FA Cup

Hamstring injury makes Jagielka a semi-final doubt

Phil Jagielka could miss Everton’s FA Cup semi-final after hobbling out of Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Watford, according to manager Roberto Martinez.

The centre-back picked up a hamstring injury in the stalemate at Vicarage Road, and was replaced by Ramiro Funes Mori in the 90th minute.

Everton have a busy schedule in the coming weeks with Premier League matches against Crystal Palace, Southampton and Liverpool before their cup semi-final on April 23.

Martinez remains unclear how many of those games Jagielka will miss, but hopes tests in the coming days will provide a clearer picture.

“It was a real negative when Phil felt his hamstring towards the end,” the Spaniard told the club’s official website.

“He will be assessed over the next 24 hours but it doesn’t look good.

“Phil doesn’t get injured that often, so when he asks to come off then that is a worry. He was holding his left hamstring and we will assess it overnight.

“It is too early to tell [whether he will miss the semi-final]. We have a period of five games in two weeks, but he is a serious doubt for Wednesday and Crystal Palace.”

Everton will learn the identity of their semi-final opponents on Wednesday night, when West Ham play Manchester United.

Sat 9 April, 2016
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Schneiderlin unhappy with debut United season

Manchester United midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin has been underwhelmed by his debut season at Old Trafford.

The Frenchman was one of many off-season signings made by Louis van Gaal ahead of his second season, which started with big expectations.

United were expected to challenge on all fronts for silverware but have been largely out of the title race since a poor November and December, during which they were also ousted from the Champions League at the group stage.

The club have, for the most part, recovered and are just a point outside of the Premier League top four and have a quarter-final replay against West Ham in the FA Cup.

But still, Schneiderlin – who has made 24 league appearances for the club this season – was disappointed not to be challenging for more silverware at the business end.

“When I first came I had big expectations and, of course, I wanted to play for the title and I wanted to have a big impact straight away on everything. It’s a new philosophy and a new thing to take on board,” he told MUTV.

“I had some good games and a good spell but there’s a lot of competition and so even in my time when I didn’t play every game I was still learning, still trying to improve and doing my best.

“Since the weeks went on in the season I’ve felt better and better and of course I know I have plenty more to show to everyone and plenty more in my locker.”

Now, Schneiderlin is committed to making the most of the competitions that his side remain in contention for.

“We look game by game, we’re not looking too far ahead but we know that we have some big games coming, like Leicester and Tottenham and the FA Cup and we want to win everything and make sure we finish very strong,” he added.

“Of course we are all disappointed not to play for the title, but in football you never know what can happen so we will try to finish as strong as possible.

“Hopefully the teams who are in front will drop some points and we can capitalise on that.”

Thu 7 April, 2016
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Baines claims Everton lack chemistry

Leighton Baines has put Everton’s patchy Premier League form down to a lack of chemistry among the team.

A 1-0 defeat at Manchester United on Sunday meant Everton have won just once in their past five league matches, a run of form that has left them 12th in the table.

The Toffees have fared better in knockout competition, defeating Chelsea 2-0 last month to reach the FA Cup semi-finals and they travel to Wembley later this month to face either United or West Ham in the final four.

Full-back Baines is desperate for Everton’s performances to improve before then and says securing a spot in the semi-final XI should act as motivation for the players.

“You are only really secure as individuals when you are winning games but even then we will make changes from time to time with what is required tactically,” Baines told the Liverpool Echo.

“I don’t think there is anyone expecting to have their name pencilled in for that game [the FA Cup semi-final]. But the motivation should be getting your name there.

“I just don’t feel as though the chemistry is quite there with the team on the pitch at the moment, and it hasn’t been for a while. We are maybe leaning too heavily on individuals to come up with something.

“We’re in games, we were in the game on Sunday and had a couple of chances, but we’re not performing as a team to the level we know we can or we should be.

“Results have an impact on that because chemistry and confidence go hand in hand. Look at the teams who are having success this year and you’d say they have chemistry.

“If I had to say one thing, I just don’t know if it’s there with us at the moment, for whatever reason.”

The next chance for Everton to discover the missing ingredient identified by Baines will come away to Watford in the Premier League on Saturday.

Mon 4 April, 2016
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Van Gaal: We still have a lot to fight for

Louis van Gaal insists Manchester United still have “a lot to fight for” as the Dutchman targets a top-three finish in the Premier League and FA Cup glory.

United are sixth in the table ahead of Sunday’s clash with Everton at Old Trafford, although they are only five points behind third-placed Arsenal with eight games remaining.

Van Gaal has seen his side win three of their last four league outings, including a 1-0 derby victory at Manchester City, before the international break.

The FA Cup is also a target, as United have a quarter-final replay against West Ham looming with the winners then moving on to face Everton in the last four.

Van Gaal told MUTV on Friday: “Still we are capable of being in the top three in the league at this moment and we believe in that, the players believe in that.

“We can also win the FA Cup, so we have a lot to fight for.

“I hope that we show it already in the first match [back against Everton] because that is the most important match as you have to continue what you have done against City.”

United will use the league game against Everton to pay tribute to club legend Bobby Charlton, including renaming Old Trafford’s South Stand after the 1968 European Cup winner.

Dutchman Van Gaal is delighted to see Charlton, someone he idolised when growing up, honoured in such an appropriate way.

“I had two idols in England, from watching the FA Cup finals. One of them was Jimmy Greaves and the other was Bobby Charlton, so I have known him already in my mind for a lot of years,” he added.

“Now I have met him personally. He is such a kind, friendly man and his wife is also very nice and friendly.

“I am very proud that he should get such an honour [as his own stand] because not many clubs are doing that and I am very pleased for him.”

Fri 1 April, 2016
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Martinez warns Everton players: Improve or lose your Wembley spot

Roberto Martinez warned his Everton players they must show immediate improvement or face missing out on the side’s FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. 

Everton booked their spot in the final-four of the competition after a 2-0 win over Chelsea, courtesy of Romelu Lukaku’s brace on March 12.

Martinez and Co. are set to face either Manchester United or West Ham in the semi-finals, pending the result of their quarter-final replay. 

However, after back-to-back losses in the Premier League against West Ham and Arsenal respectively, Martinez said his players must improve or they will not be selected for the Wembley tie. 

“I know there’s been a lot of talk about the semi-final but every game is vitally important,” said the Spaniard, whose Everton were beaten 2-0 by Arsenal on Saturday.

“Unless you can show you are a player to drive Everton forward, it will be difficult to see how you can stay in the side.

