FA Cup


Gabbidon: Cup run can boost survival hopes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fri 3 January, 2014
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Downing targets FA Cup success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Triumph

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

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

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

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

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

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

Positive

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

Balance

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

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

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

Tricky

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

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

Injuries

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

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

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

Chance

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

Can Roberto Martinez mastermind another FA Cup triumph?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fri 3 January, 2014
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Adebayor set to face Arsenal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thu 2 January, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Middlesbrough v Hull City

Hull City will be wary of a potential banana skin in their FA Cup third-round tie against a resurgent Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Steve Bruce’s charges have prospered after returning to the Premier League, collecting 23 points from 20 matches to sit 10th in the table.

However, Hull can expect a stern challenge from a Middlesbrough side who have looked revitalised in the last month under Aitor Karanka.

The former Real Madrid assistant manager took the reins at the Riverside Stadium in November, after Tony Mowbray had paid the price for a poor run of results in 2013.

Middlesbrough head into this weekend’s game unbeaten in four league games, having won three in a row prior to surrendering a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw with Bolton Wanderers on New Year’s Day.

Although Karanka’s men sit 15th in the Championship, they are only six points adrift of the play-off positions.

Neither Middlesbrough or Hull have won the FA Cup, although the former reached the final in 1997 before suffering a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea.

Hull make the journey to Middlesbrough having won just one of their last seven league matches.

Yet that victory proved a hugely convincing one as Fulham were thumped 6-0 at the KC Stadium last weekend.

Bruce was keen to rest players for the 2-0 defeat at Liverpool on New Year’s Day, which capped a hectic end-of-year schedule, but acknowledges he simply does not have the necessary depth in his squad.

“You ask yourself whether you could have freshened it up and made five or six changes but we’ve not got that luxury yet,” he said.

“We can’t afford to do it. Overall, the squad and their attitude is great.”

Middlesbrough and Hull last met in the FA Cup seven years ago, also at the third-round stage.

After a 1-1 draw at the KC Stadium, Middlesbrough progressed courtesy of a 4-3 triumph in the resulting replay.

Thu 2 January, 2014
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Cardiff appoint Solskjaer

Cardiff City have confirmed the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as their new manager.

Solskjaer takes over at the Welsh club from Malky Mackay, who was sacked by controversial owner Vincent Tan last month following weeks of speculation.

David Kerslake has taken charge of Cardiff’s two Premier League games since Mackay’s dismissal, guiding them to a 2-2 draw with Sunderland and a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal.

However, former Manchester United striker Solskjaer will now take the reins for Cardiff’s FA Cup tie at Newcastle United on Saturday.

The 40-year-old made his first steps into management at Norwegian side Molde, taking over in 2011 and leading them to two Norwegian Tippeligaen titles and a Norwegian Cup crown.

And he will now attempt to continue that success with the Welsh capital club by ensuring they retain their Premier League status.

Although a key factor in Mackay’s dismissal was Tan’s dismay at his pre-season spending, Solskjaer will reportedly have considerable funds to deal with in the January window.

Thu 2 January, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Norwich City v Fulham

Norwich City will have to alter recent history to progress from the third round of the FA Cup against Fulham on Saturday.

The Norfolk club have not recorded a victory over the Craven Cottage outfit since March 1986, a 2-1 league success.

The two sides have met on 13 occasions in all competitions since then, with Fulham winning 10 of those encounters.

The last of those Fulham victories came on Boxing Day when Rene Meulensteen’s men recorded a crucial three points in their fight against Premier League relegation as strikes from Pajtim Kasami and Scott Parker wiped out Gary Hooper’s opener.

Meulensteen’s side head into Saturday’s showdown at Carrow Road on the back of a morale-boosting 2-1 victory over fellow strugglers West Ham on New Year’s Day.

After falling behind to Mohamed Diame’s strike, the hosts bounced back courtesy of goals from Steve Sidwell and Dimitar Berbatov as Fulham showed great spirit in response to the humiliating 6-0 defeat at Hull City last weekend.

Fulham’s best FA Cup run came when the London club reached the 1975 final, where they lost 2-0 to West Ham, while they have failed to progress past the fourth round in the past two seasons, with a 4-1 loss to Manchester United ending their hopes last year.

Norwich’s recent history in the competition has not been favourable. City have failed to go beyond the fifth round since losing 1-0 to Sunderland at the semi-final stage in 1992 and suffered a shock 1-0 defeat to non-league Luton Town in round four in 2013.

Chris Hughton’s men have endured a blip in the last month and have failed to record a victory in their last five matches, drawing three and losing twice.

A 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace on Wednesday saw Jason Puncheon’s penalty cancel out Bradley Johnson’s opener.

Norwich will be without midfielder Leroy Fer as he serves a one-match suspension after receiving two yellow cards against Palace, while there are fitness doubts over centre-back Michael Turner (hamstring) and midfielder Jonny Howson (back).

Fulham have no fresh injury worries with goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg (ankle) and defender Brede Hangeland (leg) set to miss out.

Thu 2 January, 2014
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Former winners enter FA Cup first round

Former FA Cup winners Wolves, Coventry City and Portsmouth were given away fixtures in the first round draw on Sunday.

Forty ties will take place as team start to dream of success in the competition won by Wigan Athletic last season.

