive defeats in the top flight.

Simon Francis has embraced his side’s underdog status so far this term and is eager to spring another surprise by knocking a top-flight club out of the FA Cup for the first time since 1984.

“I think before the season started a lot of people were writing us off, tipping us to be relegated and saying we were too small a club to be in the Premier League and we welcome that,” he told the Bournemouth Echo.

“That’s what we’re all about as a club. We’ve always faced up to people outside who said we weren’t good enough or big enough.”

Everton won the previous FA Cup clash between the teams 5-0, way back in January 1937. They are yet to be beaten by Bournemouth in any competitive match.

Thu 18 February, 2016
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