“We have got eight games to play for in the league. Every game has got an important meaning for different reasons individually and the players’ careers and as a team, and clearly we are not going to through any game with no meaning being at Everton.

“The competition for places is as good as it’s ever been. The focus and the work has been terrific, that is why I couldn’t see this performance coming. That is the most hurtful part of it.”

Mon 21 March, 2016
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Manchester United or West Ham to face Everton in FA Cup semi-finals

Manchester United will face Everton in the FA Cup semi-finals should they defeat West Ham in their quarter-final replay.

Anthony Martial’s late equaliser forced a replay for United after Dimitri Payet’s stunning free-kick looked to have given West Ham a 1-0 win at Old Trafford.

Watford knocked out holders Arsenal with a 2-1 victory at Emirates Stadium and will meet Crystal Palace, who beat Reading in the last eight.

The fixtures will be played on the weekend of April 23 and 24.

Mon 14 March, 2016
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Lukaku linked with Chelsea return

The Metro understands the Chelsea could attempt to resign Romelu Lukaku from Everton.

The Belgium international scored twice as the Toffees beat the Blues in the quarter finals of the FA Cup on Saturday afternoon.

That brace took his season’s tally to twenty-five in all competitions – ten more that Chelsea hitman Diego Costa, who has been linked with a summer move away from Stamford Bridge.

Lukaku moved to Goodison Park, initially on loan in the summer of 2013 and has since racked up one hundred and seventeen appearances in all competitions, scoring sixty-one goals.

Whilst he was at Chelsea, he failed to score in fifteen senior appearances though he did have a successful season-long loan spell at West Bromwich Albion in 2012/13.

Having knocked out the Premier League champions. Roberto Martinez’s men are now favourites to win the FA Cup at a price of 5/2.

Mon 14 March, 2016
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Payet doubted he could beat De Gea from range

Not even Dimitri Payet believed he could score the audacious free-kick which put his West Ham United side 1-0 up at Old Trafford on Sunday.

West Ham travelled to Manchester United in the FA Cup fifth round and despite Payet’s remarkable free-kick they will have to try and finish the job at Upton Park after Anthony Martial’s late equaliser forced a replay.

Payet curled home a near-30-yard free-kick beyond United goalkeeper David de Gea in off the post and the Frenchman admitted he was not sure he could beat the Spaniard from that distance.

“I said to myself that even if I hit the free-kick well, right in a corner, with a goalkeeper like David de Gea it’s still difficult to score,” he told BBC.

“I had a bit of luck in that it hit the post on the way in.”

But beat De Gea it did, leaving Payet to describe the goal as one of his best.

“It was one of the best free-kicks I’ve scored, and to score in this stadium which I think is one of the most beautiful in the league…It’s a great day for me,” Payet concluded.

Mon 14 March, 2016
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Carrick: Manchester United live to fight another day

Michael Carrick feels Manchester United showed character to fight back after going a goal down in Sunday’s FA Cup encounter with West Ham.

Dimitri Payet gifted West Ham the lead with a well-taken free-kick, but Anthony Martial eventually levelled the scoring as it ended 1-1 at Old Trafford.

A replay at Upton Park will now decide who will progress to the semi-finals and Carrick is delighted United are still in the race to win a trophy.

“We were well aware of the importance of this match going into the game and wanted to go through in this competition. We haven’t quite done it yet but we live to fight another day,” Carrick told BT Sport.

“We’ll take the draw in the end, but we were pressing for a winner and definitely wanted to win the game. I always felt we would get back in it but we just couldn’t get a winner. Of course there’s relief, it’s a big opportunity. It’s the FA Cup and we all want to go far in this competition. To go 1-0 down in the second half and then be pushing for a winner is positive. 

“It was a great free-kick [from Payet] but I thought we showed character to get back into the game and push for a winner. We were building pressure and probably had more opportunities. The final pass didn’t quite happen for us and we didn’t work the goalkeeper enough. 

“It’s the FA Cup, it was end-to-end at times and there was a lot happening in the box but I thought it  was a good cup tie. With penalty decisions, sometimes you get them and sometimes you don’t, so one goal each way is probably fair I think.”

Sun 13 March, 2016
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Bilic fancies West Ham´s chances in replay

Slaven Bilic thinks West Ham will get the better of Manchester United in their FA Cup quarter-final replay at Upton Park.

The two teams drew 1-1 at Old Trafford on Sunday after Dimitri Payet’s stunning free-kick was cancelled out by Anthony Martial’s controversial equaliser late on.

Defeat for holders Arsenal earlier on Sunday has the competition wide open – with Crystal Palace, Everton and Watford the confirmed semi-finalists – and Bilic is optimistic that his side will join them.

“We played a really good game and I’m a little bit gutted because of the time we conceded the goal,” he told BBC Sport. “We could have held on for 1-0 and on counter-attacks I was expecting to create one, two or three more clear-cut chances. 

“Our dressing room was, and still is, very silent. I’m not over the moon, but it means we are moving in a good direction.

“Here, it is very hard to play with 75,000 fans and this atmosphere. Manchester United are a different team when they play away and don’t have that confidence.

“It [the replay] is going to be a tough game, but I fancy us because we are going to be even more confident. 

“With the history of our stadium it’s going to be another historic game and you can’t ask for more, but to make history we have to beat them – we won’t put it in the books if we lose the last game.

“It’s going to be another epic home FA Cup match and we couldn’t ask for more, it’s like Spielberg!”

While reluctant to “moan” about referee Martin Atkinson, Bilic felt Payet should have been awarded a penalty after being brought down by Marcos Rojo prior to his free-kick and believes goalkeeper Darren Randolph was fouled by Bastian Schweinsteiger during United’s leveller.

Asked if West Ham should have had a penalty, he replied: “Yes. I’m not moaning now and I don’t want to spoil the game by moaning about the referee.

“There were two crucial decisions. Firstly, the penalty on Payet. For me it is a penalty, Rojo slides from behind and is nowhere near the ball – a clear penalty.

“The second one is an obvious foul from Schweinsteiger on Randy – he would have definitely got to the ball.”

Sun 13 March, 2016
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United showed their spirit after nasty week – Van Gaal

Louis van Gaal praised Manchester United for their reaction to falling behind after they battled back to draw 1-1 with West Ham in the FA Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford.

Anthony Martial scored from close range with seven minutes remaining after Dimitri Payet had put the visitors on the brink of a Wembley semi-final with a stunning free-kick earlier in the second half.

The match came after United had been humbled in a 2-0 Europa League defeat to rivals Liverpool at Anfield on Thursday, which has left their chances of progressing to the last eight of that competition under severe threat.

