FA Cup Preview: Arsenal host Tottenham in huge North London derby

Leave a comment

A game like this is what the FA Cup is all about.

Passion, history, rivalry and intensity; it will all be on display at the Emirates on Saturday at 12:15pm ET between North London foes Arsenal and Tottenham in a massive clash.

The two Premier League teams were drawn at random against each other in the third round (the stage when Premier League sides enter) of the oldest cup competition in world soccer. Just to give you a heads up, amateur, semi-pro and tens of lower league sides in England and Wales have already been through qualifying and many other rounds just to get to the last 64 of the most famous knockout tournament in the global game.

(MORE: Full draw for FA Cup third round, as 32 games take place)

But back to Arsenal vs. Tottenham, and the Premier League leaders are in good form after a fruitful festive period that saw them keep their lead at the PL summit. As for Spurs, they’ve changed managers since these sides last met on September 1, 2013 as Tim Sherwood has had a sensational start to life in charge of Tottenham following Andre Villas-Boas’ departure.

Spurs have won three of Sherwood’s four games PL games in charge and are unbeaten since he took over on a permanent basis before Christmas. But this will be a huge test for Sherwood, as Arsenal have been sweeping away sides since the start of the season and look resolutely defensively but one bonus for the visitors is the amount of injuries piling up for the Gunners.

This FA Cup tie has great importance, not only for local pride but a positive result will help to keep both teams good league form going. And here’s a crazy stat for you, this is only the sixth time Arsenal and Spurs have met since the competition began in 1871 and on the other five occasions whoever triumphed in the North London derby has gone on to lift the FA Cup that year.

In team news, Arsenal strikers Olivier Giroud and Nicklas Bendtner are set to miss out while left back Kieran Gibbs is also sidelined. For Spurs, they could welcome back Jermain Defoe, Lewis Holtby and Andros Townsend from injury, while former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor looks to have overcome the knock which saw him stretched off in Tottenham’s win over Manchester United on Wednesday.

What they’re saying

Wenger says his side will be focused: “My players are highly focused on this game. They are determined to win every single game they play, their attitude has been absolutely fantastic since the start of the season and will be like that on Saturday.”

Tim Sherwood on Adebayor: “I spoke to Ade after United and he said he cramped up in all areas, some where he’d never cramped before, so he wasn’t sure if he had strains or pulls, but thankfully it has settled down, he’s had some great treatment and he’s ready to perform.”

Prediction

Tottenham looked revitalized and more stable since Tim Sherwood took over, they also look more capable of scoring plenty of goals. If they can score early away at Arsenal, the home fans will get restless and pile the pressure on their side. North London derbies are usually very tight affairs and I expect this to be no different. A draw would see a replay take place at White Hart Lane and a chance for another pulsating clash, my money would be on a stalemate at the Emirates this Saturday evening.

Watch Live: Swansea host Manchester United

Leave a comment

Swansea City welcome Manchester United to the Liberty Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Jose Mourinho’s side aiming to stay top of the Premier League table.

[ STREAM: Swansea v. Man United ]

Yes, it’s early days, but the Red Devils were imperious in their thumping 4-0 win against West Ham United to open their season. Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic dominated and Mourinho’s men are now a powerful, well-oiled machine.

As for Swansea, they struggled at Southampton but came away with a draw, however the main storyline surrounding the South Wales side this week has been losing Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton for over $60 million. Paul Clement will have to act fast to spend that cash wisely, but there is no doubt the Swans will miss their Icelandic playmaker.

In team news Swansea bring in Kyle Bartley and Roque Mesa as they line up in a 3-5-2 formation with Jordan Ayew and Tammy Abraham up top.

Man United are, unsurprisingly, unchanged.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski; Fernandez, Bartley, Mawson; Naughton, Mesa, Fer, Carroll, Olsson; Ayew, Abraham. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, van der Hoorn, Fulton, Narsingh, Routledge, McBurnie.

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Jones, Blind; Matic, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Mata, Rashford; Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Smalling, Fellaini, Herrera, Lingard, Martial

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

Getty Images
1 Comment

Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Fabian Johnson misses Gladbach training with injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With John Brooks already out long-term due to a thigh injury, the United States may have another key injury to work around.

According to Borussia Monchengladbach manager Dieter Hecking, full-back/winger Fabian Johnson missed training on Friday due to an unspecified injury, and is now a question mark for Gladbach’s home match on Sunday against FC Koln. It could be nothing, but even the scare is cause for concern among U.S. fans.

Johnson has battled a few injuries the past couple of seasons, including a hamstring problem last spring that kept him out for nearly two months, including a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

Johnson’s absence would leave a hole at right-back for the United States. The 29-year-old has been deployed some at right wing for the USMNT, but he has been relatively poor at that position in the national setup, looking better when pushed further back where he is given more defensive duties, roaming forward with less frequency but more intent.

In place of Johnson, another converted winger in Graham Zusi has been seeing more time at right-back, but he offers less in the attack and lacks Johnson’s recovery speed, meaning mistakes by the Sporting KC veteran are punished more often.

Falcao scores again to extend red hot start

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Monaco is hoping to ride out the final two weeks of the transfer window with 18-year-old wonderkid Kylian Mbappe still in tow.

While they wait, they aren’t missing a beat.

With Mbappe out of the squad, Radamel Falcao has begun the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season as Europe’s hottest goalscorer. He bagged a hat-trick last weekend with Mbappe on the bench to give him four goals in the first two league matches. Then, with Mbappe out of the squad entirely, Falcao netted the winner in a 1-0 road win over FC Metz.

Falcao has scored five goals so far this year, and his club has a +5 goal differential. In a way, Falcao has already been worth six points thus far.

Thanks in part to Ligue 1’s early start, Falcao’s five league goals are by far more than anyone else in the major European leagues. Four players have scored a pair of Premier League goals, nobody in La Liga or the Bundesliga have scored more than one, and the Serie A season has yet to start.

The Colombian did the same thing last season. After eventually coming off the shelf from to hamstring and concussion problems to start the season, Falcao scored 10 goals in 10 Ligue 1 matches leading up to the new calendar year.

At 31 years old, Falcao isn’t a long-term solution and the club will clearly look to retain Mbappe despite Falcao’s hot start, but should they lose the young Frenchman, the club will be in good hands while they search for a replacement over the next year.