FA Cup: Five to Watch

Leave a comment

The Premier League has the weekend off due to FA Cup action, with many first-division sides involved in the fourth round of England’s top domestic tournament. But, with twelve games today, and the majority of those taking place at the same time, how to choose which to watch?

Bournemouth vs. Liverpool (7:45 a.m. ET)
The day’s FA Cup action kicks off in Bournemouth, where the Cherries  have a massive game ahead of them. They’re currently 16th in the Championship, but Bournemouth aren’t used to such dizzying heights, having climbed to the second tier of English football just once before. Now, the financial crisis that saw them fall out of the Football League has been stymied by investment from Russian owner Maxim Demin, but manager Eddie Howe wants glory as well. 30 years ago, Bournemouth beat cup-holders Manchester United in Round 3. Now the side is looking to go down in history once more – but they might have to stop the likes of Luis Suárez to do so. Sure, Liverpool’s star will probably be on the bench, but should things not be going the visitors’ way, he’ll be available to crush the hope out of the Cherries.

Manchester City vs. Watford (10 a.m. ET)
Fans of the popular Twitter game #WheresJoJo might be excited for this matchup – Stevan Jovetić, an expensive purchase for Manchester City in the summer but barely seen since – made a rare appearance for City against West Ham in the League Cup, and there’s no reason he won’t be spotted again today. Unless he’s already hurt again, that is. While it’s always fun to watch City’s “B Squad” and realize just how good this side is, taking a chance to watch Watford isn’t such a bad proposition. They’re an intriguing side: basically a Championship club where players from Serie A club Udinese are shipped off on loan. They’re managed by Italian Beppe Sannino and have some familiar faces amongst their ranks, including goalkeeper Manuel Almunia and venerable defender Marco Cassetti.

Port Vale vs. Brighton and Hove Albion (10 a.m. ET)
Two sides competing for promotion meet in Burslem on Saturday, in what just might be an interesting matchup. You probably can’t find a way to watch this one, so keep an eye out for live updates at the least. The hosts are pushing for promotion from League One, the Seagulls up to the Premier League, and both, of course, want to make it to the next round of the FA Cup. It’s the visitors that are favored, thanks to their Championship position, but it will be tough to take out the hosts at Vale Park, where they haven’t lost a game since November.

Sunderland vs. Kidderminster Harriers (10 a.m. ET)
79 places separate these two opponents – and with Sunderland still in the bottom three in the Premier League, you can just imagine where Kidderminster fall in the pecking order. They’re the only non-league side left in the tournament, and they travel to the Stadium of Light with just one goal: find a way of knocking out the Black Cats. But with Sunderland still on a high after knocking Manchester United out of the League Cup midweek, will it be possible to overtake the hosts? Perhaps Andy Thorn should instruct his team to just hang on and make it to penalties. After seeing the ones Sunderland put in against United, he’s got to fancy his teams chances in that area. Thorn, though, might be boosted by his own FA Cup experience, as the manager was part of the Wimbledon side that surprised the country in 1988 by defeating Liverpool in the final. Will Sunderland, too, find a Thorn in their side?

Stevenage vs. Everton (12:30 p.m. ET)
The day winds down with the Toffees making a visit to Hertfordshire, taking on League One side Stevenage. The hosts have experience lifting trophies; specifically, the FA Trophy. Don’t let that confuse you, as this particular trophy is hosted by the winner of non-league competition. As for the FA Cup, should Stevenage pull this off it would truly be a cup-set. They’re dead last in the table and have won just one league game in the past two months. They managed to beat struggling Championship side Doncaster away to get to the tie with Everton, but it’s hard to see the Premier League side, even saddled with injuries and using its reserves, having much trouble at Stevenage.

Errors down, penalty kicks up after introduction of VAR in Italy

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The implementation of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in Italy has been controversial, but according to a look at the statistics, it has for the most part done its job to fix clear and obvious errors.

Italian sports paper Gazzetta Dello Sport compiled all the times VAR has been used through 346 matches, 330 in Serie A and 16 in the Coppa Italia. There were 1,736 checks (916 goals, 464 penalties and 356 red cards) with 105 corrections and just 17 errors where the referee and assistant made the wrong decision. Eight of those errors did affect the result, which is an issue that will surely be addressed by the Italian officiating organization.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

But overall, Gazzetta found that in the VAR era, referee errors only amounted to 0.98 percent during a match, as opposed to 6.03 percent in the past. In addition, fouls are down 8.8 percent, red cards are down 6.4 percent, and yellow cards are down 14.7 percent. On the flip side, penalty kicks are called 4.3 more percent of the time.

The Premier League voted recently not to add VAR to its league matches next season, while top leagues in Germany, Italy and in Major League Soccer and the United Soccer League continue to use it.

Report: New Arsenal manager will have small budget to re-shape squad

Getty Images
1 Comment

Whoever takes the helm as Arsenal’s next manager will have to do some math gymnastics this summer to stretch every penny available.

According to a report from The Telegraph, Arsenal is giving Arsene Wenger‘s successor a little less than $70 million to work with in this summer’s transfer market, citing back-to-back transfer windows with club-record signings (Alexandre Lacazette last summer and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January) and three raises given to players. Arsenal paid around $78 million alone to sign Aubameyang and around $65 million for Lacazette.

[READ: UCL Preview: Liverpool vs. Roma]

That means whoever comes in next to lead Arsenal will likely have to sell one or two players this summer to raise additional money for world-class signings.

For the last decade, Arsenal has been crying out for a new pair of centerbacks and a holding midfielder in the mould of Patrick Vieira. In addition, with Petr Cech getting older, the prospect of needing a new goalkeeper is also on the horizon.

Luckily for Arsenal, they seem to be just fine up front. From Aubameyang and Lacazette to Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey, the club has the talent to challenge for a title next season in that department.

A dozen different names have been bandied about as to who will be Arsenal’s next manager, with out-of-contract and former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique reportedly on the shortlist. Vieira, former Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta, Germany National Team coach Joachim Low, Juventus boss Max Allegri and Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsman have all also been linked with the job.

Tunisian player who collapsed in Spain regains consciousness

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MADRID (AP) Spanish third-division club Toledo says a Tunisian player who collapsed from heart failure during practice 10 days ago has regained consciousness.

The club says doctors removed sedative medication and Lassad Nouioui was responding well to treatment on Monday.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

They will consider removing the 32-year-old Nouioui from the intensive care unit if his condition keeps improving. Nouioui has played for a number of clubs during his 14-year professional career, notably a four-year stay at Deportivo La Coruna and a one-year spell with Celtic.

Nouioui collapsed on April 14.

The game against Real Madrid B the following day was postponed because of the problem with Nouioui.

FIFA force pace on $25B Club World Cup, global league plan

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
1 Comment

GENEVA (AP) FIFA is forcing the pace on talks over a $25 billion offer to revamp the Club World Cup and create a global national team competition.

FIFA says President Gianni Infantino hosted a meeting last Friday with invited officials from some top European clubs.

[ MORE: Everton gets past Newcastle behind Walcott strike ]

The European Club Association has strongly opposed FIFA’s hope for a four-yearly club tournament starting in 2021, which could rival the UEFA-organized Champions League.

UEFA has also proposed a Global Nations League. A similar project is tied to the FIFA-controlled $25 billion, 12-year offer from a consortium including investors from Saudi Arabia and China.

FIFA says it’s holding “informal ongoing discussions with different stakeholders on the topic of the future Club World Cups.”

Infantino is set to meet confederation presidents and general secretaries “in the near future,” FIFA says.