Having preserved their status in the FA Cup and forced a replay, Van Gaal’s men now face a crucial week with the second leg of their Liverpool last-16 tie and a crunch derby at Manchester City in the Premier League.

“West Ham were the better team before they scored, but then we created chances too,” the Dutchman is quoted as saying by BBC Sport.

“It was a fantastic free-kick [from Payet]. I have to give a lot of compliments to my team. They were mentally tired after Liverpool and also in the body.

“We have played a game against Liverpool on Thursday and they [West Ham] had the whole week to prepare and we could come back and show a big revival.

“My colleague Slaven [Bilic] said the same, it was a fantastic match between two good sides and I am very happy that my team showed their spirit after a nasty week.”

Van Gaal, though, disagreed with Bilic’s assertion that Bastian Schweinsteiger had fouled goalkeeper Darren Randolph during Martial’s equaliser, while praising David de Gea for a vital stoppage-time save from Michail Antonio.

He said: “Was it a foul? I can imagine that he [Bilic] says that, but his own defender pushes Schweinsteiger so he did not do it deliberately. 

“Great save from David de Gea but that we know, he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world – every match. It was a great save.”

Sun 13 March, 2016
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Gold slams referee after West Ham draw at Man Utd

West Ham co-chairman David Gold hit out at referee Martin Atkinson after his team were pegged back in a 1-1 FA Cup draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Dimitri Payet’s free-kick had Slaven Bilic’s men on the brink of a Wembley semi-final, but Anthony Martial poked home an equaliser with seven minutes remaining to force a replay.

Gold was unhappy with Atkinson’s performance and felt West Ham should have been awarded a penalty after Payet had been brought down by Marcos Rojo when the game was still goalless.

He also felt goalkeeper Darren Randolph was obstructed by substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger on the goal-line for Martial’s leveller.

“Darren Randolph was fouled for the Man Unt. goal, blatant foul on the magnificent Payet in the penalty area,” he wrote on Twitter.

United also had claims for a spot-kick turned down when Ander Herrera’s shot appeared to be blocked by Winston Reid’s leg and arm prior to Payet’s claim at the other end.

Gold was more positive about his team’s support at the match, adding: “The 9500 [West Ham] fans were terrific.”

Sun 13 March, 2016
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Manchester United 1 West Ham 1: Martial saves Van Gaal after Payet magic

A late equaliser from Anthony Martial saved Manchester United as they preserved their place in the FA Cup with a 1-1 quarter-final draw against West Ham at Old Trafford.

A moment of magic from Dimitri Payet had West Ham seven minutes from a famous victory that would have sent them to a Wembley semi-final, but Martial struck from close range to force a replay.

Playmaker Payet, who has wowed fans throughout his first season in England, had put West Ham in front with an incredible 30-yard free-kick earlier in a second half that also saw both teams have good claims for a penalty turned down.

Martial’s intervention means United are still in the FA Cup, a competition that represents their best chance of silverware as they sit behind West Ham in sixth position in the Premier League and are 2-0 down to Liverpool after the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie.

West Ham, meanwhile, will be still dreaming of the trophy if they can join Crystal Palace, Everton and Watford – who defeated holders Arsenal on Sunday – in the last four.

The visitors could have taken an early lead, but Emmanuel Emenike dragged his shot just wide after being played in by a hooked pass from Andy Carroll, who was brought into the team as one of three changes from Slaven Bilic.

Even though United were getting forward, it was West Ham who were creating the better chances, with Carroll’s thumping header from Aaron Cresswell’s cross only narrowly over. 

Emenike then rose to divert another Cresswell delivery into the arms of David de Gea in what proved to be the only attempt on target in the first half, before Ander Herrera was off-target with a volley at the other end after Martial set him up from the left.

United were unhappy not to be awarded a penalty from referee Martin Atkinson when Martial found Herrera and the midfielder’s shot bounced off Winston Reid’s leg and arm as he slid to block just before the hour mark.

Darren Randolph then got out quickly to deny Marcus Rashford, before West Ham were denied what they thought should have been a spot-kick when Payet cruised past Marouane Fellaini and went down under pressure from Marcos Rojo, who appeared to be trying to pull out of the challenge but did make contact.

However, Payet produced a moment of brilliance with 22 minutes remaining. After being fouled by Daley Blind around 30 yards from goal, he stepped up and delivered an astonishing, dipping free-kick that clipped the post on its way past De Gea.

The under-fire Van Gaal brought on Memphis Depay and Bastian Schweinsteiger in an attempt to find an equaliser and one arrived just as the hosts looked to be heading to defeat. Jesse Lingard played in Herrera down the right and he stood up an excellent cross to the far post, allowing Martial to hook home with his left foot.

Michael Carrick drilled an effort just wide as United threatened an unlikely comeback, while De Gea made a vital stoppage-time stop from Michail Antonio to ensure the two teams now have to do it all again at Upton Park.

Sun 13 March, 2016
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Arsenal 1 Watford 2: Ighalo and Guedioura heap misery on Wenger

Watford stunned FA Cup holders Arsenal with a 2-1 quarter-final victory that piled further pressure on Arsene Wenger at a mutinous Emirates Stadium.

Recent slip-ups in the Premier League title race and the likelihood that Barcelona will complete a two-legged Champions League victory over Arsenal this week left a third consecutive FA Cup triumph as the most realistic prospect of silverware for long-serving boss Wenger this season.

But they failed to make first-half dominance count, with Mohamed Elneny the main culprit in terms of missed chances, and Watford – without a goal in their previous three matches – capitalised on growing anxiety after the break.

Hornets top scorer Odion Ighalo ended a run of 599 minutes without a goal with an opportunist strike before Adlene Guedioura hit a spectacular second after 63 minutes.

Danny Welbeck reduced the arrears with two minutes to play and fellow substitute Alex Iwobi struck the post in a breathless finale, but Wenger’s men could not avoid a first FA Cup defeat since Blackburn Rovers left north London with a shock win in February 2013.

Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud had the ball in the net after nine minutes but he was marginally offside when collecting Alexis Sanchez’s throughball.

Nathan Ake made a vital challenge in the Watford area with Joel Campbell poised to open the scoring, although the hosts were struggling to make much of an impression in the Watford area,

Home centre-back Gabriel was incredibly fortunate his rash, two-footed lunge on Troy Deeney went unpunished, while Elneny’s woeful 30th-minute hack over the Watford bar lacked such danger but was similarly unaccomplished.

