FA Cup


Prediction: Manchester City vs Chelsea

The FA Cup fifth round clash will be a perfect opportunity for Manchester City to get revenge on Chelsea for the Premier League defeat at Etihad, although the protagonists are unlikely to be the same with both managers looking to ring changes to the starting line-up for one reason or another.

This game clearly comes at a bad time for Manchester City, even if Manuel Pellegrini’s players managed to get some rest with their weekend’s clash against Sunderland having been postponed. The Citizens have just suffered two major setbacks in the Premier League title race, losing to Chelsea at home and only mustering a goalless draw at Norwich, thus slipping to their in the overall standings. They are also without important players Aguero and Fernandinho, whilst Samir Nasri has yet to return from a knee problem. And to cap it all off, they are set to contest the Champions League clash against Barcelona just three days later, so no wonder Manuel Pellegrini has hinted he will field an under strength side in the FA Cup match with Chelsea. Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott and even Jack Rodwell are expected to start, with quite a few regular starters set to be rested. Samir Nasri and Javi Garcia are not fully fit but they could play a part. Manuel Pellegrini will be torn between the desire to exact revenge on the Blues and the need to rest key players ahead of the Barcelona game, but the latter looks likely to prevail.

Chelsea, too, suffered an unexpected slip-up this weekend as they failed to defeat out-of-sorts West Bromwich at the Hawthorns having conceded a late equalizer, but they have a lot more reason for optimism than their next opponents. The Blues climbed to the Premiership summit thanks to back to back triumphs over City and Newcastle, and remained there in spite of the weekend’s setback. And the fact they do not have a midweek game could give them an extra edge in the FA Cup tie against Manchester City. Nevertheless, with quite a few players carrying knocks and others in need of rest, chances are that Jose Mourinho will also use the match to rest some of his starters. The visitors have problems at the back as both John Terry and Gary Cahill are injury doubts, which should see Ivanovic and Luiz form a centre-back pairing. Torres, Mikel, Salah, Schurrle, Lampard and Cole are all expected to start, with Jose Mourinho likely to adopt the same counter-attacking approach that helped his side record a crucial Premiership victory some 12 days ago.

Conclusion

As much as the hosts would like to get one over Chelsea, Manuel Pellegrini has no choice but to field a second string line-up with a view to Champions League encounter against Barcelona. Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho is expected to ring changes as well, but with no games for them in midweek, the Blues can give their best at Etihad, which should ultimately prove the difference.

Verdict: Chelsea not to lose

Best Odds: 7/10

Bookmaker: bet365

Fri 14 February, 2014
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Solskjaer refuses to be drawn on Mackay row

Cardiff City manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he has no interest in becoming embroiled in the club’s spat with former boss Malky Mackay.

Mackay parted company with the Welsh outfit in December, amid reports of a falling out with owner Vincent Tan, and Solskaer subsequently took the reins at the Cardiff City Stadium.

One of the disagreements was thought to revolve around the club’s business in the transfer market, with Cardiff releasing a statement on Thursday where chief executive Simon Lim claimed Mackay and former head of recruitment Iain Moody were guilty of “imprudent and careless management”.

The deal to bring Andreas Cornelius from FC Copenhagen for a club-record fee was pinpointed as a particular failure, with the striker returning to his former club last month after failing to score in 10 appearances for Cardiff.

The League Manager’s Association then waded into to the issue by defending Mackay, claiming Lim’s words were “inappropriate and unprofessional”.

While criticising Mackay’s movements in the transfer market, Lim praised the work done by Solskjaer in the January window, but the Norwegian refused to offer an opinion on his predecessor’s situation.

“It is early doors for me and it is encouraging they (the board) are happy with what I have done but what happened in the past is not for me,” he said.

“It guides what resources they give me and what remit I have. I’m just running the club as I would like to.

“It’s not got anything to do with me, what happened before. I am just focused on my team because the January window was chaotic.”

Cardiff continue their season with an FA Cup fifth-round tie against holders Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

After winning the competition last season, Wigan went on to be relegated from the Premier League – and Solskjaer is determined to avoid a similar fate.

“They proved last season what the FA Cup was all about, a chance for smaller clubs to win trophies,” he added.

“I would like to go one better than they did and win the cup and stay up, but in any way, shape or form, if you play in a cup game you want to win it.

“It’s a chance for some players to come in and show they should be playing in the league and I do not go into any game hoping we lose.”

