FA Cup Preview: Chance for redemption for Arsenal and Manchester City in rematches

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It’s pretty clear Arsene Wenger would rather have the first one back, but he gets a shot at a bit of redemption this weekend as Arsenal host Liverpool in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Manuel Pellegrini will get the same opportunity as his side were pegged back in their hunt for the Premier League title by Chelsea, who became the first team to figure out a way to stop the Citizens at the Etihad.

With the competition down to just 16 clubs, many will start seriously thinking about seeing the competition all the way out.

There are just seven lower league teams remaining, and two are guaranteed to be done after this round with four paired together.

Without further ado, let’s take a sneak peak at the matchups scheduled for this weekend:

SATURDAY:

Manchester City vs. Chelsea

Jose Mourinho has done plenty of talking in the past few weeks, and he made sure to include Pellegrini on his list of verbal targets.  No matter Mourinho’s off the field strategies, it worked as his team stopped City’s scorching hot home form in Chelsea’s 1-0 win two weeks ago.

Now, he’ll look to repeat the performance and knock last year’s runners-up out of the competition much earlier.  Samir Nasri could return for Manchester City after five weeks on the sidelines, while defenders Gary Cahill and John Terry are out for Chelsea which could force Branislav Ivanovic into duties in the center of defense.

Cardiff City vs. Wigan Athletic

The cup holders Wigan are still in the competition, and are the only lower-league side to draw Premier League opposition in this round of the cup.

The Latics are on a fantastic run of form, having stopped Sheffield Wednesday’s record-setting Championship streak in convincing fashion.  They haven’t lost an FA Cup match since January of 2012, and have already knocked out Crystal Palace.

Cardiff, meanwhile, have scored just five goals in their last seven matches across all competitions.

Sunderland vs. Southampton

With Jozy Altidore and Sunderland having already booked their place in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley, they’re gunning for another top finish in England’s other cup.

Along that road to Wembley, they dispatched Southampton 2-1 at the Stadium of Light, and they’ll have another opportunity to repeat that performance.  These two teams have goals in them, having also played to a 2-2 draw in the league back in January.

Sheffield Wednesday vs. Charlton Athletic

The two clubs are 17th and 20th in the Championship table respectively, and the FA Cup will give the lower-league sides a much-needed break from their disappointing league seasons.

Charlton are currently on a six-match winless streak in the Championship. They have won an FA Cup before, all the way back in 1947.  Sheffield would make the sixth round for the first time since 1997 with a win.

SUNDAY:

Arsenal vs. Liverpool

The Reds reinserted themselves into the title conversation with an impressive 5-1 win over Arsenal last weekend.  Arsene Wenger claims the Gunners now have that “out of their system,” but there’s no question they’d do themselves a favor with a bit of redemption.

With the match at the Emirates this time around, the Gunners will have their home fans to back the performance, and they’ll want to prove last weekend was an anomaly, as Jose Mourinho took the opportunity to point out Wenger’s failures over the years following the loss.

Everton vs. Swansea City

Swansea draw another Premier League side on the heels of knocking out Manchester United in the fourth round.  This will be the first time these two sides face off in the FA Cup since 1957, when Everton won handily over Second Division Swansea 3-0.  It will be the Swans’ first cup match under new manager Garry Monk.

Sheffield United vs. Nottingham Forest

Sheffield United remain the only third tier club left in the competition, as they take on Championship foes Nottingham Forest.  Having defeated Fulham in the previous round, Blades manager now faces the club he scored 131 goals for as a player.  His father also managed Forest to European Cups in 1979 and 1980.

MONDAY:

Brighton Hove & Albion vs. Hull City

Into the fifth round for only the second time in the past 20 years, Brighton are managed by former Barcelona youth manager Oscar Garcia.  They face a Hull City side whose manager Steve Bruce has only progressed past the fifth round of the FA Cup once ever.

Both of Hull City’s strikers Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long are unavailable due to both being cup tied.

Bobby Wood looks forward to working with Arena, praises Klinsmann

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A back injury kept Bobby Wood from United States men’s national team camp, but the Hamburg striker has been feeling good about the side’s World Cup fortunes since before the big win over Honduras.

Speaking with Hamburg’s team magazine, Wood gave a sprawling interview on his career and time with the national team. Wood praised Arena for scouting in Germany, saying the USMNT boss is a quiet coach who has his own style of playing, one that will prod the Yanks into the World Cup.

[ MORE: Complete USMNT-Panama preview ]

But the 24-year-old Hawaii-born striker saved his fondest words for ex-coach Jurgen Klinsmann, essentially calling him a career-saver. From HSV live (translated from German):

He’s very important to me. I believe if Jürgen had not been U.S. coach, then I might have stopped playing football or would have played somewhere in the fourth league.

That is why I am very, very grateful to him. At that time I was in a deep hole – it was real heavy. … He has believed in my quality. We are still in contact, he texts me.

Wood was a part-time player for 1860 Munich when Klinsmann first called him up to the national team side, and now he’s a Bundesliga striker who will be in demand if the club is relegated. Wood has also been mentioned as a target for Premier League clubs.