Elneny endured another shocking miss following fine build-up play from Mesut Ozil and Campbell, and goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon’s yellow card for time-wasting at the subsequent goal-kick underlined Watford’s desire for the interval to arrive.

Giroud headed over from a left-wing corner as Arsenal resumed on the front foot but Ighalo stunned Emirates Stadium in the 50th minute.

Deeney flicked on Ake’s long throw at the near post and Ighalo rolled Gabriel to steer a shot beyond David Ospina on the turn.

The Watford strikers combined to similar effect two minutes later, with Gabriel again coming off second best as Ighalo shot over.

Arsenal were rattled and Ighalo showed some of the form behind his recent drought when he misjudged a lunging attempt in the 60th minute – the impressive Ake having raided town the left.

That wastefulness was almost punished as Pantilimon made a stunning reaction save to deny Giroud at his near post, but Watford grabbed the breathing space they required.

Once more, Deeney was the provider – his excellent hold-up play crowned by a measured lay-off for the onrushing Guedioura to clatter an unstoppable drive into the roof of the net from the right corner of the area.

Etienne Capoue prevented Giroud from converting a Calum Chambers cross at the near post and the France striker made way as part of triple substitution that saw Theo Walcott, Welbeck and Iwobi introduced.

Welbeck stroked a measured finish into the far corner when he collected Ozil’s clever backheel and the former Manchester United man should have spared the Wenger some awkward questions when he crashed over a minute later – Iwobi’s initial drive having cannoned back off the post.

Sun 13 March, 2016
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West Ham 18/5 to win against Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-finals this afternoon

soccernews fooball-betting-tips pic

Competition: FA Cup
Market: West Ham to win against Man Utd
Odds: 18/5 @ Bet 365

This afternoon sees West Ham United traveling to Old Trafford to face Manchester United in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. The visitors will be full of confidence of getting a result given their form on the road this season, as well as their record against the top Premier League sides, while Manchester United are suffering of late.

A place in the semi-finals at Wembley awaits the victors, but it’s West Ham United looking in the best shape to deliver. Slaven Bilic’s men are challenging Manchester United for a top-four spot in the Premier League, and have beaten Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Everton and Southampton in the division this season.

On the flip side, Manchester United have failed to win three of their last five Premier League games, and are short of confidence. Louis van Gaal’s side lost in the league to West Brom and lost in the Europa League to Liverpool so the mood is very low.

And with West Ham boasting one of the best away records in the Premier League, they could well take advantage of the struggling Red Devils at Old Trafford. Bet 365 are giving odds of 18/5 for West Ham to win against Manchester United this afternoon to book their place in the semi-finals.

Bet: West Ham to win against Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-finals this afternoon @ 18/5 with Bet 365 >>

Sun 13 March, 2016
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Arsenal 8/15 to win against Watford in the FA Cup quarter-finals this afternoon

soccernews fooball-betting-tips pic

Competition: FA Cup
Market: Arsenal to win against Watford
Odds: 8/15 @ Ladbrokes

Arsenal welcome Watford to the Emirates Stadium this afternoon as the two sides square off in the FA Cup quarter-final. The Gunners are favourites to come out on top against the Hornets given their upturn in form, but Watford are no slouches so it will be a competitive affair.

With their Premier League title hopes all but over, Arsenal are desperate to deliver in the FA Cup this season. The Londoners won the competition in each of their last two attempts and are chasing a historic third consecutive triumph.

They won convincingly in the previous round against Hull City, and drew against Tottenham in the Premier League this month to build up some momentum for a must-win tie today. Watford, however, shouldn’t be underestimated given their impressive campaign so far.

Unfortunately for the visitors, Watford are enduring a slump in form at the worst possible time. They have lost three and drawn one of their last five league games, and lost to Arsenal when the two sides met earlier in the season. As a result, Ladbrokes are giving odds of 8/15 for Arsenal to win against Watford in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Bet: Arsenal 8/15 to win against Watford in the FA Cup quarter-finals this afternoon @ 8/15 with Ladbrokes >>

Sun 13 March, 2016
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Payet: Ronaldinho was my idol – he always put on a show

Former Barcelona and AC Milan star Ronaldinho was West Ham attacking midfielder Dimitri Payet’s idol growing up because of his combination of flair and effectiveness.

The two-time FIFA Player of the Year and World Cup-winning Brazil international helped Barcelona to two Liga titles and Champions League glory in 2005-06, providing inspiration for Payet during the early stages of his career.

Ronaldinho’s presence made the Spanish league a draw for the France international and he insists the style of football on offer under Slaven Bilic at West Ham fulfils his needs.

“Ronaldinho was my favourite player. People say he enjoyed humiliating defenders but he was always efficient,” said Payet.

“The reason I’m a fan is because he was able to put on a show while remaining effective and helping his team to win.

“Initially I was really attracted by the Spanish league. That was a league where all the clubs had a fluid game, playing their way forward from the back.

“As time went by I got more interested in watching the Premier League, as some of the teams there played that way too.

“When I arrived here I saw that Slaven Bilic’s aim wasn’t to just kick the ball away but to try to play a possession-based football style and that was very important.”

West Ham sit fifth in the Premier League with nine games left, two points away from a qualifying berth for next season’s Champions League.

Bilic’s team could secure a place in the FA Cup semi-finals if they overcome Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, and former striker Geoff Hurst – part of the trophy-winning side of 1964 – has backed them to do just that.

“It has been a very buoyant season, but we now have a fantastic chance of winning the cup,” he said.

“If you look at the league, we are much closer to Man United than we have been for a long time. I would put it down to [former manager] Sam Allardyce and Slaven.

“They have bought very good players. Most of them, not all, have adapted to the culture, the lifestyle, the style, the pace of the Premier League, and that has made a huge difference.

“We could still make the Champions League and I cannot tell you how great that would be.”

Sun 13 March, 2016
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Martinez: Everton are not mentally fragile

Everton manager Roberto Martinez said he is happy with his team’s mental strength, denying they are fragile.

Martinez’s side have failed to impress in the Premier League this season and are stuck in the bottom half of the table, but remain in the FA Cup as they chase a quarter-final victory over Chelsea.

But the Spaniard has been forced to field plenty of questions in regard to the mental strength of Everton, particularly after last weekend’s 3-2 loss to West Ham, having surrendered a two-goal lead as his side continue to lose or draw games from winning positions.

However, Martinez said it was harsh to judge Everton on the West Ham game alone.

“It would not have happened like that if we hadnit missed a penalty,” Martinez said.