Fri 14 February, 2014
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Solskjaer refuses to be drawn on Mackay row

Cardiff City manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he has no interest in becoming embroiled in the club’s spat with former boss Malky Mackay.

Mackay parted company with the Welsh outfit in December, amid reports of a falling out with owner Vincent Tan, and Solskaer subsequently took the reins at the Cardiff City Stadium.

One of the disagreements was thought to revolve around the club’s business in the transfer market, with Cardiff releasing a statement on Thursday where chief executive Simon Lim claimed Mackay and former head of recruitment Iain Moody were guilty of “imprudent and careless management”.

The deal to bring Andreas Cornelius from FC Copenhagen for a club-record fee was pinpointed as a particular failure, with the striker returning to his former club last month after failing to score in 10 appearances for Cardiff.

The League Manager’s Association then waded into to the issue by defending Mackay, claiming Lim’s words were “inappropriate and unprofessional”.

While criticising Mackay’s movements in the transfer market, Lim praised the work done by Solskjaer in the January window, but the Norwegian refused to offer an opinion on his predecessor’s situation.

“It is early doors for me and it is encouraging they (the board) are happy with what I have done but what happened in the past is not for me,” he said.

“It guides what resources they give me and what remit I have. I’m just running the club as I would like to.

“It’s not got anything to do with me, what happened before. I am just focused on my team because the January window was chaotic.”

Cardiff continue their season with an FA Cup fifth-round tie against holders Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

After winning the competition la
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st season, Wigan went on to be relegated from the Premier League – and Solskjaer is determined to avoid a similar fate.

“They proved last season what the FA Cup was all about, a chance for smaller clubs to win trophies,” he added.

“I would like to go one better than they did and win the cup and stay up, but in any way, shape or form, if you play in a cup game you want to win it.

“It’s a chance for some players to come in and show they should be playing in the league and I do not go into any game hoping we lose.”

Fri 14 February, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Brighton and Hove Albion v Hull City

Brighton and Hove Albion head coach Oscar Garcia does not want his side to alter their style of play against Hull City in the FA Cup.

In what is his debut season at the Amex Stadium, Garcia has ensured the club are again challenging for a play-off place in the Championship and guided them into the FA Cup fifth round.

Victories over Reading and Port Vale booked the south-coast club a last-16 clash with Steve Bruce’s Premier League outfit and the Spaniard will hope to deliver a scalp on Monday, with Brighton having suffered exits against top-flight opposition in the last four seasons.

After defeats against Premier League sides Arsenal, Liverpool, Stoke City and Aston Villa, Brighton take on a Hull side who have enjoyed themselves on the road in the FA Cup of late.

Bruce’s men have come through two away ties this term and are yet to concede a goal, while Hull have also lost just two of their last seven away ties in the competition.

If Brighton are to reach the sixth round for the first time since 1986, Garcia believes his team must maintain their style of football.

“My philosophy is to play all the games the same whether we are on television or not. We cannot change how we play or our mentality, it would not be good if when we are on television we play with more intensity or energy,” he told the club’s official website.

“I want to play every game the same way we are already playing and not focus on whether we are on television or anything else.”

Garcia’s men are unbeaten at home this year, conceding just one goal in five games, and will likely need that defensive solidity if they are to make it a three wins from three against Hull in the competition.

Brighton won a third-round clash between the sides in 1985 and were victorious a round later in 1986, although Hull will be mindful of the opportunity to stake a realistic claim to win the FA Cup this season, given the sides to have already bowed out of the competition.

With two of Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool to exit the competition in this round, Bruce’s men could have an ideal opportunity to reach the latter stages.

Bruce may hand Sone Aluko his first start since October after recovering from an Achilles problem, while midfielder Keith Andrews could return from a hamstring problem for Brighton.

Fri 14 February, 2014
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Scocco set for Sunderland debut

Gus Poyet will give Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Scocco his Sunderland debut against Southampton in the FA cup on Saturday.

The head coach revealed that the January signing from Newell’s Old Boys will feature for as long as possible, with the Uruguayan looking to rotate his squad.

The Argentine attacker scored 24 goals in 33 league games last season in his homeland and Poyet is aiming to use the fifth-round tie to boost the 28-year-old’s fitness so that he can play a role in Sunderland’s battle against the drop.

“Nacho will play as much as he can – if it’s 45 minutes, it’s 45, if it’s 60, then 60,” Poyet told the club’s official website.

“We need to help him now and hopefully he can have a good game in terms of touches and ability. He will slowly get better.

“We’re looking to try and get Nacho ready for 10 Barclays Premier League games. That would be exceptional.”

