Report: Aston Villa ownership will change hands if club stays up

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According to The Telegraph, Randy Lerner has reached an agreement to sell Aston Villa, provided the club stays in the Premier League. An unidentified American group fronted by “two billionaires” has agreed to pay $200 million for the Birmingham-based club, a possibility that heightens the importance of securing a 26th straight year in the first division.

With the club in 14th place, Villa will likely stay up, securing all the financial perks that go with the top-flight status in the process. With four straight losses, however, the club’s survival is back in doubt, with the potential owners set to pass on the purchase if the club falls into the second division.

From Matt Law’s reporting:

It is understood an American consortium, fronted by two billionaires, wants to buy Villa but will withdraw from the deal if the team drop into the Championship …

Survival in the top flight would guarantee Villa at least £40 million in television revenue and would mean the club remains attractive to sponsors.

Early indications suggest the consortium would be prepared to invest heavily in trying to significantly improve Villa’s playing staff. It is unclear whether a takeover would affect the future of manager Paul Lambert.

The move would be a welcome one for fans who’ve come to question the club’s direction under Lerner. With Lambert also the becoming subject of supporter skepticism, the manager’s performance is sure to fall under increased scrutiny. If he fails, he’ll cost supporters the new ownership they’ve come to covet.

With 34 points, Villa are four points above the drop, but with three teams between themselves and 18th place Fulham, Lambert’s team a series of misfortunes would have to fall in place to send Villa down. If it can avoid all of those pitfalls, the club will likely turn away from a transfer policy based on value buys and youth purchases in its attempts resume a regular place in the top half of the table.

That place disappeared when Martin O’Neill left the club in 2010, with the Northern Ireland manager’s departure coinciding with a pair down of what had become a bloated payroll. After three consecutive sixth place finishes, Villa took up residence in the league’s bottom half, with Gerard Houllier, Alex McLeish, and Paul Lambert having failed to right the team’s course.

With a solid home venue and a history that includes a European Cup, Villa has the potential to be the dominant club in England’s second-largest population center. To this point, however, Lerner has been unable to capture that potential.

With new ownership coming in, Villa fans have reason to hope a more ambitious approach will try to tap into that possibility. All the team has to do is stay up.

Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham: Davies stuns Spurs late

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A valiant effort from a League One side has rewarded the minnows with a replay set to be played at Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur looked on its way towards the FA Cup sixth round on Sunday, but a late finish by Steven Davies gave Rochdale a 2-2 draw with the Premier League club at the Spotland Stadium.

[ MORE: Willian stars as Chelsea routs Hull in FA Cup ]

Harry Kane — who scored his 34th goal on the season in all competitions — converted from the penalty spot in the 88th minute, however, Davies had the final say deep into stoppage time to send the two sides towards a replay.

Ian Henderson’s finish in the 45th minute gave Rochdale a gift at the conclusion of the first stanza, after the hosts capitalized on a Spurs giveaway near midfield.

Meanwhile, Tottenham managed to level the match at 1-1 on the hour mark when Lucas Moura calmly slotted his close-range shot past goalkeeper Josh Lillis after a timely through ball from Moussa Sissoko picked out the former PSG man.

The visitors began pressing on in the second half, with Mauricio Pochettino‘s side having trailed at the halftime break.

The two sides will now meet on either Feb. 27 or 28 in the reverse fixture to decide which team advances. The winner will either meet Sheffield Wednesday or Swansea City in the quarterfinals.

Scholes: Pogba didn’t earn Man United spot in 2012 before Juve stint

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Paul Pogba‘s young career has been bright, but a former Manchester United legend suggests that there was a time where the Frenchman struggled to find his way at Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Man United draws Brighton, Chelsea gets Leicester in FA Cup quarters

The 24-year-old Pogba is now in his second stint with the Red Devils, after spending four seasons in Italy with giants Juventus.

Former United midfielder Paul Scholes says though that back in 2012 — prior to Pogba’s move to Juve — that the physical player wasn’t pleased with the fact that he wasn’t getting regular minutes with the first team.

“Ferguson wanted me initially to come back and coach the reserve team with Warren Joyce,” he told BT Sport. “I said in September I’d come back. So I started helping Joycey, and I was training with the reserves.

“I was training every day with the likes of Pogba, Lingard, all these types of players. They were a really good side and I was really enjoying training. I was getting fit, I felt great, and it got to December time and the team was struggling a bit.

“They had a load of injuries, no central midfield players were fit. They ended up playing Phil Jones and Fabio da Silva in central midfield in a game against Blackburn at Old Trafford.

“Funnily enough that was the end of Pogba, because he thought he should have been playing instead of them. But he wasn’t doing well enough.”

Scholes, who had retired briefly in 2011, came back after just six months for the Red Devils, and ended up playing a year-and-a-half more following the decision to end his playing career.

It is widely believed that Pogba’s decision to head to Juventus was largely due to the impact of Scholes in the United squad.

Video: Rochdale puts Tottenham on upset alert at the half

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It’s been a tremendous season for Ian Henderson, particularly in the FA Cup, and now he and his side are one half away from upsetting one of the Premier League giants.

Henderson’s finish on the brink of halftime has put League One side Rochdale up 1-0 against Tottenham Hotspur, as the minnows aim to become the first non-PL side to advance to the quarterfinals in this season’s tournament.

A sloppy giveaway from Spurs near midfield created the attack for the hosts, and allowed Rochdale to capitalize on one of its few attacks during the opening stanza.

Benfica routs Boavista 4-0 to take lead in Portugal

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Benfica routed Boavista 4-0 to move ahead of FC Porto at the top of the Portuguese league on Saturday.

Benfica is one point in front of Porto, which has two games to play.

[ MORE: Man United gets Brighton in FA Cup quarters, Chelsea draws Leicester ]

Ruben Dias opened the scoring for Benfica in the 18th minute when he headed in a pass from Jardel.

Jardel added a goal just before halftime. Boavista’s Nuno Henrique also scored an own goal before Raul Jimenez polished off the victory in the 90th.

Jonas had a penalty saved by Boavista goalkeeper Vagner with the score 0-0.

Porto hosts Rio Ave on Sunday. Sporting Lisbon is three points behind Benfica before visiting Tondela on Monday.