“And we had been playing with 10 men for most of the game. If we had won the game we would have had an incredible boost, being a man down for so long it would have been a great achievement but the penalty affected the whole environment.

“It is not normal for a team that has conceded two goals in six games to give away three in 12 minutes. We don’t react badly to conceding goals.

“We have lost a couple of two-goal leads this season but we have learned from that. In normal circumstances we can handle opponents pulling a goal back but against West Ham it was not normal circumstances.

“It was completely different.”

An appearance at Wembley would certainly help change the perspective on Everton’s underwhelming season to date.

The Merseyside outfit have been handed a tough draw against Premier League champions Chelsea – who now only have the FA Cup to play for having been eliminated from the Champions League – but Martinez knows a thing or two about winning crunch cup quarter-finals..

He did it once before with Wigan on the way to their remarkable cup triumph three years ago and – while he claims not to remember much about that 3-0 win in 2013 – he hopes his side can right the club’s wrong league form with progression to the semi-finals.

“This quarter-final will bring together two teams that know each other really well and it should be another good game,” the Spaniard said.

“The fact we have lost eight matches in the league is obviously not good enough but this is a chance to put some of that right.

“We have created negative momentum for ourselves at home, where things have gone against us in a way that has not happened in our away games.

“We have to stop that. This is a one-off game and it could be an important one.”

Sat 12 March, 2016
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Reading 0 Crystal Palace 2: Pardew´s men leave it late

Late goals from Yohan Cabaye and Fraizer Campbell helped Crystal Palace secure a place in the semi-finals of the FA Cup with a hard-fought 2-0 win over 10-man Reading at the Madejski Stadium.

Frenchman Cabaye converted from the spot in the 86th minute after Jake Cooper had needlessly hauled down Yannick Bolasie, with the Reading defender picking up a second yellow card from referee Mike Dean.

The visitors made sure of the win in injury time, substitute Campbell finishing at the second attempt after his initial effort had struck a post.

Defeat was particularly harsh on Ali Al-Habsi, with the Reading goalkeeper turning in an inspired display to put his side within touching distance of a replay at Selhurst Park.

However, Palace – who are on a run of 12 Premier League games without a victory – secured a trip to Wembley at the expense of the club where manager Alan Pardew started his managerial career.

The visitors, the only team in England’s top four divisions yet to register a league win in 2016, seem to be up for the cup. They had knocked out top-flight rivals Southampton, Stoke City and Tottenham to reach the sixth round of the competition.

However, they found themselves up against a goalkeeper in fantastic form.

Al-Habsi was first called upon on the half-hour mark to palm away a free-kick from Cabaye, although he was fortunate Emmanuel Adebayor’s curling effort when clean through was aimed straight at him.

The Oman international – an FA Cup winner during his time at Wigan Athletic – then saw Joe Ledley blaze a rebound over the bar after Bolasie’s initial effort had been blocked.

Reading’s best chance before the break stemmed from a Wayne Hennessey error, as the goalkeeper palmed a deep cross straight to Ola John. But, rather than square the ball to the waiting Stephen Quinn, the on-loan Benfica forward fired into the side netting from a tight angle.

Al-Habsi continued to keep Palace at bay in the second half, leaping up in the 54th minute to keep out Mile Jedinak’s powerful header from Cabaye’s free-kick with his left hand. 

John planted a diving header straight at Hennessey, allowing the Wales international to keep the ball out with his feet, and it seemed the game would end goalless.

Instead, Cooper’s rash decision to reach out an arm and bring down Bolasie allowed Cabaye the chance to break the deadlock. Al-Habsi came close to saving the spot-kick, but the power of the strike made sure it found the net.

Campbell’s effort in added time killed off any lingering hopes Reading had of making it through to the last four for a second successive season, with Pardew – a semi-final goalscorer in Palace’s run to the 1990 final – closing in on more cup magic this season.

Fri 11 March, 2016
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Manchester United v West Ham: Mata eyes Wembley spot to banish Liverpool blues

Juan Mata is desperate for Manchester United to put their Liverpool defeat behind them with an FA Cup quarter-final win over West Ham.

A 2-0 setback at Anfield on Thursday has left Louis van Gaal’s side on the brink of an exit from the Europa League and delivered another damaging blow to an inconsistent season.

United were dumped out of the FA Cup at the last-eight stage to eventual winners Arsenal last term, but host a West Ham side on Sunday who have not won at Old Trafford in their last nine visits in all competitions.

And Mata is eager to restore some pride by sealing a spot in a Wembley semi-final with a fifth home win in a row.

“It was not a good performance and not a good result obviously,” Mata told MUTV. “But we need to move on, we need to win on Sunday. It is a chance to play at Wembley again and a chance to win a title.

“The FA Cup is very special for all of us and it is against a very good team like West Ham. We need to recover as soon as possible and then focus just on the FA Cup. Then, after the weekend, we can look at the Europa League again.”

West Ham dispatched Blackburn Rovers 5-1 in the previous round and followed that with three consecutive Premier League victories – the last of which saw them come from 2-0 down to defeat Everton 3-2.

The mood around Upton Park could scarcely be better given their recent performances, but manager Slaven Bilic has warned that United will offer a far sterner test than they did against Liverpool this week.

“United had a great performance against Arsenal at home. They are a massive club and have one of the biggest managers in the business,” said Bilic, whose side held United to a 0-0 draw in the league game at Old Trafford in December.

“We are expecting a good side to play in front of their own fans and we are expecting a better performance from them.

“Thursday was not a game you can take as normal from them. It’s intimidating to play away.”

United hope to have Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Phil Jones available, while Bastian Schweinsteiger (knee) and Antonio Valencia (ankle) could also feature. Jesse Lingard, banned from the Liverpool game, is back, but captain Wayne Rooney (knee), Ashley Young (groin) and Luke Shaw (leg) remain out.

Bilic has confirmed that Darren Randolph will keep his place in goal, while the returning Victor Moses (quad), Enner Valencia (ankle), Joey O’Brien and Winston Reid (both hamstring) have given a real boost to the squad. Defensive duo James Tomkins (calf) and James Collins (hamstring) are out.

Key Opta Stats:

– This is the ninth time these sides have been drawn in the FA Cup – the previous eight have alternated between West Ham progressing twice and United progressing twice.
– United have lost their last two FA Cup home games against fellow Premier League sides, both by a 2-1 scoreline (Swansea City in 2014 and Arsenal in 2015).
– West Ham scored as many goals in their last FA Cup away game as they had in their previous 11 in the competition (5).
– Man United have netted 12 goals in their last four home games in all competitions – the same amount they’d scored at Old Trafford in their previous 13 matches.
– Michail Antonio has scored in his last three appearances for West Ham in all competitions.

