Liverpool’s title chase won’t influence Everton, says Roberto Martinez

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The question is one that people on Merseyside and throughout the globe, including Joe Prince Wright and myself in the above video, have contemplated – will Everton be motivated to affect Liverpool’s title bid in this weekend’s match against Manchester City?

The scenario is straightforward: If Everton takes a point off of Manchester City on Sunday, the title is back in Brendan Rodgers’ hands. Fail to do so and Liverpool’s title hopes diminish greatly and shift to the hands of Aston Villa and West Ham, who City host in their final two matches. 

And although Liverpool faces the more dire circumstances, Everton is still battling to qualify for Europe. While Arsenal are heavy favorites to finish 4th, the Toffees are still motivated to catch the Gunners or, at the very least, secure a Europa League berth. Roberto Martinez’ men currently sit in one of the two Europa League spots in 5th place on 69 points. But just three points behind sits Tottenham and nine points behind is Manchester United, both of whom can mathematically overtake the Toffees before the season closes out. 

The idea that Everton could be willing to jeopardize the Europa League in order to put one over on their city rivals was contemplated by former Toffees striker Andy Gray earlier this week on TalkSport:

“Peter Reid and I were talking about it last night and we think maybe Evertonians for once in their life may not be too upset if they get beat this week,” said Gray.

“The players will try and do their job the best they can but I’ve got a funny feeling many thousand Evertonians, for one week only, will not mind if they lose the game.”

The topic has since caught fire in Liverpool prompting Martinez to share his thoughts on the matter.

“We’re looking for the next six points,” said Martinez on Thursday. “It’s a really important game, against a team fighting for the title, but we want to finish strong.

“I always felt the relationship between the two clubs in this city has had incredible chapters and this would be another fascinating one but there is no doubting our integrity towards the league and competition, we want to win every single game we go into.

“They are precious points for us and we cannot afford not to give everything we have. Helping other teams – that’s not the way we do our work. We are just focused on trying to win for ourselves.”

The comment is vintage Martinez, an answer one should only expect from the former Wigan manager who just last year put the Latic’s relegation status on the line to win the FA Cup. For many the Europa League has become a poisoned chalice but one gets the sense that for Martinez and his squad, it’s a tangible distinction they will feel proud to have earned.

As always is the case for Martinez, this weekend is all about Everton. Please the supporters with beautiful, inspired football and let the rest of the league play out as it will. “The fans want to come to Goodison, and be proud of the team. If that adds some spice in the twists and turns of the title race, then so be it, but it’s important we are as good as we can be.”

 

LIVE, FA Cup semifinal: Chelsea v. Southampton

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Chelsea and Southampton clash in the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley on Sunday (10 a.m. ET kick off) for the right to play Manchester United in the final on May 19.

[ LIVE: Updates from Wembley ]

Antonio Conte led Chelsea to the FA Cup final last season but they lost to Arsenal. Even though the Blues are up against it to finish in the top four in the league, winning the cup would be a big success for Conte.

Saints haven’t made a cup semifinal since 2003 when they lost to Arsenal in the final. Mark Hughes‘ side are entrenched in the relegation zone and have a bigger challenge than making the final.

[ MORE: Minute-by-minute on Chelsea v Saints

Click on the links above to follow the action live, while we will have reaction and analysis live from Wembley right here on Pro Soccer Talk.

Arrests made after violent soccer riot in South Africa

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DURBAN, South Africa (AP) Police say two people have been arrested and more arrests are imminent after a violent riot at a South African soccer game on Saturday night, when hundreds of fans ripped up parts of the stadium, invaded the field, and seriously assaulted at least one security guard.

Players had to run for the safety of the dressing rooms as the fans swept onto the field soon after the final whistle.

[ MORE: The latest Arsene Wenger news ]

Police responded with stun grenades to disperse the rioters, and television pictures showed riot police storming the field and a white armored police vehicle racing across the edge of the pitch.

South African Police Services spokeswoman Nqobile Gwala on Sunday confirmed the arrests and said the two people were facing charges of public violence and malicious damage to property.

The violence mainly by Kaizer Chiefs fans followed their team’s 2-0 loss to Free State Stars in the semifinals of the Nedbank Cup competition at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in the east coast city of Durban, one of the stadiums built for the 2010 World Cup.

In the most disturbing scenes, a female security guard was set upon by a group of supporters on the field. She lay on the ground as they hit her with plastic chairs. A man then kicked her twice in the head. After the second kick she lay motionless and face down on the grass.

Police spokeswoman Gwala did not say if anyone had died in the violence, saying police had no information yet from stadium or medical authorities on any deaths.

Kaizer Chiefs coach Steve Komphela resigned after the game.

“Emotional” Mertesacker: Send Wenger off “with a cup”

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Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker has made 220 appearances for the club, all with one man in charge of the Gunners: Arsene Wenger.

[ MORE: The latest Arsene Wenger news ]

Mertesacker has won three FA Cups with Wenger, and he took up his pen — or laptop — for Sunday’s Matchday program.

The 33-year-old German says it’s down to Arsenal’s players to send off Wenger right: With two more successful rounds in the UEFA Europa League against Atletico Madrid and either Red Bull Salzburg or Marseille. From the BBC:

“We were only informed on Friday about the manager’s decision to step down at the end of the season, so it’s still quite emotional,” Mertesacker said.

“He’s been the major figure of this club for more than 20 years. He’s been so impressive for me and he has trusted me so much throughout my career, in bringing me here and making me captain even when I was injured. He also gave me a future role here at the club so I am very grateful and humbled for the opportunity he gave to me.

“There’s now an emphasis on us doing it for him too. We want to give him the send-off he deserves: with a cup.”

The French legend to end his time at Arsenal against Marseille would be delightful, don’t you think?

Watch Live: Arsenal-West Ham, Stoke-Burnley

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The Premier League has a pair of 8:30 a.m. ET Sunday kickoffs for us this morning, including one of Arsene Wenger‘s final matches at Arsenal.

There’s a London Derby between Arsenal and West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium, as the Gunners look to stay fresh for Atletico Madrid and the Hammers aim to firm up their Premier League status for next season (Watch live at 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Elneny, Xhaka, Ramsey, Iwobi, Welbeck, Lacazette. Subs: Macey, Mertesacker, Holding, Chambers, Maitland-Niles, Nelson. Aubameyang.

West Ham United: Hart, Zabaleta, Ogbonna, Rice, Cresswell, Masuaku, Kouyate, Noble, Fernandes, Mario, Arnautovic. Subs: Adrian, Cullen, Evra, Lanzini, Hugill, Carroll, Chicharito.


Stoke City’s climb out of the relegation zone will have to overcome Burnley’s desires for a Top Six place, as the Clarets can pass sixth place Arsenal with a win and a Gunners loss to West Ham (Watch live at 8:30 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

LINEUPS

Stoke City: Butland; Johnson, Shawcross, M.Indi, Pieters; Bauer, Allen, Badou, Shaqiri; Crouch, Diouf. Subs: Haugaard, Zouma, Ireland, Cameron, Fletcher, Ramadan, Campbell.

Burnley: Pope, Lowton, Long, Tarkowski, Ward, Lennon, Cork, Westwood, Gudmundsson, Wood, Barnes. Subs: Heaton, Taylor, Marney, Vokes, Hendrick, Walters, Bardsley.