Three-time winners Wolves enter the first round for the first time since 1991-92 following their relegation to League One last season. They will travel to Boundary Park for a clash with Oldham Athletic.

The two sides faced each other in the league earlier this month, Kenny Jackett’s side coming out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from James Henry and Leigh Griffiths.

Coventry lifted the trophy in 1987 and will begin their campaign with a trip to League Two side AFC Wimbledon.

Portsmouth are the most recent winners to participate at this stage having been triumphant in 2008, and Guy Whittingham’s side will play Stevenage.

There will be an all-Lincolnshire derby at Blundell Park when Grimsby entertain Scunthorpe, while Nigel Clough’s Sheffield United face fellow League One team Colchester United.

Daventry are the lowest placed side definitely in the first round after their victory over Hartley Wintney in the fourth qualifying round. The Southern League Division One Central side have been drawn against League Two high-fliers Chesterfield.

They could be joined by Shortwood United of the Southern League Division One South and West league, who have a replay with Aldershot.

A 1-1 draw on Saturday meant Shortwood and Aldershot were in the draw and the winners will host Port Vale in the first round.

Conference South side Bishop’s Stortford’s reward for beating Forest Green Rovers was a tie with Northampton Town, while there will be an all-Southern League Premier Division clash when Biggleswade Town face Stourbridge.

FA Cup first round draw: Morecambe v Southend United, Walsall v Shrewsbury Town, Boreham Wood v Carlisle United, St Albans City v Mansfield Town, MK Dons v FC Halifax Town, Bristol Rovers v York City, Tamworth v Cheltenham Town, Grimsby Town v Scunthorpe United, Bury v Cambridge United, Corby Town v Dover Athletic, Colchester United v Sheffield United, Oxford United v Gateshead, Hartlepool United v Notts County, Chesterfield v Daventry Town, Bristol City v Dagenham & Redbridge, AFC Wimbledon v Coventry City, Preston North End v Barnet, Bishop’s Stortford v Northampton Town, Burton Albion v Hereford United, Rotherham United v Bradford City, Gillingham v Brackley Town or Barrow, Salisbury City v Ebbsfleet United or Dartford, Accrington Stanley v Tranmere Rovers, Brentford v Staines Town or Poole Town, Stevenage v Portsmouth, Shortwood United or Aldershot Town v Port Vale, Leyton Orient v Southport, Peterborough United v Exeter City, Torquay United v Rochdale, Braintree Town v Newport County, Oldham Athletic v Wolverhampton Wanderers, Worcester City or Lincoln City v Plymouth Argyle, Bradford Park Avenue or Kidderminster Harriers v Hemel Hempstead or Sutton United, Hednesford Town v Crawley Town, Stourbridge v Biggleswade Town, Welling United v Luton Town, Macclesfield Town v Swindon Town, Wycombe Wanderers v Crewe Alexandra, Gloucester City v Fleetwood Town, Wrexham v Alfreton Town.

Sun 27 October, 2013
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Capital One Cup Preview: Manchester United v. Liverpool

Manchester United will host bitter rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford in Round 3 of the Capital One Cup on Wednesday, September 25.

Manchester United will host bitter rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford in Round 3 of the Capital One Cup on Wednesday, September 25.

United and Liverpool are coming off agonizing defeats to Manchester City and Southampton, respectively, with both clubs desperate to redeem themselves in midweek.

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s Manchester derby, Wayne Rooney told reporters: “City have had their success recently, but I would probably say that United and Liverpool is still the biggest game.

“They’re all big games, but obviously United and Liverpool has been a massive game over the years. I’d say it’s still the biggest game.”

After a 4-1 defeat at the Etihad Stadium, Rooney and co. must bounce back in a big way against the Merseysiders on Wednesday.

Team News

For Liverpool, Luis Suárez is availabe for selection after serving a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic last season, while Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho has been ruled out for at least a month with a shoulder injury.

On the other side of the touchline, Phil Jones (ankle) and Rafael da Silva (hamstring) could return for the hosts. Star man Robin van Persie is doubtful due to a groin strain that kept him out of the derby match against City on Sunday.

Manager Quotes

When asked if he would start Luis Suárez at Old Trafford, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers said: “It will be something to consider. I won’t say [strikers] miss it more, but they miss it in a different way. Suarez loves the game and if he doesn’t play the game, it kills him.

“The integral part of it all is the game. That’s what he is. And if you put him in that environment where he’s smelling the smelling salts and the changing room, it can be counterproductive, so we’re going to keep him out of the way.”

Luis Suárez is 6/1 to score first on Wednesday night.

Match Facts

United are 6-1-3 in their last 10 matches against Liverpool in all competitions, including a 1-0 defeat to the Merseysiders at Anfield earlier this month.

Daniel Sturridge has scored three goals in his last four appearances against Manchester United. Subsequently, the England international is 11/4 to score anytime against the Red Devils in midweek.

Mexico international striker Javier “El Chicharito” Hernández has bagged two goals and one assist in five League Cup appearances for United since the start of 2010/11.

Betting Odds

Manchester United (21/20); Liverpool (5/2); Draw (5/2)

Match Prediction

Manchester United 2 – Liverpool 0 (10/1)

Sun 22 September, 2013
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Kone happy to be reunited with Martinez

New Everton signing Arouna Kone is looking forward to playing for manager Roberto Martinez again at Goodison Park.