Fri 11 March, 2016
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Prediction: Manchester United vs West Ham

Sandwiched between the Europa League matches vs Liverpool, the FA Cup clash against West Ham comes at a bad time for injury-hit Red Devils, who were completely outclassed at Anfield in midweek. Meanwhile, the Hammers continued the dream season by coming from two goals behind to beat Everton at Goodison Park, so it is easy to see which team go into the clash in better mood.

Manchester United

Manchester United had been pretty disappointing in the first part of the season, but they were able to show considerable improvement at the end of February, winning four matches in a row on all fronts. And with the youngsters Marcus Rashford, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Guillermo Varela impressing in the process, the fans and media alike began to think that maybe Louis van Gaal was the right manager for the club. However, the serious injury crisis and the hectic schedule would soon take its toll, with back to back defeats to West Ham and Liverpool getting the Red Devils back to square one. Manchester United were no match for rampant Reds in midweek’s Europa League tie and they have only David De Gea to thank for not conceding few more goals. It will be difficult for the Red Devils to show any sort of improvement after just three days, and West Ham are certainly not the team they want to be playing at the moment. With the Hammers playing their best football in years and winning four matches in a row, this could prove to be yet another disappointing afternoon at Old Trafford.

Team News

Juan Mata is suspended after he was sent off against West Bromwich, while Ander Herrera, Matteo Darmian and Michael Carrick could be recalled.

Bastian Schweinsteiger made a long-awaited return in the Europa League clash against Liverpool, but Rooney, Jones, Young, Shaw, Borthwick-Jackson and Keane are out injured.

West Ham

While everybody expected Slaven Bilic to bring some sort of improvement to Boleyn Ground, nobody could predict such a successful season. The former Croatia coach proved his worth by masterminding a number of away wins over top sides early on, but what he really needs to be given credit for is keeping the Hammers so close to the Champions League positions. That was by no means an easy job considering all the injury problems, so it is fair to say Bilic got the very best out of the players at his disposal. Even though the Premier League top 4 chase obviously has the priority at the moment, don’t think for a second that the manager will field an under-strength side at Old Trafford, especially now that West Ham should be considered favourites to go through. The Hammers have already eliminated Liverpool from the FA Cup and they can be trusted to give their best against Manchester United as well. Buoyed by the amazing comeback against Everton, West Ham will be looking to further improve on their excellent away record.

Team News

Diafra Sakho made the long-awaited comeback against West Ham, whereas Enner Valencia, Victor Moses and Joey O’Brien could all be in contention for the Man Utd game.

Winston Reid is still some time away from being available for selection, whereas James Collins, Sam Byram and James Tomkins remain in the infirmary.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Last two matches between the two sides ended all squared
  • Both Man Utd and West Ham scored in four of last six meetings
  • The goalless draw in December ended West Ham’s eight-match losing run at Old Trafford
  • The Hammers have won six away games in current Premier League campaign
  • Man Utd failed to score in last two fixtures


Hectic schedule and serious injury crisis are proving to be a major problem for Man Utd, who will now also be without Juan Mata. Meanwhile, the Hammers are well rested, high on confidence and playing their best football in years, so we are backing them to make it to the semis.

Verdict: West Ham to qualify

Best Odds: 13/8

Bookmaker: William Hill

Fri 11 March, 2016
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Prediction: Everton vs Chelsea

Both Everton and Chelsea will see the FA Cup campaign as a good opportunity to salvage the current season having failed to live up to the billing in the Premier League. Taking into account that both sides head into the FA Cup quarter-finals on the back of disappointing defeats, a nervy affair appears on the cards.


Sitting in the bottom half of the Premier League standings with just nine games to go is definitely not where Everton hoped they would be before the season started, and the reality is that Roberto Martinez has failed to take this team to the next level, much like his predecessor David Moyes. The Toffees would occasionally show glimpses of quality, as if to remind us of their potential, but they never quite managed to find the consistency needed to mount a serious top 4 challenge. And with the likes of Leicester City, Southampton and Stoke City seriously improving their fortunes of late, mid table mediocrity appears to be a harsh reality for the Merseyside outfit. Under-par results this term would not be such a big problem if it weren’t for the fact that the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley, Leighton Baines and John Stones are all on the radar of Europe’s top clubs, and they may not be able prepared to stay at Goodison for much longer if the poor results continue. Having effectively ended a bright run of results by losing at home to West Ham after squandering a two-goal lead, the Toffees have little to hope for ahead of the clash with revived Chelsea.

Team News

Roberto Martinez is sweating over the fitness of Aaron Lennon, Leighton Baines and Bryan Oviedo, who are all rated doubtful for the Chelsea game.

Kevin Mirallas is suspended after he was sent off against West Ham, but Gareth Barry and Tom Cleverley should be fit to play.


Everybody knows this has been a disappointing season for Premier League holders Chelsea, but interim manager Guus Hiddink and his men have got to be congratulated for the response they showed to all the hardships. The Dutch tactician did well to help the team return to the right track, and even though it appears to be too late to revive their top 4 bid, the Blues can at least head into the new season in decent spirits. Chelsea have been eliminated from the Champions League in midweek, but they battled bravely against star-studded Paris Saint-Germain side and can be proud of their performance considering the circumstances. It was Diego Costa’s injury that changed everything as the Spain international had been on top of his game prior to the substitution, and chances are he will be missed against Everton. It remains to be seen whether Alexandre Pato will be finally given a chance to shine, with the Brazilian yet to make his first appearance for the club. Manager Guus Hiddink is unlikely to make too many changes as he will want his side to get a step closer to lifting the FA Cup trophy.

Team News

Both Diego Costa and Eden Hazard are expected to miss out after suffering injuries in midweek, with Bernard Traore, Alexandre Pato and Loic Remy vying for one place up front.

John Terry and Kurt Zouma remain on the sidelines, while Nemanja Matic, Oscar and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are all pushing for starts.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Chelsea won five of last eight meetings with Everton (D1 L2)
  • Last five meetings between the two sides produced 20 goals in total
  • Everton scored three goals in each of last two home fixtures vs Chelsea
  • The Toffees lost three of last four home games in the Premiership
  • Chelsea won last two Premier League fixtures on the road


Everton are going through a very rough patch at the moment, they have three losses in last four home fixtures and face serious selection problems. Chelsea, on the other hand, have notched up several very good performances in a row and we fully expect them to secure their place in the FA Cup semi-final.