That’s a pretty good career jump. Klinsmann may have failed to deliver much of what he promised to the national team, but talent mining was done quite well.

USMNT-Panama preview: World Cup calm at stake

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Still wounded from the first two matches of the Hex but buoyed by its demolition of Honduras, the United States men’s national team faces an inspired Panama on Tuesday night in Panama City.

The Yanks arose from the ashes of losses to Mexico and Costa Rica to bury Honduras 6-0 Friday behind a Clint Dempsey hat trick and a goal and two assists from Christian Pulisic.

A win on Tuesday in Panama gives the U.S. something that can only soothe the nerves ahead of two summer qualifiers and the Gold Cup: Top Three status in the Hex (as is always expected).

Now the resurgent Americans face a Panama side which sits above them on the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table, having narrowed the gap on a Los Canaleros side who itself has narrowed its sights on a USMNT which burned them nearly four years ago.

[ USMNT-HONDURAS: Player ratings | Three things ]

Panama looked set to earn an interconfederation playoff berth with a 2-1 lead over the already-advanced U.S. when Graham “San” Zusi and Aron Johannsson led a shocking comeback at the Estadio Rommel Fernández to give Mexico the Hex’s fourth-place.

Los Canaleros shot out of the Hex gates with a win at Honduras and a 0-0 draw at home against Mexico, but fell 1-0 at Trinidad and Tobago on Friday thanks to Minnesota United star Kevin Molino.

Now licking its wounds while eyeing revenge, Panama will hope its pair of draws with the U.S. at the 2015 Gold Cup are the start they need to pick up a first home World Cup qualifying win over the States. Panama won the third-place match over the USMNT via shootout at the that tournament.

Boss Hernán Darío Gómez is no stranger to international battles having led Ecuador, Colombia, and Guatemala. He deployed a 4-5-1 against T&T, and could opt for that again but has usually used either a 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-2 with two holding mids against deeper sides than the Soca Warriors.

The former has worked better, and the personnel sometimes serves as a surprise. Last time out, in a 0-0 draw against Mexico, Gomez kept Anibal Godoy and Luis Tejada on the bench in what looks like a 4-2-2-2 at times.

[ MORE: Making sense out of the 6-0 win ]

Bruce Arena faces his own issues. In addition to the absences of Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson, the USMNT lost Sebastian Lletget and John Brooks in the win over Honduras.

Lletget’s absence is quickly remedied by either Alejandro Bedoya or, more likely, Jermaine Jones, but Brooks is a bigger problem. The Hertha Berlin man cleaned up several messes made by Omar Gonzalez, the ex-LA Galaxy man who — for better or worse — may not have shaken Arena’s confidence thanks to their long relationship.

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Geoff Cameron is his best option at CB, and could serve a similar purpose to Brooks. Still, he’s not 100 percent.

Gonzalez and Matt Besler worked well together a long time ago, but Tim Ream was Arena’s first choice when Brooks hit the turf with dehydration on Friday. There’s also wild card Walker Zimmerman, who would be taking the field in his highest-profile match yet.

Arena will want to take the match to Panama, even on the road. How will it look in front of Tim Howard? This is an option for Arena, though not one we expect:

Howard

Zusi — Cameron — Ream — Villafana

Jones — Bradley — Nagbe

Pulisic

Dempsey — Altidore

Instead, Arena will probably roll the bones with Gonzalez again, and keep things close to the Honduras win. It would be silly to break up the Villafana-Nagbe partnership on the left, and the top three isn’t changing one bit.

The question is whether Arena ruffles Jones, who is both combustible and not part of the long-term future. But Jones, like all of us, would’ve seen 6-0. So, probably, this:

Howard

Cameron — Gonzalez — Ream — Villafana

Bradley

Bedoya — Nagbe

Pulisic

Dempsey — Altidore

If Bradley provides the same picture-perfect cover for the back four and Pulisic continues to hum off the veteran big bodies of Dempsey and Altidore, the latter of which who is due a goal or two, the Yanks win. At worst, they’re beaten for pace by Alberto Quintero and stymied by Jaime Penedo. But the former can be covered by an in-form Howard, and the latter can only hold out for so long.

A draw puts the U.S. behind Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico ahead of two months off and the knowledge that both Mexico and Costa Rica are home for both June qualifiers.

Schweinsteiger waiting on visa, training in Mallorca

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Bastian Schweinsteiger is waiting on a visa to make his trip to Chicago official.

It’s a formality, albeit a bit trickier now given the political climate in the United States. The former Manchester United midfielder is training at Real Mallorca ahead of the move.

The transfer was announced one week ago, and Schweinsteiger is anxious to get back on the pitch. Set for a 1-year, $4.5 million deal, the midfielder has not missed any Chicago matches yet.

[ MORE: Under-the-radar Premier League XI ]

The Fire is 1-1-1 to start the new season under Veljko Paunovic, and has three home matches next: Montreal (Saturday), Columbus (Apr. 8), and New England (Apr. 15)

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.