The Ivorian forward followed the Spaniard from Wigan to Everton on Monday for a reported fee of £6.5 million, signing a three-year deal.

Kone moved to Wigan from Levante last year and scored 13 goals in 38 appearances in his first season of English football, but it was not enough to stop the club dropping into the Championship.

“I feel delighted. I’m really happy about joining this team,” he said.

“For me it is the fruition of work that has been going on for a month now. I’m really pleased to be here and I hope that everything goes well and I can have a great season for the club, just like I did last year with Wigan.

“It’s an honour to be back working with the manager once again. Last season he really helped me a lot.

“For my first season I did the absolute best I could, but I think that joining up with him (Martinez) at this club is like another dimension for me and I hope that I’m going to continue to improve alongside him.

“We’ll keep working hard to try and help the club achieve all of its goals.”

A major goal for Everton in the upcoming season will be winning a first major trophy since their 1995 FA Cup success.

Kone helped Wigan to victory in the same competition earlier this year, scoring two goals in the lead-up to the final, in which they beat Manchester City.

And he is confident about Everton’s hopes this season, and his ability to fire the Merseyside club to silverware.

“I’m really eager to do my best to try and win something again this season,” Kone said.

“I really believe in this team and I think we will have a great campaign next season. I can’t wait to make my debut for this club.

“I think that with the quality of squad Everton has, we will have a good season. I hope to score as many goals as I can next season.”

Tue 9 July, 2013
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Akinfenwa impressed by Gillingham ambition

Adebayo Akinfenwa has revealed that the ambition of Gillingham convinced him to rejoin the club.

Akinfenwa signed for the League One side for a second time on a free transfer from Northampton earlier in the month.

The 31-year-old played 45 minutes in Martin Allen’s side’s 3-0 pre-season opener over non-league Bromley, and admitted that the progress the club has made was a key factor in his decision.

“It’s moved on – I knew that from speaking to the gaffer, it’s always been an ambitious club but its being put in to actions now.

“The players are a very good standard and the gaffer is meticulous in everything he does so it looks like its moving in the direction it wants to go.

“I kept an eye on it and enjoyed my time immensely the first time around so it was an easy decision to come back and you always keep an eye on places that you leave where you enjoyed.

“It’s a squad game and I know what I can bring to the team and as long as I’m putting in my performances and helping the youngsters on I’ll be happy with that.”

Sun 7 July, 2013
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Jarvis wants silverware at West Ham

West Ham United midfielder Matt Jarvis has revealed that Wigan’s FA Cup win has inspired them to seek their own silverware.

The Premier League club returned to the top flight last season and finished in 10th place, but have not secured any trophies since 1999 when they picked up the Intertoto Cup.

And Jarvis, who arrived at Upton Park from Wolves in 2012, has insisted that Wigan’s surprise victory last year has whet his desire for glory.

“What Wigan did in beating Manchester City to lift the FA Cup has made clubs like us realise it can be done now – that trophies are not the preserve of the so-called big boys,” he said.

“Our first aim will be to go on a winning spree in the Premier League so that when the cup competitions come around, we’ll be able to hit the ground running.

“We have ambitious players here. There isn’t one of us who does not want to win a trophy.”

The East London club will be buoyed in their pursuit of success by the addition of England international Andy Carroll, who made his loan deal from Liverpool permanent last month.

Sun 7 July, 2013
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Chesterfield rave over Roberts signing

Gary Roberts has been hailed as the Football League’s best left winger after joining Chesterfield on Saturday.

The 29-year-old has signed a three-year deal with the League Two club following his release by Swindon after one season at the County Ground.

Roberts has amassed over 300 appearances during spells with clubs such as Huddersfield and Accrington, playing alongside Chesterfield manager Paul Cook at the latter.

Chesterfield chief executive Chris Turner believes the signing of Roberts represents a coup for a club hoping to bounce back from the disappointment of narrowly missing out on a play-off place last season.

Turner told the club’s official website: “Gary is a quality signing – I don’t think there’s anybody outside the Premiership who’s better on the left wing.

“The left-hand side has been unbalanced for a long time and the addition of Gary will further strengthen the firepower as he creates and scores goals.

“Paul Cook has patiently waited for the deal to be done as he was very keen to bring Gary in. Chairman Dave Allen has provided some great support to ensure the conclusion of the deal.”

Sat 22 June, 2013
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FA Cup final given end-of-season billing

The FA Cup final will be restored as the closing fixture of the English domestic league season next term.

The showpiece match will take place at Wembley on May 17, one week after the climax of the Premier League season.

It marks a return to tradition for the world’s oldest knockoput competition and will be the first time since 2010 that the cup final has taken the end-of-season slot.

The 2013 final took place when eventual winners Wigan still had two league games to play and despite securing their first major piece of silverware with a shock victory over Manchester City, the club went on to be relegated.

Manchester City’s cup triumph in 2011, when they beat Stoke City 1-0, was overshadowed somewhat by their bitter rivals Manchester United having secured their record-breaking 19th top-flight title with a 1-1 draw against Blackburn Rovers earlier that day.

The FA Cup first took place in 1871-72 and the most recent edition of the competition involved 758 clubs.

Wed 19 June, 2013
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Roberto Martinez finally appointed as Everton boss

Roberto Martinez is the new Everton boss

Roberto Martinez has been appointed as the new Everton boss

Just like Jose Mourinho returning to Chelsea, Roberto Martinez arriving at Everton was a secret that nobody seemed to be able to keep.

