FA Cup Preview: Wigan looks for Arsenal upset, Hull and Sheffield look for Wembley dream

Leave a comment

With the FA Cup into the semifinals, at least one team will have the unexpected opportunity to play in a Wembley final, while the Gunners are hoping to not just buck bad form but also a dubious trophy drought.

Saturday features favorites Arsenal against Wigan, while a pair of surprises square off on Sunday in Hull City and Sheffield United.

This year’s road to Wembley has been a strange one fraught with strange results and major upsets, as just two of the four teams remaining reside in England’s top flight.

Wembley Stadium is ready, are you? Get prepared with ProSoccerTalk’s preview of this weekend’s FA Cup action.

Arsenal vs Wigan Athletic (Saturday, 12:07pm ET)

As the Gunners look to break their 8-year trophy void, they have just a Championship team in their way.

However, Wigan Athletic have already taken down three Premier League teams in Manchester City, Cardiff City, and Crystal Palace en route to the semis, and Arsenal appears to be just another giant in the way.

The Gunners could desperately use a positive result no matter who it is against, especially one that would send them one game away from a trophy. It’s been five matches since Arsenal has picked up a win, conceding 12 goals in the four since then.

In a battle to retain their Champions League status, any positive momentum thrown Arsenal’s way would be greatly appreciated, and could boost their morale with just one top-10 side (Newcastle) remaining on their end-of-season Premier League schedule.

Wigan, sitting in fifth position in the Championship, are on a bit of a form dip in the league. They ripped off eight straight wins across all competitions in February and March, but since then have just two wins in their last seven.

With just six league matches remaining and six points ahead of the cut line for the promotion playoff, the Latics don’t have too much to worry about in their league status, so all their focus will be on Arsenal.

source: Getty Images
Hull City’s Matthew Fryatt scored a goal in their last FA Cup match and could feature up front with their 2 main strikers cup-tied.

Hull City vs Sheffield United (Sunday, 11:07am ET)

The first third-tier team to reach the semifinals since 2001, League One’s Sheffield United have the chance to become the first ever third-tear club in the finals of the FA Cup.

Having already toppled Premier League foes in Fulham and Aston Villa as well as Championship foes Nottingham Fores, they have a tough test in the defensively solid Hull City.

Hull manager Steve Bruce refused to look at the FA Cup sitting in the media room during his prematch press conference, and with the Tigers fully secure in their Premier League future, their full focus will be on Sunday’s semifinal.

Both teams are sure to have fantastic support, with Sheffield United having sold out their allotment within 24 hours of making them available.  Hull City supporters are hoping to see their team reach the finals of this competition for the first time ever.

Hull City do have some problems up front, with strikers Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic up tied having both appeared for their previous clubs in the competition.  That leaves Steve Bruce with just Sone Aluko, Matty Fryatt and Yannick Sagbo to choose from.

Conte praises Hazard’s style, wouldn’t want him to be “more selfish”

Julian Finney/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Antonio Conte made two bold decisions on Saturday afternoon as his Chelsea side prepared to take on Tottenham in their FA Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Oriol Romeu shines with Saints as he prepares for Chelsea return ]

The Italian manager has been known for his innovation and risk-taking in the past, but many were critical of the 47-year-old when his team sheet came out ahead of the match.

Conte left key attacking duo Eden Hazard and Diego Costa on the bench, allowing out-of-favor striker Michy Batshuayi and Pedro to get the starting nod.

Although Hazard nor Costa saw the field for the opening hour, the former made his presence known when he was summoned by Conte in the second half.

Often times Hazard has been known as a facilitator, someone that can pick apart defenses with his tremendous foot skills and clever passing. But the Belgian international has also shown his capabilities of scoring on a regular basis as well, which has prompted great interest from other giant clubs around Europe.

When Conte was asked about Hazard and if his attacker should be more selfish, the Italian gave an emphatic “NO” as his response.

“No, no, no, absolutely not,” Conte said. “I don’t think that a player like Messi is a selfish player. The first target for every great champion is to play for the team and to put your talent into the team. If you do this, the team [increases] your talent.

“The best players in the world don’t exist without a team. For me, it’s sad to listen to this, that a player must ‘be more selfish’ to reach the top level. That’s very sad. It’s not my idea of football and I will never understand this. Never, never. In my team, I don’t want selfish players.

“I prefer to lose a game than to have a selfish player. For me, I don’t want this and I can’t accept this. I don’t want my club to buy me a selfish player one day. Never. No.”

Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League

Stu Forster/Getty Images
1 Comment

Two sides have now booked their trips to England’s top flight after Newcastle United rattled off its 27th win of the season.

[ MORE: Oriol Romeu — The perfectly poised destroyer ]

The Magpies earned a decisive 4-1 victory over Preston North End on Monday afternoon at St. James’ Park as the second-place side ensured its finish inside the top two in the English Championship.

Newcastle joins already-promoted club Brighton & Hove Albion, who currently sit atop the Championship on 92 points.

Ayoze Perez paced the hosts with goals on both sides of halftime, while Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie also converted for Newcastle.

U.S. Men’s National Team defender DeAndre Yedlin was on the bench for the Magpies but didn’t feature in Monday’s match.

The third and final team to be promoted from the Championship will be decided by the league’s annual promotion playoff, which is held at the end of the season and contested by four sides that finish third through sixth position.

As it stands, Reading, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield Town and Fulham occupy the four playoff positions.

Marseille making Olivier Giroud top transfer target this summer

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Marseille did well to bring in one star this season but could the French side have another trick up its sleeve this summer?

Sky Sports is reporting that the Ligue 1 club is preparing to sign Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud over the summer and the sixth-place side is “willing to pay up to £20m (roughly $25 million).

Marseille made a splash this season when the club re-signed Dimitri Payet, who was playing with Premier League side West Ham at the time.

The team does boast several quality attacking options such as Payet and Bafetimbi Gomis, but Giroud could serve as an ideal target man in the Marseille attack.

Prior to joining the Gunners in 2012, Giroud starred for Montpellier and with a potential link-up in the attack with a creator like Payet, it could present a dangerous attacking threat to the rest of Ligue 1.

Giroud, 30, has scored 95 goals in all competitions since arriving in London with Arsenal.

Report: Chicharito talks heating up with Los Angeles FC

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
1 Comment

We’ve seen MLS teams make major splashes in the past, and one of next year’s newcomers could be a really big draw if they can manage to seal the deal on a Mexican international.

[ MORE: Schweinsteiger shares thoughts on MLS and more in interview ]

According to Metro New York, Los Angeles FC is continuing its talks with Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez about a potential deal that would prove massive in terms of MLS spending.

While LAFC won’t debut in MLS until 2018, the club could potentially make the Mexico striker the highest-paid player in league history with an average salary of roughly $10 million.

The 28-year-old Hernandez currently plays in Germany with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen, where he’s plied his trade since joining the club during the 2015/16 season.

Additionally, the former Manchester United man has dominated the international scene for El Tri, scoring 46 goals in 90 appearances for the CONCACAF nation.