Sunderland, 18th in the Premier League, host Southampton for a place in the FA cup quarter-finals, and face Manchester City in the League Cup final at Wembley on March 2.

Fri 14 February, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Sheffield Wednesday v Charlton Athletic

Sheffield Wednesday welcome Charlton Athletic to Hillsborough on Saturday bidding for a first FA Cup quarter-final appearance since 1997.

The Yorkshire outfit have overcome Conference side Macclesfield Town and League Two’s Rochdale to reach round five.

Next up for the three-time winners is a visit from Chris Powell’s Championship strugglers, with the sides having drawn 1-1 at The Valley in December.

Wednesday are searching for a last-eight appearance for the first time since they were defeated 2-0 by Wimbledon in March 1997.

Their recent record in the competition leaves much to be desired, with this just the club’s fourth fifth-round appearance since then.

A win on Saturday would leave Stuart Gray’s men just 90 minutes away from a first Wembley appearance since four visits in 1993.

Then managed by Trevor Francis, Wednesday suffered heartbreak against Arsenal in the League Cup final, before defeating near-rivals Sheffield United in the semi-final of the FA Cup.

However, Wednesday would go on to suffer an agonising defeat in a replay in the final, with Arsenal once again inflicting the misery through Andy Linighan’s 120th-minute winner in extra time.

Wednesday head into the fixture on the back of a 3-0 loss to Wigan Athletic, but the side will take confidence from an 11-match unbeaten run in all competitions that preceded that defeat.

Midfielder Jose Semedo will miss out against his former club after fracturing his fibula against Wigan, and his absence means Gary Gardner could make his debut after joining on a loan deal from Aston Villa, though Giles Coke is another option following the completion of a three-match ban.

Charlton – whose solitary victory in the competition came in 1947 – are seeking some welcome relief from a six-match winless league run that has seen them slip into the Championship relegation zone.

Powell has witnessed his side suffer four straight defeats in the league, including a disappointing 2-0 setback to Birmingham City at the Valley on Saturday.

Victory would see Charlton’s first foray into the quarter-finals since 2006, where the club were defeated 4-2 in a replay by Middlesbrough.

Charlton have thus far seen off challenges from Oxford United and Huddersfield Town, and have no fresh injury worries ahead of the visit to Hillsborough.

Thu 13 February, 2014
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Fonte eyeing Wembley return

Jose Fonte set his sights on reaching the FA Cup final after scoring Southampton’s winner at Hull City on Tuesday.

The south-coast club’s impressive season continued when Fonte scored the only goal of the game at the KC Stadium.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side are seventh in the Premier League table after their latest victory, just two points adrift of champions Manchester United.

Defender Fonte was in the Southampton side that beat Carlisle United in the Football League trophy final in 2010 and the centre-back is determined to return to the home of English football for the FA Cup final ahead of Saturday’s fifth round trip to Sunderland.

Fonte told the club’s official website: “We want a run in the FA Cup because it is a very special [competition] for us. We’re going to focus on that and try to win the game.

“We haven’t beaten Sunderland yet, but hopefully we will do this Saturday.

“We’re in a good situation with the league and we want to finish as high up as possible, but we want to win every game and the FA Cup is something we are looking forward to.

“It would be a dream to go to Wembley again – and win.”

Wed 12 February, 2014
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Wenger: Fixture pile up will be ´massive challenge´

Arsene Wenger admits Arsenal’s FA Cup draw against Liverpool has made a tough fixture list in the second half of the season even harder.

Arsenal will face Liverpool twice, as well as Manchester United and Bayern Munich, in the space of11 days during February, while March sees them take on Bayern, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton.

Wenger remains positive his players can cope with the pressure of such tests, but knows rotation will be vital to ensure his squad remain injury-free.

“It’s an interesting draw (against Liverpool) and a difficult one, (but) we have a little advantage by playing at home,” he said on Monday.

“There will be plenty of big games, which means whole squad needs to be highly focused.

“It is a massive challenge, but I am confident we can do that (succeed).

“It’s very important I get it right on the rotation front.”

The Frenchman received a boost ahead of Arsenal’s Premier League clash with Southampton on Tuesday, with the return of Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta and Thomas Vermaelen, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may be ready for his first start since the opening day of the season.

The league leaders travel to St Mary’s looking to record an eighth consecutive victory in all competitions, but Wenger knows doing so will be a tough ask against Mauricio Pochettino’s side.