Ever since Martinez told Wigan that he was leaving it was almost inevitable that he would be the next Everton boss.

Four-year contract

The Spaniard signed a four-year contract with the Toffee’s earlier today to succeed David Moyes as Everton boss.

Martinez has left Wigan after four years in charge at the DW Stadium, where he spent most of his time attempting to keep the Latics in the top flight.

This season Martinez’s team were relegated, but claimed a surprise 1-0 FA Cup final triumph against Manchester City.

It is hard to judge whether Martinez was a success at Wigan or not considering their contrasting fortunes last season.

Split

Everton Chairman Bill Kenwright said he would listen to the fans on the appointment of the clubs new boss. However, the appointment of Roberto Martinez has split opinion amongst the Evertonian’s.

Many Everton fans were in favour of the club appointing Porto boss Vitor Pereira, who has claimed consecutive league titles in his homeland. However, it seems that after interviewing a number of candidates Kenwright, including Pereira, decided that Martinez was the best candidate for the job.

Martinez’s appointment has been met by negativity from a host of Evertonian’s, but the doubters need to give the Spaniard a chance to prove himself. Some fans are already writing Martinez off and he has only just been appointed.

Wigan’s relegation and a poor win ratio in Lancashire have persuaded some Everton fans that Martinez is not the right man to move the club forward.

Highly-rated

Despite Wigan’s relegation, Roberto Martinez is regarded as one of the most highly-rated young bosses in the English game. He is thought of as one of the more forward thinking bosses in Europe, one of the games thinkers.

Style

One of the reasons that Martinez is considered so highly-rated is his philosophy on football. The 39-year-old has stuck with his passing style of football throughout his short career as a boss, even when the situation looked desperate for Wigan at times.

Unfortunately, Wigan was relegated while playing football last season. Martinez was very unlucky in the fact that he had a host of injuries to key defenders last season, which was a massive contributing factor to the Latics being relegated.

Wigan under Martinez conceded far more goals than Everton did under David Moyes in the last four years. The Toffee’s under Moyes were hard to beat and ironically, their style of play only improved towards the end of the Scot’s reign.

The number of goals that Wigan conceded under Martinez is a major concern for Everton fans. However, Everton have far superior defenders to Wigan. The backline of Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin and Seamus Coleman is a very solid one.

The quarter is not all of a sudden going to become bad players just because Martinez has come in as manager. A change of formation may take some time for the Everton players to become accustomed to, but the Toffees players are intelligent enough to adapt.

Transfer market

Roberto Martinez has done some sterling work in the transfer market at Wigan, working on a shoestring budget, which will prepare him for Everton. The Spaniard will have to do the job on a small budget, although the Everton wage budget will be slightly higher than Wigan’s.

While at the Wigan, Martinez brought in the likes of Arouna Kone, James McCarthy and Shaun Maloney, who have all been big successes at the DW Stadium. All three are already being linked with a move to Goodison Park this summer.

Martinez has brought in lots of money from sales of players and instead of depending on money injected by Latics Chairman Dave Whelan the club became more self-sufficient. Martinez will have to be similarly shrewd in the transfer market on Merseyside.

Expectations

As Martinez stated in his press conference yesterday he has inherited a very good team and the fans have big expectations. The Spaniard needs to get off to a good start on Merseyside and if he does then I am sure the doubters will disappear into the background.

Can Roberto Martinez help Everton progress?

Thu 6 June, 2013
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Wigan goes from ecstasy to despair in just three days

Wigan were relegated from the Premier League last night, after a 4-1 defeat at Arsenal, but will boss Roberto Martinez remain with the Latics this summer?

Wigan were relegated from the Premier League last night, after a 4-1 defeat at Arsenal, but will boss Roberto Martinez remain with the Latics this summer?

Wigan Athletic suffered a 4-1 defeat at Arsenal last night and suffered relegation for the first time in the clubs history.

The disappointment comes just three days after the Latics celebrated a famous 1-0 FA Cup final victory over Manchester City at Wembley.

Too far

The Latics have survived the drop for the last couple of seasons, despite boss Roberto Martinez working on a shoestring budget and at times selling his best players. This season was a relegation battle too far.

Athletic were the only club in the Premier League to have never suffered a relegation, that has now changed thanks too last night’s defeat. The Latics put up a decent fight, but in the end, Arsenal’s class shone through.

Style

It really is a shame that the Premier League is losing such an attractive team to watch and a manager that always seems positive in his approach to the game. Although, the Spaniard could move on this summer, more on that later.

The Latics tried to play an expansive brand of football. Their forward line is a threat to every defence in the top flight, with attacking trio Shaun Maloney, Callum McManaman and Arouna Kone vital to their game play.

Poor

Wigan’s problems lie in defence and have done for a few seasons. Individual mistakes and poor defending have meant that for the last few seasons the Lancashire club have struggled against the drop.

Last night was the perfect example of the leaky nature of the Wigan defence. Their poor defending has finally cost the Latics their top-flight status.

Popular

Wigan seems to have become very popular in the last few days since their FA Cup final victory over Manchester City. They were the ultimate underdogs and deserved to defeat the former-champions. The victory was by no means a fluke either, as Wigan were the better team on the day.

