Pardew talks next season as Magpies continue downward plunge

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It’s a testament to the team Alan Pardew — and chief scout Graham Carr — built that Newcastle remains in the top half despite a club-first six-match losing streak.

But that status is on the brink, with Stoke City and Crystal Palace within shouting distance. These are teams who were mired near the bottom of the Premier League table while the Magpies had their supporters daring to dream of the UEFA Champions League with a hot start to the season.

So as Newcastle found itself blanked for the 13th time in 18 matches after a terrible 3-0 loss to Arsenal at the Emirates, it’s no surprise that Pardew was talking about the fixes he would find in the summer.

But will he last? And what in the world is he talking about in regards to fan expectations in the second quote below?

From Sky Sports:

“I’ve lost six on the trot as manager of Newcastle and I accept that they’re disappointed and angry at the moment that we haven’t got a result. But I think that the bigger picture is that we’re in a good position in the summer and we need to focus on finishing in the top 10.

“Of course you’re under pressure, it’s a big club. They expect perhaps sometimes things we can’t quite deliver, but we’re trying our hardest and we’re going to work hard this summer to make sure we’ve got a team next year that can make this city proud.”

Expecting what that Newcastle can’t deliver? Pardew has led the team into Europe, so it can’t be that reasonable expectation. Perhaps it’s having a semblance of a plan in place in case your best player, often a wantaway, skips town for greener pastures? Yohan Cabaye left for PSG in the January transfer window and there’s been no answer in the center of the park (as valiantly as Moussa Sissoko has tried). Hatem Ben Arfa’s big and out-of-favor, Sylvain Marveaux and Gael Bigirimana are nowhere to be found and maybe their best option, Mehdi Abeid, was allowed to stay on-loan in Greece.

I’m not sure what the Newcastle fans are expecting that can’t be delivered at all. A midfielder? A win? Some goals?

Or perhaps a manager capable of admitting that it’s not the wind, the opponent or the referees causing his team problems. It’s his team. And if it isn’t Pardew’s fault, it’s owner Mike Ashley for hiring Joe Kinnear to mispronounce player names and look baffled on a weekly basis. And if it’s Ashley’s fault, that should cause plenty of Magpies fans to wonder why in the world they support the black and white.

The businessman-turned-owner needs to do something that instill faith in the club, because anything else is bad for business.

Pep sticking with Bravo for final: “Locker room more important”

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Petr Cech and Ederson will watch from the bench as their clubs start the League Cup Final on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola announced that Manchester City will turn to Claudio Bravo between the sticks against Arsenal, which has already appointed David Ospina as its backstop for the final.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

And if you think Pep, having seen his side lose to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup, should go back to Ederson for the final, he gets it.

“You can have an opinion, I am the manager. We are here for Claudio. He saved two lots of penalties. He deserves to play in the final. The locker room is more important than the final.”

The points aren’t completely independent, of course, but at this point the final is pretty darn important as Man City could see its trophy potential drop from 4-2 in little more than a week’s time.

Bravo has played just 45 minutes in the Premier League, against Liverpool in relief of Ederson, but has been the man for each of eight League and FA Cup matches.

City has just one clean sheet in that group, but won the seven matches apart from the 1-0 Wigan defeat. Two of those, against Wolves and Leicester, came in penalty kicks.

Arsenal gets AC Milan in Europa League Round of 16

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Arsenal’s path to the UEFA Champions League just got a whole lot tougher.

[ MORE: Arsenal loses 2nd leg, advances ]

Already eight points back of the Premier League’s Top Four, the Gunners have drawn Gennaro Gattuso’s AC Milan in the UEFA Europa League’s Round of 16.

The first leg is March 8 at the San Siro before moving to the Emirates a week later.

Milan is currently 7th in Serie A despite its big-spending summer, and faces a similar problem to the Gunners; Gattuso’s men need to make up eight points on Lazio and seven on fifth-place Inter Milan.

Elsewhere, Moscovian sides CSKA and Lokomotiv got no favors with trips to Lyon and Atletico Madrid, respectively.

Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund will be pleased to see Red Bull Salzburg, while the latter’s sister club, RB Leipzig, was held apart from it by a draw with Zenit Saint-Petersbug.

Here’s the draw in full.

UEFA Europa League Round of 16
Lazio vs. Dynamo Kiev
RB Leipzig vs. Zenit St Petersburg
Atletico Madrid vs. Lokomotiv Moscow
CSKA Moscow vs. Lyon
Marseille vs. Athletic Bilbao
Sporting Lisbon vs. Viktoria Plzen
Borussia Dortmund vs. Red Bull Salzburg
AC Milan vs. Arsenal

CCL: Lodeiro from 45; Royer’s diving header — SEA, RBNY lead (video)

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After 45 minutes of their respective CONCACAF Champions League knockout-round quests, things are going unnervingly well for the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls.

[ MORE: FC Dallas disappoint in CCL; Club America flying ]

If you’ve watched Major League Soccer teams try, try and try again — only to eventually fail in spectacular fashion — in CCL over the years, you might say things are going a little too well.

There’s still another 45 minutes to be played on Thursday — plus the return legs next week — but both the Sounders and Red Bulls hold 1-0 halftime leads, and the vitally important away goals which come with it. Nicolas Lodeiro’s 45-yard, first-time lob of the Santa Tecla (El Salvador) goalkeeper in the 15th minute has already been eternally etched into the memories of Sounders fans.

Just 15 minutes later, Daniel Royer perfectly executed the diving header and got on the end of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ curling ball into the box to Jesse Marsch’s side ahead of Honduran side CD Olimpia.

Villarreal DF Semedo charged with attempted murder

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish judge has charged Villarreal defender Ruben Semedo with attempted murder and ordered him to be temporarily detained without bail.

Court officials in Lliria say on Thursday the Portuguese player is also charged with assault, robbery, illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms.

Semedo testified before a judge on Thursday, and left the court in handcuffs.

The 23-year-old Semedo was detained early Tuesday, accused of tying up, assaulting and threatening another man last week. Authorities say he and two other men allegedly held the victim captive while they robbed his apartment.

Semedo’s agents told Spanish media the player denies any wrongdoing.

Villarreal on Tuesday said it was investigating Semedo and would take appropriate disciplinary action.

Villarreal signed Semedo from Sporting Lisbon last summer for a reported fee of $17 million.