“Everybody goes to Southampton now knowing they are in for a very difficult game,” he added.

“He (Pochettino) has done a very good job because nobody knew him when he came here.

“Southampton have done a remarkable job with their academy. The quality of their work is amazing.

“We have a doubt about Wilshere but Ramsey, Arteta and Vermaelen are back in the squad.

“He (Oxlade-Chamberlain) is not fully fit but he is getting closer. I haven’t decided whether he will start tomorrow.”

Mon 27 January, 2014
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Clough bemoans decisions after Fulham draw

Sheffield United are feeling a “sense of injustice” following their 1-1 FA Cup draw with Fulham, according to manager Nigel Clough.

League One side United, who overcame Aston Villa 2-1 in the third round, looked set for a second straight Premier League giant-killing on Sunday when striker Chris Porter gave them the lead after 31 minutes.

However, United saw captain Michael Doyle sent off for an off-the-ball altercation with Chris David early in the second half, before Fulham secured a replay through Hugo Rodallega’s 75th-minute strike.

Clough’s men had been denied a penalty prior to the equaliser, despite Aaron Hughes’ trip on Ryan Flynn – a decision that angered both Clough and his players.

“I thought it was an incredible cup tie,” Clough said.

“It was a remarkable effort by the players – especially with 10 men.

“I thought there was more contact when Ryan Flynn went down for the penalty than there was for the sending off.

“The players have come off feeling a sense of injustice.”

Sun 26 January, 2014
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Aguero refuses to set himself goal target

Sergio Aguero is refusing to set himself a goal target this season, but is determined to keep Manchester City’s quadruple hopes alive.

City appeared on the verge of a shock FA Cup fourth-round exit against Watford on Saturday, with the visitors leading 2-0 at half-time at the Etihad Stadium thanks to goals from Fernando Forestieri and Troy Deeney.

However, Aguero played a starring role in the second half as he netted a hat-trick to help City to a 4-2 win and seal progress into the fifth round as Manuel Pellegrini’s side battle for silverware in the FA Cup, Premier League, League Cup and UEFA Champions League.

The Argentina international striker now has 25 goals in all competitions this season, but is not interested in personal milestones.

He said: “The important thing is the goals contribute to the team’s victory, the team wins and we win titles.

“I don’t have any specific goals to reach – but as many as possible.

“We weren’t expecting to score four goals. We knew at half-time we needed to improve and in the end we won and we have made it to the next round. We are happy with that.

“In the first half they played really well and put a lot of pressure on us but in the second half we made fewer mistakes and we were able to get the goals. It is good we were able to come back.”

Stevan Jovetic made only his seventh appearance of the season on Saturday as he replaced Marcos Lopes in the second half. And he spoke of his delight for Aguero, Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko, all of whom are enjoying fine seasons in front of goal.

He said: “I am so happy for them. I play with them and I need to say thank you to them because we are playing so well and we are where we are in the table.

“From now I want to score also and get close to them. We have a lot of games and I hope I get my chance and I will play.

“Everything is going well, I’m very happy to be back on the pitch and to be able to help the guys.”

Sun 26 January, 2014
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Davis hits out at Osvaldo

Kelvin Davis launched a thinly veiled attack on Southampton team-mate Pablo Daniel Osvaldo after the 2-0 FA Cup win over Yeovil Town.

Osvaldo was absent from Southampton’s matchday squad at St Mary’s on Saturday, having been suspended by the club for two weeks on Thursday following a training-ground incident.

Although details of Osvaldo’s indiscretion have not been officially released, the striker is reported to have physically assaulted colleague Jose Fonte.

And on Friday evening, a picture of Fonte sporting a black eye emerged on an Instagram account purporting to belong to the defender, accompanied by the message: “Appreciate everyone’s concern and support but it takes a lot more then a bruised eye to stop me!”

While not explicitly referring to Osvaldo, Southampton club captain Davis has made it clear that team spirit must not be damaged by the actions of individuals, seemingly ruling out suggestions that the Argentinian will be welcomed back into the dressing room when his ban has been served.

Speaking after the Yeovil game, the veteran goalkeeper said: “We’ve said for a long time that we have always had a good team spirit and a good changing room.

“That can’t change and if anyone doesn’t want to be involved in that then they are not welcome.”

Davis added: “Obviously what has happened has happened.

“As a team, as a squad, as a club, we are looking forward and we are very much together.

“We showed that again today and it is something we just want to move on from.

“Our dressing room is as solid as it has ever been and it will continue to be so.”