Unfortunately, the last three games have summed up Wigan in the last few seasons, sometimes fantastic and sometimes calamitous. They enjoyed more of the latter than the former though this season.

Highly-rated

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez is highly rated and is the current favourite to take over from David Moyes at Everton. Martinez’s tactical nous has been lauded at times during his tenure at the DW Stadium, despite his side struggling against relegation in the last few years.

Martinez has attracted the interest of bigger clubs in the past in the shape of Liverpool and Aston Villa. The Spaniard remained loyal to the Latics, but he may feel that now is the time to take a step-up.

The job at Everton will an attractive prospect to a lot of bosses, as the Toffees will finish sixth in the Premier League and in fact in nine out of the last ten seasons would have qualified for Europe with their current points total.

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan has stated that he believes that his manager will stay loyal to the club and help the club bounce straight back up into the top flight. However, Whelan also stated that he would not stand in Martinez’s way if the Spaniard wished to join the Toffees.

Bounce back

It will be tough for Wigan to bounce straight back up into the Premier League. A number of their top players are likely to move on this summer, with the likes of James McCarthy and Arouna Kone believed to be high on a host of Premier League clubs summer shopping lists.

It is vital that Wigan can keep the core of the team that won the FA Cup. It is also important that should they lose Martinez, which is highly likely, they find a boss with a similar philosophy. Too many teams have struggled to cope with life after the Premier League. I just hope that the Latics do not go the same way.

Proud

Everybody connected with Wigan should be proud of their football club. They have come a long way in the last two decades and I just hope that the progress the Latics have made is not wasted. At least the Latics fans will always have their FA Cup victory to dilute the pain of relegation.

Can Wigan bounce straight back into the Premier League next season?

Wed 15 May, 2013
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Wigan deserve FA Cup final victory

Wigan defeated Manchester City 1-0 in yesterdays FA Cup final

Wigan defeated Manchester City 1-0 in yesterdays FA Cup final

Wigan claimed a famous 1-0 FA Cup final victory over oil-rich Manchester City at Wembley yesterday.

The underdogs richly deserved their victory and were the better of the two teams. The Latics got their reward for an excellent team performance.

Underdogs

An underdog has not won the FA Cup final since 1995 when Everton defeated Manchester United 1-0.

Wigan went into this clash as clear underdogs with odds of 8/1 and higher listed at Unibet and other big bookmakers. And not many neutrals gave the Latics a chance of claiming the famous old trophy.

However, Roberto Martinez’s men had different ideas and looked more like the favourites in the clash. City arrived expecting just to lift the trophy and got a short sharp shock from the Premier League strugglers.

Outstanding

Although the whole Wigan side put in an outstanding performance, one player stood out Callum McManaman. The youngster has been much-maligned for a dangerous tackle on Newcastle full-back Massadio Haidara.

It was a poor tackle, but the youngster should now be able to move on from the incident and yesterday’s performance proved that he could compete against top class opponents. Repeatedly he took on the City defence and caused them problems.

The 22 year-olds Wigan career lifted off in the early rounds of the FA Cup and he is now a regular in the Premier League team. The exciting young winger has the potential to become a very good player in the future.

Clever

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez was very astute in the way he set-up his team in yesterday’s clash. He decided to leave McManaman and Arouna Kone up field and attack City’s flanks. The tactics worked a treat, as McManaman saw a lot of the ball and cause problems.

Martinez was very aware of how City can be very narrow at times and like any good boss exploited what he saw as City’s weakness. It is these sorts of decisions that have made the Spaniard so highly-rated.

The Wigan chairman Dave Whelan believes that the 39 year-old will stay with the Latics, despite speculation mounting that he is top of Everton’s wishlist to replace David Moyes. The former-Swansea boss has ruled out discussing his future until the summer.

Survival

Much will depend on whether the Latics survive the drop this season. The Latics face a vital game at Arsenal on Tuesday night, by then though they could be in major trouble, if Newcastle and Norwich win their games today.

However, after their victory over Manchester City Wigan will believe that anything is possible and the Latics claimed a victory at the Emirates Stadium last season. With morale high amongst the Wigan players, they could yet still pull off the great escape.

Lacklustre

Not to deride Wigan’s victory, but Manchester City really did produce a lacklustre display. The Citizens did create chances, but they did not do enough to deserve victory.

According to reports Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini maybe replaced by Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini in the summer. The FA Cup final defeat will only add to the speculation that the Italian boss is set to leave Eastland’s this summer.

The City owners will no doubt be unhappy at not claiming silverware this season and Mancini could pay the price for that failure by losing his job. Failure is not an option at the Etihad Stadium these days.

Difference

Wigan’s victory in the FA Cup final could have a major influence on what happens next season for both Manchester City and Wigan. As previously mentioned the defeat could cost Roberto Mancini his job.

For Wigan, it could be just as important. The win could inspire the confidence needed for the Latics to beat the drop. That would mean keeping their best players, but even more importantly could mean keeping their highly-rated manager.

Martinez deserves all the credit he gets and deserves a chance at a bigger club and after the FA Cup final triumph the Spaniards stock will be even higher.

Magic

Wigan winning the FA Cup was the biggest shock since Wimbledon defeated Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup final. It was unexpected and frankly deserved victory. Wigan’s win shows that the magic of the FA Cup still survives.

Will Wigan now survive the drop from the Premier League?

