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.

LVG would only return to club football to get at Man Utd

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Leave it to The Daily Mirror to find that last bit of juice when it comes to Manchester United and former manager Louis Van Gaal.

Well, probably the last bit.

The Dutch manager said he does not expect to return to club football, unless one of the big boys in the Premier League offered him the chance to take a run at United. The Red Devils, of course, fired him shortly after an FA Cup title in order to hire Jose Mourinho.

[ MORE: WBA 1-2 Man Utd | Bournemouth 0-4 Liverpool ]

From The Mirror, quoting LVG at a Sunday night function in Rotterdam.

“I will probably not manage a club anymore,” Van Gaal said. “I would make one exception: If a big English club comes for me, than I would do it. Because then I can get the chance to get one over on Manchester United.’’

Could you see him getting a run at any of the Top Four contenders, even on a caretaker basis? Could Liverpool come calling if they tired of Jurgen Klopp one season, or might Arsenal or even Everton need a stopgap (should the Toffees spending come good)?

Suspended Villar says Spain in danger of missing World Cup

AP Photo/Paul White
1 Comment

The suspended president of the Spanish soccer federation, who is under investigation for corruption, tried Monday to stoke up fears that the country could be kicked out of the World Cup because of government interference.

Angel Maria Villar, who is free on bail, spoke at a news conference in Madrid and again denied any wrongdoing. He also blamed the government for meddling in the federation’s affairs by suspending him.

“This government is putting Spain’s participation in the World Cup at risk,” the 67-year-old Villar said in his first news conference since being arrested in July along with his son, Gorka Villar, and two other officials.

[ BLANC: I turned down USMNT talks ]

“The risk is serious,” Villar said. “The only party responsible for Spain not going to the World Cup will be the Spanish government.”

Villar spoke three days after FIFA said it was concerned about the independence of the Spanish soccer federation and that it would soon send a delegation to analyze the situation. FIFA made no mention of a possible suspension of the federation, which could keep Spain out of next year’s World Cup in Russia or even knock Real Madrid and Barcelona out of the Champions League.

Villar, who has spent time behind bars to impede the possible destruction of evidence, and the other three officials are being investigated for alleged improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.

Villar resigned his vice presidencies of both FIFA and UEFA following his arrest. But he tried to stay on as the head of Spanish federation, a post he held for three decades.

His refusal to listen to pleas for him to step down led the Spanish government to suspend him from the post for one year pending the outcome of the investigation. Court documents allege that besides misappropriated funds, Villar is suspected of corrupting several regional federations by offering favors in exchange for votes.

Villar fired back at the government, saying his suspension had broken FIFA rules since it represented interference in the federation’s management.

“It’s easy to see that the source of concern was my arbitrary and unjustified removal from the presidency of the federation and for not respecting the presumption of innocence,” Villar said, adding that other teams are ready to take Spain’s place at the World Cup.

“Be careful. There are other powerful countries that didn’t qualify like Italy that are waiting to pounce and take our place,” Villar said.

Spain, which won the World Cup in 2010, is considered to be among the favorites for next year’s tournament.

Blanc: I turned down USMNT talks

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

U.S. Soccer has not been inactive when it comes to the USMNT coaching search, despite its uncertainty with an impending presidential election.

Le Parisien has an interview with Laurent Blanc in which the ex-Bordeaux, France, and Paris Saint-Germain boss says he was approached by the United States Soccer Federation, but was not interested in the gig.

[ MORE: Making sense of the PL table ]

Blanc said an international job would have to touch his roots, and he’s most certainly not American. The tall 52-year-old had a glittering playing career with Saint-Etienne, Barcelona, Marseille, Inter Milan, and Manchester United amongst other stops.

More important, it shows that Sunil Gulati and his men have to some degree moved forward with keeping their imprint on the national team.

That’s a little worrying on any team: A hierarchy that may not be around much longer may be working to fill a position arguably more important than its own. It’d be nice to have them commit to not hiring anyone until after February’s election.

Premier League Preview: Everton vs. Swansea City

Peter Byrne/PA via AP
Leave a comment
  • Everton leads all-time 15W-9D-3L
  • BUT Swans unbeaten in 7 vs. Toffees
  • Toffees go ninth with win
  • Swans four back of safety

Everton hopes its up-turn in form can end three seasons of futility against visiting Swansea City when the two sides meet at Goodison Park on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Gylfi Sigurdsson gets a chance to face his former club for the first time, while longtime Swans man Ashley Williams may also feature for Sam Allardyce.

Swansea has no time to focus on the past, as Paul Clement‘s men sit deep in the drop zone. The last place Swans are four points shy of safety.

What they’re saying

Everton’s Ashley Williams on facing his former club (again)“The game is a little bit more important to me, I would be lying I said it wasn’t. You always want to play against your old teams and it’s a fixture you always look for.  I have been looking forward to this one and it will be nice to see old faces and old friends. It is a game we want to win and to keep a clean sheet in, especially at home, in order to keep our momentum going.”

Swansea City’s Roque Mesa on the match“This is a massive game for us. We need to pick up points because we are bottom and we need to improve our position. Everton have a new manager and their players have done very well under him – you can see their confidence has grown since he joined. But we did well against West Brom and picked up three points, which was very important. Then we faced Manchester City and they proved too good for us. They are the best team in the league, and unfortunately, we couldn’t match them on the night.”

Prediction

Swans need to move past that Man City loss and build on a 1-0 win over West Brom a few days previous. That may not be possible at Goodison, and the Welsh side would be thrilled to escape with a draw. It seems unlikely. Everton 2-1.