Premier League Preview: Everton vs. Newcastle United

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  • They’ve met 164 times in all competitions, Everton winning 65, Newcastle 64 and 35 draws
  • Everton haven’t lost at Goodison Park in 2013, (8-0-3)
  • The Toffees have averaged the most possession in the Premier League this season (59.4%)

Everton stand alone in the Premier League, as the only team still unbeaten.

But will they come undone at home to Newcastle (3pm ET, watch live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports Live Extra) on Monday at Goodison Park?

Roberto Martinez has overseen a seamless transition from the David Moyes era, as Everton have won two and drawn three of their opening five games, in a solid start to the 2013-14 season. And they will be hoping to extend their terrific home form against a Newcastle side who’ve only won once in their last 21 visits to Merseyside, and do not travel well.

Alan Pardew’s men have only won three of their last 22 away games in the Premier League, and after a disappointing home defeat to Hull City last weekend, the Magpies need a good response.

The last time these two meet was last season in January, as Everton beat Newcastle 2-1 at St. James’ Park thanks to a stunning free kick from Leighton Baines.

In term of teams news, Gareth Barry is in-line to make his 500th Premier League appearance if selected by Martinez, with only 10 other players reaching that landmark in PL history. While Darron Gibson is hoping to overcome a knee injury. For Newcastle, Steven Taylor and Shola Ameobi could  be fit to return, by Argentine winger Jonas Gutierrez is still out with a hamstring injury.

What they’re saying

Roberto Martinez on Newcastle lack of summer signings: “They made their business early with the loan of Remy and after that they didn’t sign anyone. It seemed from the outside that they didn’t do good business, but the reality is the squad has been strong since January. They made a lot of good signings and that group of players are settled. I see a really good balance between experience and organization, but then a real threat with the likes of Remy, (Papiss) Cisse, (Hatem) Ben Arfa, (Yohan) Cabaye. You’re talking about top, top footballers who are in a good moment in their careers and full internationals. You take away the Manchester City game and they’ve been performing at a very, very good level, so it would be foolish for anyone to underestimate the potential of this Newcastle side.”

Alan Pardew on the importance of captain Fabio Coloccini: “I don’t know how to put that into words, really. He is very, very important, a very steady, calming influence. Last year when he wasn’t playing, there was something missing from the team. That’s why it’s so important that he stayed, and hopefully he will stay for a lot longer than this year as well. We have got a new back four this year because Mapou has played all year, and Colo, Mathieu and Davide (Santon),” said Pardew. That’s been our back four, with (goalkeeper) Tim (Krul), quite settled. Thank goodness, and long may that continue.”

Prediction

Everton’s home record has been immense in recent years, and Newcastle’s away form has been woeful. But let’s throw the form book out the window, because who thought West Brom would beat Manchester United and Man City would lose at Aston Villa over the weekend? But with a fired up crowd under the lights at Goodison Park, Martinez’ side should thrive and attack Newcastle from the start. I can see a tight win for the Toffees, or maybe the Magpies will nick a draw. Nah, Everton win.

Three things we learned: Chelsea v. Southampton

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LONDON — Chelsea beat Southampton 2-0 in the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley on Sunday, with the Blues setting up an FA Cup final clash with Manchester United on May 19.

Antonio Conte‘s side scored twice in the second half with Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata on the scoresheet against a sorry Saints outfit.

Here’s what we learned as Chelsea have set up a tasty clash with Jose Mourinho next month.


GIROUD AN ELEGANT ASSASSIN

Olivier Giroud is quickly becoming a cult hero at Chelsea. The Frenchman dribbled delicately around three Southampton defenders and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy before prodding home to put his side ahead.

It was a elegant, yet clumsy, goal and summed up Giroud’s penchant for delivering goals of the highest difficulty.

Giroud has now been involved in 22 goals in 26 FA Cup appearances (15 goals, 7 assists), more than any other player in the completion since his debut in 2013.

The Frenchman is now pushing hard to be Chelsea’s first-choice central striker ahead of Alvaro Morata, although the Spaniard did grab a goal late on to wrap up the win.

Giroud has scored four goals in 13 appearances in all competitions since arriving from Arsenal in January but the way he holds the ball up and links with Eden Hazard is a huge plus for Conte. Giroud could also start up top with Morata if Chelsea tweak their system and at the age of 31 there is still plenty of life left in him and not just as a late sub, the role Conte earmarked for him.


COULD CONTE STAY…

Antonio Conte will likely still leave Chelsea at the end of the season but the Italian coach seems to badly want his time at Chelsea to end with a trophy.

But here’s a thought: if Chelsea beat Man United and somehow make it into the top four at Tottenham’s expense (they are five points back with four games to go), will he remain in charge for the final year of his three-year contract?