Sat 25 January, 2014
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Prediction: Chelsea vs Stoke

25th January 2014

High-flying Chelsea will be searching for their seventh successive victory when they host Stoke City in the FA Cup fourth round despite the fact that Jose Mourinho is likely to rest his key men ahead of the Premier League clash against West Ham. The Potters, on the other hand, need to try and get their season back on track and no doubt a good performance at Stamford Bridge would be a step in the right direction.

January transfer window is proving to be a huge success for Chelsea, with one of Europe’s most sought-after players Nemanja Matic already arriving at Stamford Bridge and another set to follow in Mohamed Salah. At the same time, the Blues are set to earn reported £37 million for a player who was warming the bench this season, so they clearly have plenty of reason for optimism at the moment. On top of that, the team seem to have hit the ground running at a crucial stage of the season, with 3-1 triumph over Manchester United their sixth victory in a row in all competitions. And with the busy schedule set to continue, FA Cup match against Stoke City will be a good opportunity for Mourinho to rest some of his regular starters while also giving back-up players a chance to shine. While the purchase of Mohamed Salah is unlikely to be completed in time, January signing Nemanja Matic is expected to start, probably alongside Frank Lampard who has recovered from injury. Given that Fernando Torres is on the sidelines, Demba Ba is expected to lead the line, with Ashley Cole also tipped to start.

Mark Hughes arrived at the Britannia Stadium hoping to transform Stoke’s long-ball playing style while also ensuring the Potters keep their Premier League status, and while the first part of his task appears to have been successful, there is still a lot of work to be done is his side are to avoid the drop. Stoke had done pretty well until the hectic festive schedule began, but they have since failed to win any of their Premier League fixtures. Having only picked up one point from last five league outings, the Potters slipped to 14th in the overall standings and currently sit just four points above the bottom three. This is enough to suggest they won’t be able to fully focus on their FA Cup clash against Chelsea, even if they did well to eliminate Leicester in the previous round. Seeing as how they have already defeated the Blues this season, the Potters can take some confidence into the clash at Stamford Bridge and Mark Hughes remains adamant that he will take the game very seriously. The potential return to Asmir Begovic could provide a much needed boost, but Robert Huth and Andy Wilkinson have been ruled out.

Conclusion

Chelsea have been steadily raising their form of late and even with Mourinho set to rest some of his starters, his starting line-up should have no problems defeating out-of-sorts Stoke City, who will have one eye on Wednesday’s Premiership clash against relegation rivals Sunderland. It is for that reason that Chelsea half-time/full-time win looks a good option here.

Verdict: Chelsea/Chelsea

Best Odds: 5/8

Bookmaker: bet365

Sat 25 January, 2014
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Poyet wants to build momentum

Sunderland boss Gus Poyet has called on his side to build on their current momentum after a 1-0 FA Cup win over Kidderminster Harriers.

A fifth-minute strike from Greece winger Charis Mavrias, his first goal for the club, was sufficient to overcome the non-league battlers, who acquitted themselves well against their Premier League opponents.

Having made 10 changes from the midweek League Cup semi-final win over Manchester United, Poyet acknowledged that it was far from straightforward against a spirited Kidderminster side.

However, he was pleased with a professional performance.

“It was probably expected, but then we needed to win,” he said. “Of course, a new group of players playing together for the first time – I think they were very brave in the first 20 minutes, very, very good.”

Poyet fielded two debutants in Argentinian defender Santiago Vergini – signed on loan until the end of the season from Uruguayan club Atletico Fenix – and goalkeeper Oscar Ustari – recruited having left Almeria – and Poyet expressed satisfaction at his makeshift side’s display.

“We need to just concentrate on Oscar Ustari, Santiago (Vergini) at the back and a few players that haven’t been playing like (Modibo) Diakite or (Valentin) Roberge or Charis Mavrias – they got 90 minutes, which is great for them.

“That was most important, and of course being in the draw tomorrow.”

The Uruguayan was also quick to turn his attention to his side’s Premier League challenge, with two vital cup wins in a week providing a platform from which he hopes to build.

“If you asked me what is important for us now, it’s just to win games and to feel that we can be strong at home,” he added.

For Kidderminster, the result marked the end of their cup adventure which saw them come into the match as the lowest-ranked team still left in the competition.

Manager Andy Thorn expressed pride in his players’ performance, and is hoping that it will prove to be a boost in their bid to win promotion from the Conference.

