Stoke City v Aston Villa - Premier League

Christian Benteke – fresh and poised to re-sign with Aston Villa

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According to manager Paul Lambert, Aston Villa fans shouldn’t worry about Christian Benteke burning out. Whether the Belgian striker will sign a new deal with the club remains to be seen although things are looking up the West Midland’s club.

From the moment he arrived at Villa Park last August Benteke has been terrific. Having signed a four year deal from Genk for $10.7m (£7m) the 22 year old has racked up 15 goals in 29 league games and 19 in all competitions. Manager Paul Lambert has repeatedly hailed Benteke’s work ethic, attitude and contribution to a Villa squad that entered the season in desperate need of offensive output. In Benteke, as well as Austrian striker Andreas Weimann who Lambert brought up from Villa’s youth ranks after signing from Rapid Vienna at age 16, Lambert has found lightning in a bottle.

The key is not letting that energy escape – whether through fatigue or transfer. Lambert remains convinced that despite the 44 matches that Benteke has played for club and country, the hulking striker isn’t running out of energy anytime soon. “He played for Genk before our season started, he’s played every game for the national team, and then played for ourselves,” Lambert said. “But he doesn’t look tired at all. The big guy has been terrific.”

Benteke has been so terrific that many pundits projected him the target of a move to a big club that could provide a sizeable pay raise and a bigger stage to perform. Tottenham, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal were all rumored to be interested. Worries concerning such a move subsided on Tuesday when reports emerged the striker will engage in talks this week over a lucrative new contract to keep him at Villa. Benteke told manager Paul Lambert that he wants to stay with the Villains to continue playing regular football thereby providing him with the best chance to stay in Belgium’s squad for the 2014 World Cup.

Villa are believed to be preparing a package that would add an additional year onto Benteke’s contract (currently due to end in 2016) and to raise his salary from £20,000 per week to £40,000 per week. A similar move is believed to be in the works with Weimann after Lambert revealed that he had owner Randy Lerner’s backing to tie down his young strike force.

For Lambert, doing so is his top priority. “I don’t want to go back to square one,” the manager said. “These are only young guys in their early 20s, they still have so much to learn and so much to prove. That is what you want — to work with guys to keep them progressing.”

The Villains, currently 16th in the table and two points from the drop, will look to continue their progression to safety this weekend when they take on Fulham at Villa Park.

VIDEO: Rod Stewart steals show in hilarious Scottish FA Cup draw

Rod Stewart
Sky Sports
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Sir Rod Stewart knows how to play to a crowd.

This proves it.

[ MORE: Wenger charged after push

And no, 72-year-old Stewart was not performing on stage at one of the world’s biggest venues on Sunday but he was instead conducting the draw for the fifth round of the Scottish FA Cup.

Seriously.

Live on Sky Sports in the UK, he was given the task of drawing out the home teams and Stewart did so in flamboyant and phenomenal fashion, especially when drawing out his beloved Glasgow Celtic.

Click play on the video below to be mesmerized by Stewart’s energy and excitement. This is brilliant.

There are some suggestions out there that he may have had a small alcoholic beverage before taking part in the draw…

Personally, I think there should be a new rule which sees Rod Stewart involved in every single cup draw from here on out.

Agree? I think you will.


Arsene Wenger charged with misconduct by FA

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Arsene Wenger has been charged with misconduct by the English Football Association.

[ MORE: New PL title odds released ]

Wenger, 66, reacted angrily to Arsenal conceding a penalty kick in second half stoppage time against Burnley on Sunday — the 10-man Gunners would go on to get a contentious spot kick off their own in the 98th minute to win 2-1 — and was sent to the stands by the officials.

He then appeared to push the fourth official and afterwards admitted he “regrets everything” and he should have “shut up and gone home” after the incident.

The FA released the following statement regarding Wenger’s charge.

Arsene Wenger has been charged for misconduct following Arsenal’s game against Burnley on Sunday [22 January 2017].

It is alleged that in or around the 92nd minute, he used abusive and/or insulting words towards the fourth official. It is further alleged that following his dismissal from the technical area, his behaviour in remaining in the tunnel area and making physical contact with the fourth official amounted to improper conduct.

He has until 6pm on 26 January 2017 to respond to the charge.

Many are calling for Wenger to be handed a very long ban for his actions.

He pushed fourth official Anthony Taylor and although it wasn’t hard enough for Taylor to fall over, it was in an aggressive manner and Wenger and the fourth official were separated by security guards in the tunnel area.

It was not the Frenchman’s finest moment and he is sure to pay a heavy price both in a fine and a potential touchline ban.

If Jose Mourinho received a one-game touchline ban for kicking a battle earlier this season, then surely Wenger has to get at least two or three games for physical contact with a match official.

The stress of a title race does funny things to even the coolest of characters.

DC United sign Ian Harkes to Homegrown deal

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Wake Forest
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D.C. United have completed the deal to bring Ian Harkes back to RFK Stadium.

[ MORE: Title odds in PL ]

Harkes, 21, signed for the Major League Soccer franchise Monday as a Homegrown player, fresh from winning the MAC Hermann Trophy earlier this month as the best collegiate player in the U.S. following his heroics with Wake Forest University over the past four years.

Son of former D.C. United and U.S. national team captain John Harkes, it is believed the two-way midfielder had plenty of options in Europe due to his dual nationality after he was born in England duringJohn’s playing days with Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County, West Ham United and Nottingham Forest.

However, the younger Harkes has instead decided to sign for United and head coach Ben Olsen was delighted to add arguably the most talented up and coming midfielder in U.S soccer.

“I’ve known Ian nearly his entire life and have watched him develop into one of the nation’s best young talents.” Olsen said. “He has all the tools to succeed at the next level and I look forward to being a part of his pro career.”

Harkes starred for DCU’s Academy as captain of both the U-16 and U-18 level before heading to Wake Forest for his storied four-year college career and now he will return home to try and lead a D.C. side back to the latter stages of the postseason.

Olsen has endured an up and down time with United over the past seven years, but has reached the MLS Cup playoffs in four of the last five campaigns.

Adding Harkes will no doubt increase DCU’s chances of making a deep run at the postseason in 2017. He also increase their number of Homegrown players to four in their current squad.

Latest bookmakers odds to win Premier League title

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Burnley at the Emirates Stadium on January 22, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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The bookies aren’t quite calling it yet, but it’s getting to that stage…

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

After a tumultuous weekend in the Premier League the odds on Chelsea winning the title were slashed to 2/5 odds-on by some bookmakers. Chelsea’s 15th win in their last 16 games, coupled with a draw for Manchester United, a draw between Manchester City and Tottenham, a defeat to Liverpool and a late win for Arsenal, saw things continue to stack in Antonio Conte‘s favor.

With all that in mind, below is a list of the title odds for the current top six teams in the Premier League via SkyBet in the UK.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

I don’t know about you guys but Arsenal at 9/1 seem like a very decent price considering the games they have coming up and their star players pretty much all in-form and, for now, fully fit. Maybe that’s where the value is in this market.

Would be intrigued to see who you guys would bet on, aside from Chelsea…


Chelsea – 2/5
Tottenham – 7/1
Arsenal – 9/1
Liverpool – 12/1
Manchester City – 22/1
Manchester United – 40/1