Sun 12 May, 2013
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Mancini: We didn´t deserve to lose

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini doesn’t feel that his side deserved to lose the FA Cup final against Wigan.

City lost 1-0 to Roberto Martinez’s men thanks to a late Ben Watson goal, but their manager believes that while his side were not at their best, they were still unfortunate not to win the match.

Mancini, who will end the season without having won a trophy, said his team’s inability to take the chances they created is what cost them.

“I’m disappointed. We conceded a goal in the last seconds in a game where we didn’t play very well, but we didn’t deserve to lose. But that’s football,” he told BBC 5 Live.

“We started slowly but we had two incredible chances in the first half but didn’t score.”

Mancini added that he was pleased for Wigan, especially their boss Martinez and chairman Dave Whelan.

“In the end Wigan won and I am happy for Wigan, Martinez and his chairman,” said the Italian.

“Martinez is a good man and a good manager. If we couldn’t win I’m happy he won this cup.”

The defeat is likely to increase the pressure on Mancini, with reports suggesting Manuel Pellegrini may be in line to take his job at the Etihad Stadium.

However, the current City boss described such rumours as “rubbish” after the match.
Sat 11 May, 2013
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Martinez: Wigan weren´t lucky to win FA Cup

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez has insisted luck did not play a part in his side’s 1-0 FA Cup final victory over Manchester City on Saturday.

Martinez’s men went into the game as firm underdogs but came out winners thanks to Ben Watson’s 90th-minute header, which came after Pablo Zabaleta had been sent off.

And the Spaniard says Wigan’s “incredible” performance, not good fortune, was the reason behind their first trophy win since lifting the Second Division title in 2003.

“In any final you feel the result could go either way. We were playing an incredible side. We didn’t win by luck – from start to finish it was an incredible performance,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“The FA Cup is such a special tournament, and everyone deserves to feel proud today.”

“We’ve got two big games in front of us and we wanted to conserve energy, but it was difficult!

“Everyone wrote us off before the game, but we were following a dream. You cannot describe the feeling at the moment. My players faced adversity and played with a smile. I am so proud of them.”

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan led his team out prior to the final, 53 years on from breaking his leg playing for Blackburn Rovers in the Wembley showpiece.

And the 76-year-old has admitted he did not believe the club were capable of pulling off an emotional victory.

“At the start, secretly I didn’t think we could win. I thought we’d fight and we would be close,” he said.
“You cannot describe what it feels like when you get hold of that FA Cup. Now we want Wigan rugby league team to come here and lift the Challenge Cup, and then both the cups are in Wigan!”

Sat 11 May, 2013
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FA Cup: Manchester City 0 Wigan 1

Wigan produced one of the biggest shocks in FA Cup history as they earned a 1-0 final win over Manchester City on Saturday.

City toiled for much of the game against a Wigan side willing to show plenty of endeavour and, after Pablo Zabaleta was sent off for a second bookable offence, Roberto Martinez’s side capitalised as Ben Watson headed home a late, late corner to win it.
The headline team news for Manchester City came in the shape of Roberto Mancini’s decision to pick Joe Hart in goal over Costel Pantilimon.
The Romanian had featured in every round prior to the final, conceding just one goal, but missed out with his fellow shot-stopper among just three players to retain their place from the midweek win over West Brom.
Wigan, meanwhile, made just two changes from their demoralising Premier League defeat at the hands of Swansea, with Gary Caldwell and Ben Watson making way for Paul Scharner and Antolin Alcaraz.
Understandably given the teams’ respective fortunes in the Premier League this season, City started the brighter at Wembley. And with barely two minutes on the clock Yaya Toure almost provided the perfect start as he followed up Carlos Tevez’s deflected free-kick but could not beat Joel Robles’ dive.
Wigan soon proved that they would not be easy pickings, however, as Arouna Kone’s intelligent ball allowed Callum McManaman to turn in the box.
The young attacker should perhaps have pulled back to his Ivorian team-mate instead of driving wide in an attempt to score on his weaker foot but the underdogs’ intentions were clear.
Both sides struggled to get going creatively after that exchange of chances, with 30 minutes having lapsed until another flourish of opportunities.
Tevez was the recipient of both but the Argentine was foiled by a brilliant Robles save following a David Silva pull-back before driving the ball high and wide from the right-hand side.
Martinez’s side then took their turn at attacking in an end-to-end encounter, with McManaman beating the offside trap but inadvertently tightening his angle and failing to get a shot beyond a scrambling City defence.
That proved to be the last genuine chance of the half, but City were soon at it again after the restart with Sergio Aguero seeing his shot well saved before Vincent Kompany headed narrowly over. McManaman then fashioned another great chance for himself with 65 minutes on the clock, jinking beyond two defenders but seeing his shot blocked brilliantly by the sliding Kompany.
City could only manage a 1-0 victory against Wigan in the sides’ meeting at the Etihad Stadium in April, a win which came courtesy of an 83rd-minute winner. Mancini’s side looked ready to pull off the same trick again as they pressed for a winner with time running out, only for the game to take an unfortunate twist – in their eyes at least.
Zabaleta, who had already received a yellow card for a trip on McManaman in the second half, lunged into the same man again as he broke from midfield and gave the referee little choice but to brandish a second caution and a red card.
That decision gave Wigan’s tiring legs a timely boost, and things were about to get even better for the underdogs. Shaun Maloney’s gorgeous corner delivery begged a touch and Watson duly obliged, meeting the ball with a towering header at the front post which found the far corner beyond a sprawling Joe Hart.
The timing of the goal could not have been more perfect, with City failing to muster even a chance in the remaining minutes as Wigan secured a dream result.
Sat 11 May, 2013
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A tale of sheikhs versus paupers in the FA Cup final

The two Roberto's Mancini and Martinez go head-to-head in the FA Cup, as Manchester City face wigan

The two Roberto’s Mancini and Martinez go head-to-head in the FA Cup final, as Manchester City face wigan

Manchester City and Wigan face each other later today in the FA Cup final. The pair has enjoyed contrasting fortunes this season.