“I’m immensely proud of my players,” he said. “I thought they were magnificent. We looked like a league club. If that’s not a springboard for our season, then I’ll be very disappointed.”

“We knew it would be really tough playing a Premier League side and, when we conceded so early, you know you’re in danger of ending up with a cricket score. But, for us to be disappointed with not coming away with a draw and getting another crack at them speaks volumes for the performance.”

Sat 25 January, 2014
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Palace defender Parr taken to hospital

Crystal Palace’s Jonathan Parr has been sent for a scan after sustaining an injury in the 2-1 FA Cup loss to Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

The defender, who recently returned to action after a five-month spell on the sidelines with ankle ligament damage, was carried off with an apparent neck injury at the end of the first half following a lengthy stoppage.

Palace do not yet know the exact nature of the problem, but manager Tony Pulis confirmed that the Norway international had been taken to hospital for further examination.

“He (Parr) has gone to hospital for a scan,” Pulis said. “We need to look at the incident again, but it looks like the (Watford player) has caught him. It will be interesting to see it again on the cameras.

“We think the injury was caused by the impact. I’m not sure whether it is his jaw or his neck at the moment.”

A late goal from James McClean condemned Palace to defeat in the fourth-round clash, the former Sunderland winger scoring his first goal for Wigan after Palace striker Aaron Wilbraham had cancelled out Ben Watson’s opener.

Pulis was quick to voice his dismay at the result.

“We’re disappointed not to get something out of the game,” he added. “We came to have a go and tried to win the game.

“When you play in cup ties you need certain decisions to go your way. One or two decisions didn’t go our way but that is what happens.”

Sat 25 January, 2014
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Perez acknowledges Yeovil effort

Southampton assistant manager Jesus Perez conceded that the top-flight side were made to work by Yeovil Town before sealing FA Cup progress.

Landmark goals from Guly do Prado and 18-year-old substitute Sam Gallagher secured a 2-0 win at St Mary’s that booked Southampton’s place in the fifth round.

Guly converted a penalty midway through the first half to score for the first time since January 2012, while Gallagher’s 70th-minute strike represented the young Scot’s first senior goal.

Although the Premier League side hit the woodwork twice and ultimately progressed with a degree of comfort, Championship strugglers Yeovil carved out several opportunities inside the first hour.

Perez acknowledged as much afterwards, saying: “It wasn’t an easy game. The first half was open. They had some chances to score.

“In the second half, we were much better and created lots of chances.”

Perez was also pleased to see Guly and Gallagher on the scoresheet.

Of the Brazilian, he said: “He’s been working hard. He deserved his chance and his goal.”

Gallagher also came in for praise, with Perez adding: “He’s still young and needs time, (but) he’s doing well. He scored a nice goal.”

Sat 25 January, 2014
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Liverpool will be ready for derby, says Rodgers

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists his players will be ready for Tuesday’s Merseyside derby, despite having little time to recover.

The Anfield outfit edged into the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 2-0 win at Championship side Bournemouth on Saturday, and host local rivals Everton in the Premier League next week.

But Rodgers was not tempted to field a weakened team at Dean Court.

“We have a very thin squad, and along with that we’ve got a number of injuries, but the tradition of the FA Cup for Liverpool is huge,” he said.

“We want to pay respect to the competition because we want to get to the final and win it if we can.

“The players have had enough recovery time and will recover well for Everton. They have everything there to recover.

“We go into Tuesday’s game on the back of a good win against a good Championship side.”

And the Northern Irishman was full of praise for Bournemouth and their manager Eddie Howe.

“Bournemouth are a very good side and we give credit to them first of all,” he continued. “They have a great idea when it comes to playing the game. Eddie is similar to myself in terms of his philosophy.

“They were excellent, we didn’t work hard enough in the first half, but once we re-organised at half-time we were much better.”

Martin Skrtel required treatment for a clash of heads in the second half, but Rodgers reassured fans that he would not face a spell on the sidelines.

“He had staples in his head, so he might need to grow some hair now,” he added. “He’ll be fine.”

Sat 25 January, 2014
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FA Cup: Bournemouth 0 Liverpool 2

Liverpool edged into the FA Cup fifth round with a 2-0 victory over a brave Bournemouth outfit on Saturday.

Bournemouth more than matched their Premier League visitors, particularly in the first half, but Victor Moses handed Liverpool the lead in the 26th minute with their first shot on target.

Brendan Rodgers’ side had to wait until the second half to get another effort on target and it doubled their lead – Daniel Sturridge scoring his 14th goal of the season in all competitions to break Bournemouth’s spirited resolve.

