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Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs. Sunderland

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  • The last time Sunderland won away at Arsenal was 1983
  • Arsenal have not conceded in their last 5 PL home games
  • The Gunners haven’t scored in the opening half of their last 6 PL home games

Arsenal host Sunderland on Saturday (Watch live on USA, 10am ET and online via Live Extra) at the Emirates, with Arsene Wenger’s men hoping to pick themselves up after their deflating UEFA Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

The Gunners went down fighting to Munich, as Mesut Ozil’s missed penalty and Wojciech Szczesny’s red card changed the shape of the game. Back in the Premier League, Arsenal are still right up there at the top of the standings as they sit just one point behind leaders Chelsea. Arsenal need their star man Ozil to recapture the form which saw him dazzle on his debut away at Sunderland last September. I was there for that game and he was sublime. The German international is lacking in confidence but he has more than enough quality to come through this rough patch.

Sunderland are in the bottom three, so this should be a routine home win for Arsenal… right? Think again. Sunderland are unbeaten in six games away from home, keeping four clean sheets in those and three of the last five matches between these two at the Emirates have ended in 0-0 draws.

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The Black Cats are scrapping for their lives at the bottom of the table but do have the League Cup final against Manchester City coming up at Wembley next Sunday, Sunderland’s first major final for over 22 years. However with silverware in the back of the minds of both teams, Arsenal will be desperate to rack up another home win and potentially jump over Chelsea back into top spot in the PL. Expect this match to be a tight and tense affair.

In team news Arsenal will be without left back Kieran Gibbs who injured his hamstring against Bayern on Wednesday, while Olivier Giroud is expected to return to the starting lineup after being rested. Sunderland could have Steven Fletcher and Carlos Cuellar back fit, while Wes Brown is suspended.

What they’re saying

Wenger on facing Sunderland: “We are playing in three different competitions in one week. It’s extremely difficult to adjust every time and it’s physically very demanding. We have fought hard so far in the Premier League and of course now we want to come back and win our home game.”

Poyet on Arsenal: “Arsenal played on Wednesday and they are supposed to be tired, which is a possibility. So we need to make sure we play at a high intensity, keep the ball and attack. We will try to use everything to our advantage, but we know how difficult it will be.”

Prediction

Arsenal’s fans will be looking for a reaction from their team, as the Gunners must bounce back from their midweek defeat to Bayern. Sunderland will be distracted by their cup final next week, but players will also be playing for places in that lineup so the Gunners shouldn’t underestimate the Mackems. This will be a midfield battle, and probably not the prettiest of games. Arsenal 2-0 seems to be the bet during home games this season. I can see that happening once again on Saturday.

Ranieri criticizes Leicester for lacking “desire and heart”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18:  Claudio Ranieri, Manager of Leicester City looks dejected during The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Millwall and Leicester City at The Den on February 18, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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LONDON (AP) Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri criticized his players for lacking “desire and heart” in a 1-0 loss at third-tier Millwall in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday, the latest setback for the stuttering English champion.

[ MORE: FA Cup roundup — Premier League sides underwhelm in 5th round ]

Leicester, which is one point above the relegation zone in a woeful defense of its Premier League title, is without a victory in its last eight matches.

Millwall played most of the second half with 10 men and won thanks to a 90th-minute goal.

“I want to speak again with the players and say we have to fight every match,” an animated Ranieri said. “Who wants to fight? Tell me. I need the soldiers, I need the gladiators.

[ MORE: Fifth-division Lincoln City shock PL side Burnley in FA Cup ]

“It is strange because last season we won for this, to be more determined than the opponent and play with more heart than the opponent. We could also lose but we would fight every match. I want to see this, the fight until the end.”

Leicester’s next match is against Sevilla in the first leg of the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday.

