Everton run into buzzsaw at Sunderland, could lose Moyes and Fellaini

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No matter how much was on the line for Everton coming into the weekend, a date with Sunderland was always going to be a buzzsaw fixture.

The Toffees entered the match with long-shot hopes of qualifying for the Champions League, four points back of 4th place Chelsea, who held a game in hand. David Moyes’ notoriously thin side had been nursed back to health for the first time since the beginning of the season and after a robust mid-week performance in the 1-1 draw at Arsenal, it felt like few teams could stand in their way.

One of those teams, however, was Sunderland.

In 16th place and just three points clear of relegation-bound Wigan, the Wearsiders were battling for their Premier League lives. The Black Cats entered the match full of belief after last weekend’s stunning 3-0 victory over Newcastle. The derby win secured  manager Paulo Di Canio’s cult-status at the club and made concern over his political affiliations a mere footnote.

The fiery Italian put out a side that was organized, energetic and full of belief. Factor in the match being venued under the reverberating rafters of the Stadium of Light, and Sunderland were a team not to be crossed. To their credit, Everton played decently well but it didn’t matter – the Black Cats’ determination could not be matched and they fully deserved the three points.

The win came courtesy of a Stephane Sessegnon gem just before halftime. After Leighton Baines gave the ball away at midfield, Sessegnon took four dribbles and fired a hovering shot from 18 yards out to beat Tim Howard to his far post. The Benin international’s seventh goal of the campaign was all Sunderland needed to secure the three points, easing their relegation fears and setting off celebrations throughout Wearside.

For Everton, the dropped points could have massive ramifications. For starters, the loss prompted Moyes to admit that his side has almost no chance of Champions League qualification. “We probably didn’t deserve to lose the game but we didn’t play well enough to win it. I don’t think now we can make the Champions League,” the manager said.

But even more significantly, the loss could seal the departure of both Moyes and Marouane Fellaini during the summer transfer window. This winter Moyes refused to re-sign his contract at Goodison Park – set to expire this summer – fueling speculation that the 11 year veteran on Merseyside may leave the club in search of greener pastures. Manchester City, Chelsea and Schalke have been named as possible destinations and though Everton chairman Bill Kenwright could convince Moyes to stay by providing him with the finances he needs to compete, majority opinion says the notoriously frugal owner is unlikely to do so.

Fellaini’s road out of Everton is even more clear cut. Enjoying a dominant season (11 goals, 5 assists in 27 appearances), the 25 year old has been heavily linked to Chelsea and, more recently, Russian outfits Anzhi Makhachkala and Zenit St. Petersburg. The Belgian has made clear his intent to play Champions League football and although his current deal at Everton isn’t set to expire until 2016, a $35m (£23m) escape clause is viewed as a fair market trigger for big clubs to pull.

In the meantime Everton will set its sites on competing with 5th place Tottenham in a spot for the Europa League. To do so the Toffees will need to take maximum points from their four remaining fixtures against Fulham (H), Liverpool (A), West Ham (H) and Chelsea (A).

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”