The Championship side have not made it beyond the fourth round since 1988-89, while Liverpool put memories of being dumped out at this stage by Oldham Athletic last season behind them.

Eddie Howe’s men were unchanged from their 1-1 league draw against Watford last weekend, while Rodgers made three alterations from Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with Aston Villa, bringing in Brad Jones, Moses and Martin Kelly for Simon Mignolet, Raheem Sterling and the injured Glen Johnson.

The hosts started brightly at Dean Court, and Simon Francis almost caught Jones off guard in the 13th minute when a free-kick from the left wing was carried goalwards by a coastal gust, forcing the retreating Liverpool goalkeeper to tip over his crossbar.

Liverpool’s first chance of the match came in the form of a 25th-minute Steven Gerrard free-kick, but the captain drilled his effort high and wide of the target.

However, the top-flight outfit were ahead a minute later, when Moses picked up the ball at the edge of the penalty area and drove a low effort beyond the outstretched right arm of Lee Camp and into the bottom left corner of the net.

The goal was somewhat harsh on Bournemouth, who had equipped themselves more than adequately in the opening stages, but they instantly began to push for an equaliser, with Harry Arter seeing an effort drift just wide of the target on the half-hour mark, before Andrew Surman had a 12-yard strike deflected over by Kolo Toure and Tommy Elphick headed high from the resulting corner.

Sturridge had the ball in the back of the net shortly before the break, but the linesman had flagged for an extremely marginal offside.

Bournemouth continued to press at the beginning of the second period and had cause to feel aggrieved in the 58th minute, when Kelly clearly tugged on the shirt of Francis in the Liverpool penalty area.

And their hopes were dealt a killer blow on the hour mark when Luis Suarez found Sturridge with a sublime through-ball, and the England striker made no mistake in slotting beyond Camp.

Sturridge could have made it three 12 minutes later, but his chipped effort dropped onto the top of the crossbar, and Suarez was also denied from close range late on.

Sat 25 January, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Sheffield United v Fulham

Sheffield United can heap more misery on Fulham on Sunday as the League One side seek a second consecutive FA Cup giant-killing.

Nigel Clough’s men stunned Premier League side Aston Villa in the third round, earning a 2-1 win at Villa Park thanks to goals from Jamie Murphy and Ryan Flynn.

That result has done little to boost United’s league form, though, and they sit just outside the relegation places in 20th place after winning just one of their last six.

However, the Yorkshire club face another out-of form side in Fulham, who are just a point above the drop zone in the Premier League following a 4-1 loss to Sunderland a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal.

Rene Meulensteen’s men needed a replay against Norwich last week to secure a place in the fourth round, but the Dutchman will have been pleased with his side’s performance in that clash, which ended in a comfortable 3-0 victory at Craven Cottage.

The London outfit will be expected to replicate that display against their third-tier opposition and seal a first win at Bramall Lane since 1985.

Defender Fernando Amorebieta is Fulham’s only absentee for the game, with the Venezuela international unavailable because of a knee injury.

United, by contrast, have a number of players ineligible as midfielders Elliot Whitehouse and Callum McFadzean, as well as striker Billy Paynter, all miss out.

However, Clough’s squad has been boosted by the arrivals of defender John Brayford and attacking midfielder Stefan Scougall, who joined on Friday from Cardiff City and Livingston respectively.

Former Derby boss Clough believes United can spring a second successive upset, but accepts that the odds are against them.

“There’s no reason why we can’t (cause another upset), but it will be a little more difficult this time,” Clough told the Sheffield Star.

“We’ve got to remember they’re two divisions above us and the quality they have throughout their squad of 25.”

Fri 24 January, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Chelsea v Stoke City

Chelsea have already lost to Stoke City this season and Jose Mourinho is braced for another tough test against Mark Hughes’ side on Sunday.

Oussama Assaidi’s late goal gave Stoke a dramatic 3-2 Premier League victory over the title contenders at the Britannia Stadium last month.

Chelsea have the opportunity to gain revenge for that defeat when Stoke visit this weekend for an FA Cup fourth-round tie.

However, Mourinho knows his side will have to be up for the battle if they are to progress to the last 16 of the knockout competition.

When asked what he expects from Stoke, the former Real Madrid coach said: “I say we lost against this team and it was not a long time ago.

“We lost to them one month ago. They are a difficult team. Very physical, very direct.

“They’re very strong in set pieces. I expect a very difficult match (and) that’s why I’m going to play a strong team.