Verdict: Chelsea to qualify

Best Odds: 3/4

Bookmaker: bet365

Fri 11 March, 2016
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Pardew has no bad feelings over Reading exit

Alan Pardew says he has “no bad feelings” towards Reading ahead of taking on his former club with Crystal Palace in Friday’s FA Cup quarter-final at the Madejski Stadium.

Pardew’s first managerial job was at Reading, between 1999 and 2003, but the manner of his departure to West Ham left many at the club upset.

And Pardew, who forced through the exit after Reading initially refused West Ham permission to appoint him as manager, says he understands why he has received a mixed reception whenever he has returned.

“I’ve never had a great reception but that’s pretty understandable the way I left,” Pardew said.

“I had a great period of my career there but I didn’t leave in the best circumstances. But I’ve seen [Reading chairman] John Madejski and the board and shook hands and put it behind us. I class him still as a friend really.

“There are no bad feelings on my part. There were mistakes made on both sides. We have both moved on.

“I was there on Saturday and the fans were brilliant when I was there but the reception I get is in their hands. All I know is that, for our fans, it’s a big game.”

Palace have not won a Premier League match since December 19, but have beaten Southampton, Stoke City and Tottenham on their way to the FA Cup’s last eight.

“The Premier League situation is causing us concern but not one where we don’t think we can get out of it,” said Pardew.

“We have a starting XI to win this competition but we have to negotiate a really difficult hurdle with Reading away.”

Palace playmaker Jason Puncheon is available after six weeks out, but striker Marouane Chamakh will miss the rest of the season with a torn abductor muscle.

Pardew said: “It’s a terrible injury for him. He’s been struggling with injuries and it’s such a shame.

“But Puncheon is available and that’s a big boost. We’ve really missed him in terms of his control of possession and Premier League experience.”

Thu 10 March, 2016
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Will an FA Cup triumph be a consolation for Chelsea fans?

Guus Hiddink won the FA Cup in his first spell at the club, but will an FA Cup triumph be a consolation to Chelsea fans this season?

Guus Hiddink won the FA Cup in his first spell at the club, but will an FA Cup triumph be a consolation to Chelsea fans this season?

Chelsea are enduring a campaign that the clubs hierarchy and fans will be in a hurry to forget.

The clubs only chance of silverware now lies in their FA Cup campaign, after the Blues suffered 2-1 defeat against PSG on Wednesday night in the Champions League last-16.

The defeat meant that the Blues exited the competition 4-2 on aggregate and were knocked out of Europe’s elite competition for a consecutive campaign by Laurent Blanc’s team.

Not much to play for this season

The Blues are currently putting all their eggs in an FA Cup shaped basket. Guus Hiddink’s side face a trip to Premier League rivals Everton on Saturday in the quarter-finals, in a game that the reigning Premier League champions are odds of 19/10 to win.

In truth this season has been highly disappointing for everybody connected with the club from south west London. The reigning champions are tenth in the Premier League table after a nightmare start to their title defence.

A top four finish now looks beyond Hiddink’s side, as they are ten points behind fourth place Manchester City in the table and the Citizens also have a game in-hand.

Their Champions League campaign once again ended at the last-16 stage for a second campaign, so this season could be regarded as a major write-off.

Just praying for the summer now

I would imagine Chelsea fans are wishing the rest of this current nightmare away. The start of the campaign saw the exit of a club legend in Jose Mourinho, which would have been hard to believe at the beginning of the campaign, but this has been a campaign of surprises.

It seems this summer will be one of transition, as Guus Hiddink described it. Obviously there will be a new manager in the Stamford Bridge dugout in the summer. That will mean new players arriving and having to settle in at the club.

With a number of the Blues players under-performing this season it would not be a major shock to see the next boss having a slight clear-out on his arrival. There are a number of players like Eden Hazard and Nemanja Matic who have been shadows of their former selves this season.

Hazard has long been linked with a moves to Real Madrid and PSG, but his performances this season is unlikely to have impressed either club. Matic was regarded as the archetypal modern defensive midfielder last season, but this season he has not even been a regular for the Blues and he has at times been a liability.

Matic has not become a bad player overnight, so maybe a new boss can help him rediscover his top form next season, or maybe he will be sold.

Difficult quarter-final for the Blues

At the start of the campaign I am sure that Chelsea fans had bigger expectations than just attempting to win the FA Cup this season. No doubt the Blues were expecting another Premier League title challenge or victory.

The Blues were also expecting another tilt at the Champions League trophy this season. However, at the moment the FA Cup is Chelsea’s biggest or even only aim for the campaign.

A trip to Everton’s Goodison Park is not exactly an easy passage to the semi-finals of the cup either. The Toffees have endured an inconsistent campaign and their home form has been truly awful of late.

They do possess a potent attacking force though, which is spearheaded by Chelsea reject Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian striker has scored 23 goals this season in 35 appearances in all competitions this season.

The 22-year-old will certainly be a threat to a Chelsea defence that will be without Kurt Zouma and possibly also captain John Terry. Lukaku has been linked with a move back to Stamford Bridge in the summer and if Chelsea are to make the semi-finals he will need to be stopped.

Roberto Martinez’s side have been prolific this season in the Premier League and have already taken four points off the reigning Premier League champions. The Toffees boss is under immense pressure to deliver a trophy with his side under-achieving in the top-flight.

The FA Cup may well be the Spaniard’s salvation on Merseyside, if he can help the club to their first trophy in over twenty years.

Both these teams are in desperate need of a victory and both have underachieved this season. However it is the south west Blues who will be regarded as the biggest flops come the end of the season. It is just a matter of whether they end up with silverware or not to cap a poor campaign.

Will an FA Cup triumph be any consolation for Chelsea fans this season?

Thu 10 March, 2016
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Arsenal 4/6 to win against Hull City tonight in the FA Cup fifth round

soccernews fooball-betting-tips pic

Competition: FA Cup
Market: Arsenal to win against Hull City
Odds: 4/6 @ William Hill

Arsenal travel to the KC Stadium to face Hull City in the FA Cup fifth round replay tonight, and are favourites to come out on top in City’s backyard to book their place in the quarter-finals of the competition. Having won the FA Cup in each of the last two seasons, the Gunners are hopeful of going all the way once more.

Their form hasn’t been the most impressive ahead of this evening’s meeting, however, with the Londoners having gone five games without a win in all competitions. They were held at home to Hull City in the original fixture too, so they certainly won’t breeze tonight’s replay, and the Tigers home form could make for an entertaining spectacle.

