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

Leave a comment

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.

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.