“I’m not going to make big changes in the team because we’re going to try and go as far as possible in the competition.”

One player who will not feature for Chelsea is midfielder Juan Mata, who is on the verge of joining Manchester United.

Chelsea will also be without striker Fernando Torres after he suffered a knee injury in the victory over United last weekend, meaning Demba Ba is in line to start.

Frank Lampard could also return to the starting line-up after being named among the substitutes for the United game following an injury lay-off, but Marco van Ginkel (knee) remains a long-term absentee.

The London club have been in fine form in recent weeks, winning their last six games in all competitions and conceding only two goals in the process.

Stoke’s victory over Chelsea last month was their first against the Stamford Bridge outfit since 1995, when a goal from Paul Peschisolido secured a 1-0 win in the capital.

It would be a major surprise if Stoke won this weekend, as Hughes’ men have claimed just one away victory in the top flight this season, against struggling West Ham in August.

Stoke have also been beaten on each of their visits to Chelsea since gaining promotion to the top flight in 2008, scoring only one goal across five league meetings and one FA Cup tie.

Goalkeeper Asmir Begovic could return at the expense of Jack Butland after a month on the sidelines due to a broken finger.

Hughes will check on striker John Guidetti after the on-loan striker reported to training on Friday feeling unwell.

Robert Huth (knee), Matthew Etherington (calf) and Andy Wilkinson (foot) all remain sidelined.

Fri 24 January, 2014
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Begovic could make Chelsea return

Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic could make his return in Sunday’s FA Cup fourth-round clash at Chelsea.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina international has not featured since sustaining a broken finger last month, but he returned to training this week.

Jack Butland has started Stoke’s last three games in the absence of Begovic, but boss Mark Hughes revealed that his first-choice keeper could feature against Jose Mourinho’s side.

Hughes said at Friday’s press conference: “Asmir has been back involved with the group this week which has been a bonus for us, so we will see how he (is) and make a decision on who we feel we should go with.

“We will look at guys who have been out for a little while over the next 24 hours, and obviously Asmir being one of those who falls into that category.”

Stoke have suffered back-to-back Premier League defeats and Hughes admitted he has one eye on their league clash with Sunderland next Wednesday.

However, the Welshman insists there is no danger he will not take the FA Cup seriously.

“I will go into Sunday’s game with the intention of being strong, and seeing where that takes us,” he added.

“We have got to be mindful about the big game on Wednesday, but that said there is sufficient time for players to recover in time for that match too.

“It’s the FA Cup at the end of the day and we are all desperate to progress and remain in the competition for as long as possible.”

Recent loan signing John Guidetti is suffering from illness ahead of the clash with Premier League high-fliers Chelsea, but Hughes hopes the striker will be in contention.

“John unfortunately has come in today a little bit under the weather to be honest so we will have to check him tomorrow,” he continued.

“Obviously, we are hoping that he is okay for the game because it is a good opportunity for him to get a little bit of game time, but if he isn’t available then we do have other options.”

Stoke have already beaten Chelsea once this season courtesy of Oussama Assaidi’s late winner in a 3-2 victory at the Britannia Stadium last month.

Fri 24 January, 2014
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Duo set to make Sunderland debuts

Gus Poyet plans to hand debuts to new signings Santiago Vergini and Oscar Ustari in the FA Cup clash with Kidderminster Harriers.

The Argentine duo were on the substitutes bench on Wednesday night when the Wearside club beat Manchester United on penalties to reach the League Cup final.

Defender Vergini and goalkeeper Ustari joined Sunderland earlier in the week and are set to feature against non-League Kidderminster in the fourth round on Saturday.

Poyet told Sunderland’s official website: “They are going to make their debuts if everything goes alright until the game.

“It’s going to be great for them to feel the stadium, the pitch, the football and the speed in a cup tie where we are the favourites and need to win.

“It will be a good opportunity for them and also for the fans to get their first impressions.”

Poyet struggled to sleep after the high of Sunderland shoot-out success at Old Trafford and revealed he has been inundated with messages from across the globe.

He said: “The sleep was not long. It’s interesting when you play a game how many people are watching and supporting you, the club and the players.

“There are so many people behind you and you don’t realise that because you’re concentrating on the game.

“There have been people from Spain, like former team-mates, then of course good friends from Uruguay.

“There have been friends and former players in England, too, so many people really supporting us which is great.

“I have had some time to text all of them back which is the least I could do.”

Fri 24 January, 2014
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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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