FOLLOW LIVE: Spurs, Man United away in FA Cup 5th round

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United celebrates after scoring his third and his sides third goal during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 first leg match between Manchester United and AS Saint-Etienne at Old Trafford on February 16, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Saturday’s FA Cup fifth-rounders served up the biggest Cupset of them all — fifth-division side Lincoln City knocking off Burnley of the Premier League — as well as two moderately shocking results — Leicester City losing to 10-man Millwall (League One) and Manchester City drawing 0-0 with Huddersfield Town (Championship).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Sunday’s FA Cup 5th-rounders ]

On Sunday, two more of the PL’s big boys hope to avoid upsets and reach the quarterfinals of the 2016-17 tournament. First up, Tottenham Hotspur visit Fulham’s Craven Cottage in a renewed London derby, followed by Manchester United’s trip to Blackburn Rovers’ Ewood Park. For live scores and updates, hit the above link, or click right here.

Saturday’s FA Cup results

Burnley 0-1 Lincoln City — RECAP | REACTION
Huddersfield 0-0 Manchester City
Millwall 1-0 Leicester City
Middlesbrough 3-0 Oxford United
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Chelsea

Sunday’s FA Cup schedule

Fulham vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 9 a.m. ET
Blackburn Rovers vs. Manchester United — 11:15 a.m. ET

Monday’s FA Cup schedule

Sutton United vs. Arsenal — 2:55 p.m. ET

Report: AC Milan negotiating new deal for keeper Donnaumma

ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 13:  AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma gestures during the Serie A match between SS Lazio and AC Milan at Stadio Olimpico on February 13, 2017 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
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Gianluigi Donnarumma has quickly become one of the most coveted goalkeepers in the world, and he’s only 17 years old.

[ MORE: Gameiro nets hat-trick in five minutes for Atletico ]

And that’s why AC Milan plans on doing everything in its power to hold on to the Italy international.

[ MORE: U.S. U-20s fall to Panama to begin CONCACAF Championship ]

According to CalcioMercato, the Rossoneri are preparing to lock up Donnarumma to a big deal once he turns 18 next week in order to fend off the likes of Premier League duo Chelsea and Manchester United, as well as Real Madrid.

However, agent Mino Raiola could stand in the way of Milan as they attempt to negotiate with the promising shot stopper out of fear that the club won’t be able to compete with Europe’s best teams.

Also, it has been suggested that Raiola is seeking at least $4.25 million per season for Donnarumma plus add ons, while Milan is said to be willing to go as high as $2.1 million annually.

Donnarumma is currently in his second professional season with Milan and has risen to the Italian national team level over the past year as well. The young keeper is seen as the logical successor to Gianluigi Buffon once his international career concludes.

Baggio marks 50th birthday by visiting quake victims

ROME, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 01: Roberto Baggio (L) is challenged by Diego Lugano during the Interreligious Match For Peace at Olimpico Stadium on September 1, 2014 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
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AMATRICE, Italy (AP) Italian great Roberto Baggio marked his 50th birthday on Saturday by visiting towns devastated by earthquakes last year.

[ MORE: FA Cup Saturday wrap — Man City held against Huddersfield ]

Baggio opted not to celebrate his milestone surrounded by celebrities, and instead spent the day in Amatrice, which was almost wiped out by the Aug. 24 earthquake.

The former world footballer of the year, who met children and others from the central Italy region, said “it was very emotional,” and he went there with his family “to fully understand what so many people are going through.”

Baggio also met the mayor of Amatrice, Sergio Pirozzi, and said they will remain in contact, “and we will try to do something concrete.”

Baggio was moving on to nearby Norcia, which was also damaged, and there was a party organized with a birthday cake.

The Aug. 24 quake killed nearly 300 people and left a further 4,000 homeless. There were aftershocks for several days as well as more quakes in October and January.

Baggio, who was nicknamed “Il Divin Codino” (The Divine Ponytail) for the hairstyle he wore for most of his career, scored 27 goals in 57 appearances for Italy and helped the Azzurri to third place in the 1990 World Cup and runner-up four years later, when he famously missed the last penalty kick of the shootout in the final with Brazil.

He won the Serie A title with Juventus in 1995 and with AC Milan the following year.