Manchester City challenged for the Premier League title as expected, but fell just short of their relentless neighbours Manchester United.

While their opponents Wigan have endured another season of struggling at the bottom of the Premier League table.

In fact, you could even say that this cup final is an unwanted distraction for the Latics, with a crucial Premier League game coming up on Tuesday night.

Contrast

This is very much a case of sheikhs vs. paupers. Manchester City has had the fortune of having hundreds of millions of pounds to spend on players, courtesy of their oil-rich owner Sheikh Mansour. The money spent has already brought in trophies and will probably carry on doing so in the future.

In contrast, Wigan boss Roberto Martinez has been a very shrewd operator in the transfer market to bring in players that have so far been good enough to keep Wigan in the Premier League, so far that is.

Budget

Martinez’s work on a shoestring budget has attracted interest from elsewhere in his managerial services. In previous summers, the Spaniard has attracted the interest of Aston Villa and Liverpool. His performance in keeping Wigan in the top flight, while playing passing football, has now attracted the interest of Everton.

The Toffee’s will be without a manager on July 1st, when David Moyes leaves to join Manchester United to replace Sir Alex Ferguson. Martinez had been the favourite for the job for a good while, but he is starting to slip in the betting, after declaring he would not make a decision on his future until the summer.

The speculation must be an unwanted distraction, but it seems that the move would interest the Spaniard. The move to Goodison Park may become even more enticing if the Latics lose their battle for survival.

Priority

The FA Cup final really is not Wigan’s priority. It may be a good day out for the fans, as the Latic’s have never made it to the FA Cup final. However, it is impossible for the fans and players not to be thinking about the crunch trip to Arsenal on Tuesday night in the Premier League.

Tuesday night’s clash is a must-win game for the Latics, but they will find it difficult to win against an Arsenal team still looking to secure Champions League football for next season. The Latics have performed miracles in surviving the drop in the last few seasons, but this could be one too many relegation battle for the Latic’s.

Trophies

Although at the start of the season the FA Cup would not have been top of Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini’s wishlist it is always nice to claim silverware. Prior to Mancini’s arrival at Eastland’s trophies were in short supply at City.

Under Roberto Mancini, City has claimed silverware in the previous two seasons. Last season the Citizens claimed the Premier League title and the season before that they won the FA Cup.

Speculation in the media has grown in the last few days that Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini could replace the Italian in the City dugout. Mancini has done a decent job at City and it seems that the majority of City fans want the Italian to stay at the club.

I think it would be harsh on the Italian if he were to be sacked this summer, especially with Manchester United set to be in a transition season under new boss David Moyes. Surely Mancini should be given another season?

Winners

It is hard to see any other outcome than a Manchester City victory at Wembley. The Citizens will not want to end the season without a trophy and the FA Cup final is the perfect opportunity for City to continue winning silverware.

Had Wigan already been safe from the drop then I believe they would make this game more of a priority. However, with Premier League survival at risk, I am sure that this game will take a backseat to Tuesday’s game.

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez claims that his teams focus is fully on the FA Cup final. However, that is hard to believe with Wigan so precariously placed in the Premier League table. I would not back against a Wigan win, but they certainly head into the game as major underdogs.

Who will win the FA Cup final?

Sat 11 May, 2013
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Prediction: Manchester City vs Wigan

10th May 2013

Playing at Wembley is a special feeling whatever the occasion, but the FA Cup final might just be the most important game played at the famous venue. Manchester City and Wigan are this year’s finalists with both sides extremely motivated to make a hugely disappointing season tolerable by lifting the coveted trophy.

As much as Roberto Mancini is looking to blame everyone but himself, the fact is he has failed to get the maximum out of his star-studded squad this term. Team’s Champions League campaign was a huge disappointment and the Citizens have no excuse for finishing bottom of their group even if they had to battle the likes of Real, Dortmund and Ajax. Meanwhile, the team have failed to mount a serious title challenge in the Premier League despite being tipped as pre-season favourites for the trophy, but at least they are still in the running for the FA Cup trophy. Manchester City are obviously odds-on favourites to beat Wigan at Wembley, and they really seem to have raised their game over the last couple of months. Apart from the last two games, in which it was evident the players are thinking about the FA Cup final, City have played really well of late and they have every reason to believe the title is their for the taking. Unlike his counterpart, Roberto Mancini had the courtesy of resting his key players and those carrying knocks over the last couple of weeks, which should give the Citizens an extra edge in this match. Yaya Toure should be fit to play, whilst Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Gareth Barry and Matija Nastasic are set to be recalled.