Hull City have lost just once at home in the Championship all season, and that was all the way back in November. However, the gulf in class between the two sides could be telling tonight. Arsenal are expected to dominate possession, and will name a strong starting eleven to get the job done with no complications. As a result, William Hill are giving odds of 4/6 for the Gunners to see past Hull in 90 minutes tonight.

Bet: Arsenal to win against Hull City tonight in the FA Cup fifth round @ 4/6 with William Hill >>

Tue 8 March, 2016
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Kouyate red card rescinded

West Ham midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate has been cleared to face Sunderland after his red card against Blackburn Rovers was rescinded.

The 26-year-old was sent off after tripping Adam Henley as the full-back attempted to run into the penalty area, but club co-chairman David Gold confirmed on Monday that they planned to appeal the decision.

“Cheikhou Kouyate’s one-match suspension for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity has been withdrawn with immediate effect following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing,” the Football Association confirmed in a statement.

“The Senegal midfielder is therefore eligible to play against Sunderland in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday,” West Ham added as they acknowledged their successful appeal.

Slaven Bilic’s side will meet Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-finals after their 5-1 victory at Ewood Park last Sunday.

Tue 23 February, 2016
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Kouyate red card rescinded

West Ham midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate has been cleared to face Sunderland after his red card against Blackburn Rovers was rescinded.

The 26-year-old was sent off after tripping Adam Henley as the full-back attempted to run into the penalty area, but club co-chairman David Gold confirmed on Monday that they planned to appeal the decision.

“Cheikhou Kouyate’s one-match suspension for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity has been withdrawn with immediate effect following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing,” the Football Association confirmed in a statement.

“The Senegal midfielder is therefore eligible to play against Sunderland in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday,” West Ham added as they acknowledged their successful appeal.

Slaven Bilic’s side will meet Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-finals after their 5-1 victory at Ewood Park last Sunday.

Tue 23 February, 2016
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Arrest made in Brunt coin-throw investigation

Police have arrested an individual as part of their investigation into the incident in which a coin was thrown at West Brom midfielder Chris Brunt.

The Northern Ireland international was hit by a coin thrown from among the visiting supporters as Tony Pulis’ side were beaten 3-1 away to Reading in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday.

Brunt, who had gone to hand his shirt to a child in the crowd, said he was “disgusted” and “ashamed” by the incident and West Brom assured they would issue a lifetime ban to the culprit.

Thames Valley Police (TVP) opened an investigation into the incident and stated on Tuesday that they had made an arrest.

“TVP and Hampshire Police made an arrest today in relation to a coin throwing incident at the Reading vs West Brom FA Cup match on Saturday,” a statement read.

A fan group plans to hold a collection for donations to a charity of Brunt’s choice prior to their Premier League game with Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Tue 23 February, 2016
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Mata: Attitude was key

Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata said his team’s professionalism was crucial to a comfortable 3-0 win away to League One outfit Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup fifth round.

United were always expected to win the tie, despite their struggle for form in recent weeks, and Mata was pleased to see the side come through the game with relative ease and stay alive in the competition, with a quarter-final at home against West Ham to follow.

“I think it’s a very special competition to play in,” he told MUTV.

“There is a lot of history and many difficult games against sides like this one and I think we did well from the beginning and that was key.

“We didn’t let them come on to us and create chances from the start and that was good. There were a few tactical things we worked on, we knew they would play five at the back, but the most important thing in these types of games is the attitude and if you are ready for the battle, you mostly win and we did that.

“We scored two goals in the first half and we managed the second half well. So it was a good job.”

Mata chipped in with a goal of his own just before half-time when he lifted a lovely free-kick over the Shrewsbury wall.

There were claims it should have been ruled out for offside, with a number of United players beyond the last defender as Mata struck the ball.

But the Spaniard said it was a tactic that worked well for United’s Europa League opponents Midtjylland, who claimed a 2-1 win in the first leg on Thursday.

“We did it in Denmark, we tried it because it was something Midtjylland did,” Mata said.

“It was the referee’s decision and they said it was not offside because they said as soon as I kicked the ball they come to be level with the defenders. In this match it was good because I think the goalkeeper reacted late to the ball and he couldn’t save it.”

As happy as he was with the goal, Mata was more satisfied with his overall performance.

“I felt good. I tried to find the spaces with the ball and I think we played quicker, we played more forward, and we had more chances to score, but the most important thing is a clean sheet and we now need to build up for the next game,” he said.

Tue 23 February, 2016
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Van Gaal reveals Midtjylland inspiration for Shrewsbury win

Louis van Gaal explained Manchester United took inspiration from Europa League opponents Midtjylland for their second goal in the 3-0 FA Cup win at Shrewsbury Town.

During Thursday’s Europa League loss to the Danish club, Van Gaal noted their players dashing back from offside positions before free-kicks were taken and complained to the officials.

After being told the move was legal, the United boss stationed a cluster of his men behind the Shrewsbury defensive wall during first-half stoppage time at Greenhous Meadow, with Juan Mata standing over a free-kick and the fifth-round tie poised at 1-0 following Chris Smalling’s opener.

Mata dispatched a crisp effort as Jesse Lingard, Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial charged towards the ball, although replays showed they were not back onside before the Spain international struck the ball

“We have learnt because we have analysed Midtjylland and we have seen that they are doing that,” Van Gaal told BT Sport, after watching Lingard complete the scoring and secure a home quarter-final against West Ham.

“We think that it is always offside. We have asked the Portuguese referees and they said ‘no, no – you can do that’.

“So we learned that off Midtjylland and have scored the free-kick. That is good, I think.”

Van Gaal named a strong starting XI to guard against another mishap and further pressure on his increasingly unpopular Old Trafford tenure, although his injury problems mounted.

Full-back Cameron Borthwick-Jackson made way at half-time and substitute forward Will Keane limped out of the action with a groin problem.

“This is unbelievable because also Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, I changed him at half-time because he was injured,” the Dutchman explained.

“I changed Mata to give him rest and then also Martial, and the substitute [Keane] is then also injured. It is unbelievable.”

Van Gaal did not rule out goalkeeper David de Gea making a return in Thursday’s second leg against Midtjylland at Old Trafford, describing his knee injury as “not so heavy”.

With Champions League qualification on the table for the winners of the Europa League, the United boss insisted it is vital his team turn around a 2-1 deficit in three days’ time.

“It is our chance to qualify [for the Champions League] ourselves, [even if] we have to win a lot of games then,” he added. “That is why it is so important.”

Mon 22 February, 2016
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