The Blues cruised into the FA Cup final and looked fired up from the start as Eden Hazard pulled the strings and Giroud made a nuisance of himself.

Conte’s comments all season long suggest he will depart Chelsea this summer and seek a new project, but if he does so after winning the FA Cup (after being runners up last season) to go along with the PL title he won last season, and then finishing fifth, that’s not a bad two years in the PL.

The Italian will depart with his pride and reputation intact even if he doesn’t defeat his old foe Mourinho in the final next month.


SOUTHAMPTON’S STRUGGLES

Saints are in the Premier League’s relegation zone for a reason and their total lack of confidence was clear for all to see at Wembley.

Mark Hughes‘ men have five games left to save themselves but it almost seems as if Saints’ players have resigned themselves to relegation from the Premier League despite sitting just four points from safety. One win in their last 21 PL games (that came against West Brom) tells the story of a side crumbling before our eyes.

After they shipped 12 goals in four Premier League, all of them defeats, Hughes has set Saints up in a 5-3-1-1 formation to try and make them tougher to break down.

It is working, at least defensively, with a 0-0 draw at Leicester on Thursday, but going forward they totally lack any cohesion and only created three real chances on Sunday as Shane Long made a hash of a great opportunity, Charlie Austin hit the post and Nathan Redmond tested Willy Caballero.

Saints are in a really bad place as they now have to find a way to stop themselves hurtling towards relegation. Their game at home against Bournemouth next weekend is a must win. Simple.

Chelsea joins Man Utd in FA Cup Final

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Chelsea will meet old pal Jose Mourinho in the FA Cup Final after beating Southampton 2-0 at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata scored the goals for Antonio Conte‘s men, whose date with Manchester United comes at the same venue on May 19.

Southampton will turn its attention back to the relegation battle, four points behind 17th place Swansea City.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Willian hit the cross bar with an early effort as Chelsea looked very much up for the semifinal.

Olivier Giroud had a 39th minute chance zip wide of the frame, as Chelsea posted nine of the first half’s 11 shot attempts while holding 60 percent possession.

Saints would have been happy to get to the locker room at nil-nil.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Twenty-eight seconds into the second half: That’s when Giroud scored, with Chelsea’s first long ball knocked down by Eden Hazard on the edge of the 18 and played to the Frenchman.

Giroud cut between two Saints defenders and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy to stab home with his right foot.

Hazard curled an effort of his own wide in the 48th minute.

Saints snapped to life, and Shane Long touched around Wily Caballero but too strong to equalize at Wembley.

Nathan Redmond forced a wild save out of Caballero in the 72nd minute, and nearly claimed the corner.

McCarthy tipped a Hazard shot over the bar minutes later.

Morata put it to bed on a cross from his in-tune assist man Cesar Azpilicueta.

The finish was thrilling nevertheless, with Charlie Austin hitting the far post and Saints getting a goal line clearance at the other end.

Wenger: Praise after exit announcement “more than I deserve”

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Arsene Wenger doesn’t seem like the type to go on a victory lap, but the Arsenal boss is handling his resignation and the accompanying praise with pure class.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 4-1 West Ham ]

Wenger announced the end of his long Arsenal tenure earlier this week, and has been met by heaps of praise from ex-players, fans, current Gunners, and even rivals.

The Frenchman addressed the plaudits following a 4-1 win over West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday. From the BBC:

“I would like to thank everyone who has been very nice and kind and praised me more than I deserved it. I would like to say thank you everyone. It’s been a great period for me and I’m thankful for that.”

Arsenal punished West Ham after the Irons equalized through Marko Arnautovic, getting a lucky goal from Aaron Ramsey and two fine finishes from Alexandre Lacazette in the win.

“I was focused on winning the game. We just tried to be professional and do our job even when the circumstances are different. It was a good team spirit and good preparation for Thursday.

“I think we constructed patiently. We didn’t make big mistakes. First of all before winning a trophy, you need to get through the semi-finals. This is a good way to prepare – scoring goals against a strong West Ham team who have done well recently.”

Next up: A huge test in the UEFA Europa League semifinals, with Atletico Madrid visiting for Thursday’s first leg. Wenger rested several big names, and Atleti has just one win from its last four matches (including a Madrid Derby draw at the Bernabeu).

WATCH: Chelsea’s Giroud scores 27 seconds after halftime

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Southampton held firm against Chelsea’s challenge for 45 minutes of Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal at Wembley Stadium.

Well, 45 minutes and 27 seconds.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 4-1 West Ham ]

The first long ball of the second half saw Chelsea’s Eden Hazard leap to trap, and the Belgian played a quick ball forward to his striker.

That’s Olivier Giroud, who dribbled between two defenders and Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy to stab home with the outside of his right foot.