The FA Cup final comes at a bad time for Wigan Athletic, who have just suffered a huge blow to their survival bid having lost at home to Swansea. With the Latics due to play Arsenal away and Aston Villa at home and being three points adrift of safety, everything suggests the escape artists will go down this time and this is not the feeling they would like to have going into the FA Cup final. It is perfectly clear that numerous injuries have disrupted the team’s momentum in the crucial stage of the season, and no doubt the Latics will need a massive effort if they are to upset their more illustrious opponents and lift the coveted title. It does appear the players are running on empty after having played so many crucial games in the last few weeks, while Roberto Mancini faces an anxious wait over several key men. While Ivan Ramis and Maynor Figueroa are definitely out, Antolin Alcaraz and Jean Beausejour are major doubts, while Ronnie Stam has been ruled out for the season. All things considered, Wigan don’t look they can match full-strength Manchester City at the moment.

Conclusion

Manchester City have been able to fully focus on the FA Cup final and that should help their sheer quality stand out against injury-hit Wigan. The Latics are not only set for relegation to the Championship, but their key players are either injured or suffering from fatigue, so there is every chance City will win this one with few goals to spare.

Verdict: Manchester City with -1.5 Asian handicap

Best Odds: 49/50

Bookmaker: bet365

Fri 10 May, 2013
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Yaya Toure saddened by Kolo´s City departure

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has admitted his disappointment that brother Kolo is set to leave the club at the end of the season.

The defender moved to the Etihad Stadium in 2009 in a 16 million pound deal from Arsenal, but will not have his contract extended in the summer and has been told he is free to find a new club.

Yaya stated the opportunity to play in the same team as his brother was one of the reasons he joined the club from La Liga champions Barcelona in 2010.
“When you come to a big club you need to have some guys helping and looking out for you and Kolo was an important factor in me coming here,” he said.
“I have really enjoyed my football in England and I want to continue that as much as possible.
“It is sad that Kolo is leaving. But in life you cannot be happy all the time. Kolo is a great man, a great personality and my big brother. He was always giving me good and important advice and he has told me not to worry – everything will be fine.”
Toure, who signed a new four-year contract in April, is hoping to extend his own personal form at Wembley in Saturday’s FA Cup final against Wigan, after scoring the winning goals in the semi-final and final of the 2011 competition against Manchester United and Stoke City respectively.
But he had a stern warning for the team not to underestimate a relegation-threatened Wigan side.
“It is going to be difficult because we cannot think Wigan will let the trophy go just because of the situation they are in now in the Premier League,” he added.
“We let the title go, so this is a very important occasion for us. It is very important to keep winning trophies. That is why I signed a new contract.”
Fri 10 May, 2013
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Yaya Toure saddened by Kolo´s City departure

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has admitted his disappointment that brother Kolo is set to leave the club at the end of the season.

The defender moved to the Etihad Stadium in 2009 in a 16 million pound deal from Arsenal, but will not have his contract extended in the summer and has been told he is free to find a new club.

Yaya stated the opportunity to play in the same team as his brother was one of the reasons he joined the club from La Liga champions Barcelona in 2010.
“When you come to a big club you need to have some guys helping and looking out for you and Kolo was an important factor in me coming here,” he said.
“I have really enjoyed my football in England and I want to continue that as much as possible.
“It is sad that Kolo is leaving. But in life you cannot be happy all the time. Kolo is a great man, a great personality and my big brother. He was always giving me good and important advice and he has told me not to worry – everything will be fine.”
Toure, who signed a new four-year contract in April, is hoping to extend his own personal form at Wembley in Saturday’s FA Cup final against Wigan, after scoring the winning goals in the semi-final and final of the 2011 competition against Manchester United and Stoke City respectively.
But he had a stern warning for the team not to underestimate a relegation-threatened Wigan side.
“It is going to be difficult because we cannot think Wigan will let the trophy go just because of the situation they are in now in the Premier League,” he added.
“We let the title go, so this is a very important occasion for us. It is very important to keep winning trophies. That is why I signed a new contract.”
Fri 10 May, 2013
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Yaya Toure saddened by Kolo´s City departure

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has admitted his disappointment that brother Kolo is set to leave the club at the end of the season.

The defender moved to the Etihad Stadium in 2009 in a 16 million pound deal from Arsenal, but will not have his contract extended in the summer and has been told he is free to find a new club.

Yaya stated the opportunity to play in the same team as his brother was one of the reasons he joined the club from La Liga champions Barcelona in 2010.
“When you come to a big club you need to have some guys helping and looking out for you and Kolo was an important factor in me coming here,” he said.
“I have really enjoyed my football in England and I want to continue that as much as possible.
“It is sad that Kolo is leaving. But in life you cannot be happy all the time. Kolo is a great man, a great personality and my big brother. He was always giving me good and important advice and he has told me not to worry – everything will be fine.”
Toure, who signed a new four-year contract in April, is hoping to extend his own personal form at Wembley in Saturday’s FA Cup final against Wigan, after scoring the winning goals in the semi-final and final of the 2011 competition against Manchester United and Stoke City respectively.
But he had a stern warning for the team not to underestimate a relegation-threatened Wigan side.
“It is going to be difficult because we cannot think Wigan will let the trophy go just because of the situation they are in now in the Premier League,” he added.
“We let the title go, so this is a very important occasion for us. It is very important to keep winning trophies. That is why I signed a new contract.”
Fri 10 May, 2013
RSS Feed