FA Cup roundup: Fifth-tier side through; Premier League clubs leave it late

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Three English Premier League sides did their best on Saturday to play into the drama of the FA Cup, with all of Arsenal, Everton, and Manchester City needing late goals to survive road tests in the competition’s fourth round.

The day started at the Britannia, where Stoke City made their meeting with Manchester City into a drab affair. Early City ambition faded into a second half lull before Pablo Zabaleta mercifully ended any fears of a replay. The Argentine’s 85th minute goal sent the Citizens through, 1-0.

In Bolton, Everton seemed destined for a replay when manager David Moyes, in charge for the 500th time with the Toffess, made the late call to brink off striker Nikica Jelavic for John Heitenga, who was put into central midfield. Moyes implied the move was to change tactics and open the game up for Marouane Fellaini, but when Heitenga blasted home a winner in the 91st minute, Everton had what had become an unexpected 2-1 win.

“I thought Bolton had done enough to get a replay,” Moyes conceded after the match.

In Brighton, Arsenal was even late against second-tier Albion when Theo Walcott sent Guy Poyet’s side out of the competition. The 84th minute score was Walcott’s 17th all-competition goal of the season, while Olivier Giroud’s double raised the Frenchman’s total to 14.

Lower-division success

Luton Town and Milton Keynes Dons joined Millwall as lower-division sides that claimed fourth round Premier League scalps.

Millwall advanced yesterday when John Marquis’s 89th minute goal eliminated an increasing wayward Aston Villa. Their exploits were replicated when Milton Keynes racked up a four-goal lead at Queens Park Rangers before seeing the Premier League’s bottom feeders out, 4-2.

But Luton Town were the story of the day. The fifth-tier side sitting six in England’s Conference National get an 80th minute goal from Scott Rendell (pictured) to win at first-division Norwich City, 1-0. The Hatters became the first non-league team since 1989 to beat a top side.

Elsewhere …

Jordi Gomez’s early penalty conversion saw Wigan past Macclesfield Town, 1-0 … Blackburn played to their talent level for one day, winning at Derby, 3-0 … Hull’s fall back to earth continues with a 1-0 home loss to Barnsley … A late Lukas Jutkiewicz double sends Middlesbrough past Aldershot Town, 2-1 … Noel Hunt’s two goals helped Reading route Sheffield United, 4-0 … A late Chris Wood goal earned Leicester City a replay from Huddersfield Town, 1-1 … With two goals from Javier Hernández, Manchester United cruised past Fulham, 4-1.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Watford

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  • Chelsea are without N'Golo Kante, Victor Moses (both hamstring) and Danny Drinkwater (calf) is still absent.
  • Watford remain without Younes Kaboul and Sebastian Prodl (both thigh), plus long-term absentees Craig Cathcart, Nathaniel Chalobah and Isaac Success (all knee).
  • Watford have not won against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge since 1986, but the Hornets have won 10 points of a possible 12 on the road. 
  • Chelsea have lost three of their first eight matches this season. No team has ever lost this many of their opening eight matches and still won the Premier League title.

Watford heads south for another London derby with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

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The Hornets have had an amazing start to the season and currently occupy fourth place on 15 points, two points ahead of fifth-place Chelsea, which has lost two-straight Premier League games. The Blues have struggled without N’Golo Kante and Alvaro Morata and there have been reports of grumbles from the squad about dissatisfaction with Antonio Conte‘s training methods, but the Chelsea coach has brushed those rumors off.

Meanwhile Watford is coming off a confidence-boosting win last weekend against fellow Londoners Arsenal, and the club is looking to take down another big club for a second-straight week.

What they’re saying

Watford manager Marco Silva on his team’s start“I want everybody to be really calm. We did really in the first eight matches but it’s too early. We want to continue to work hard every day. Everything changes fast and you need to keep going and treat the next game as the most important. But of course I feel proud.”

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte on being under pressure: “‘Do I feel the pressure? Every manager feels pressure, but I try to give all of myself into my job, so I’m happy when I go home because I know in every moment I give all of myself for the fans, the players and the club. In football you know anything can happen, but the most important thing is to work.”

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Prediction

Chelsea has its back against the wall but the team’s overall quality should be enough to see them through with all three points against Watford. The Hornets luck runs out in Stamford Bridge as Chelsea hold on for a late win. Chelsea 2-1 Watford

Leicester City record massive earnings from UEFA Champions League

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Leicester City’s UEFA Champions League campaign may have ended without a trophy, but the Premier League side pipped the European champions in the bank account.

UEFA announced on Friday that Leicester City earned $96,167,125 during the Champions League run that ended in the quarterfinals, the farthest of any Premier League club. Real Madrid, the back-to-back champions, earned a slightly less $95,385,679. Much of the difference comes from TV rights deals in England, which pays out more to teams compared to the TV rights deal in Spain.

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Juventus, the Italian giant, earned the most of any club in last year’s Champions League, making a whopping $129,965,357, mostly thanks to the TV rights again.

Mourinho: Ibrahimovic could return in December

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Dare to Zlatan? It could be only a couple of months away.

That’s according to Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who said the veteran striker could return from his torn ACL before the end of the calendar year.

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“Zlatan is here, he’s working here and under our control,” Mourinho told reporters. “He’s working as you would expect so, so, so hard. But he’s not to be back in the next week or next couple of weeks. Do I believe he’ll be back in 2017? Yes, I do. But it’s just a feeling.”

The big Swede scored 28 goals for Man United last year in all competitions, proving that he’s still got it at the age of 36, but it’s going to be tough for him to find his old form coming off an ACL injury at such an old age. After suffering the injury last April, it’s been a long road to recovery for Ibrahimovic.

However, with the play of Romelu Lukaku up top, Ibrahimovic would only play from time to time, which could help in his recovery both from the knee injury and just the general recovery between games.

Manchester City quartet called up by Brazil for friendlies

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Brazilian National Team coach Tite has decided on calling up a full-strength squad for November’s upcoming friendly matches in Europe, including four Manchester City players in his 25-man squad.

Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho, Danilo and Ederson all made the squad as Tite looks to develop more chemistry among his side ahead of the 2018 World Cup, which Brazil breezed into after Tite took over in 2016.

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Luckily for Manchester City and the other European-based players in the squad, Brazil’s friendly matches will be played in Western Europe. The Selecao first faces Japan in Lille, France on November 10 before taking on England at Wembley Stadium on November 14.

The call-ups may be a tough pill for Guardiola to swallow though. As of Friday, Manchester City has 17 games remaining in the calendar year, and surely he would prefer for some of his starters to get a two-week break in November to preserve some energy instead of play in friendly matches.