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FA Cup fourth round preview, predictions: Upsets galore?

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It is time for the madness of the FA Cup to take over from the Premier League this weekend.

[ LIVE: Follow FA Cup scores here ]  

The fourth round is here with games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as 32 teams remain. 13 PL teams remain but with only two all-PL ties plenty of upsets are expected and we could see the number of top-flight teams in the last 16 take a hit.

Click on the link above to follow all the FA Cup action live, while we will have updates from all the games across the weekend.

Below you will find a brief preview and score prediction for each FA Cup fourth round game.


FA Cup fourth round

Friday

Derby County vs. Leicester City: Two teams in very different form. Derby are flying in the second-tier and in the playoff spots. Leicester have yet to win away in the PL this season and are five points above the drop zone. Ranieri will shuffle his squad, so expect an upset. Derby to win, 2-1.

Saturday

Liverpool vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers: Jurgen Klopp‘s side have one win in seven games in January and have lost two-straight games at home. Set to field a weakened team against second-tier Wolves with Chelsea coming up on Tuesday, I smell an upset. 2-1 to Wolverhampton.

Southampton vs. Arsenal: Saints have plenty of injuries but will be full of confidence after beating Liverpool to reach the EFL Cup final. Arsenal will be fresh and fancy this game as they look to win their third FA Cup in four years. Gunners to win at St Mary’s, 2-1.

Crystal Palace vs. Manchester City: An all-Premier League clash at Selhurst Park which both managers could do without. Pep Guardiola will play several academy products and rest Claudio Bravo, while Palace boss Sam Allardyce has yet to win in 5 PL games in charge of the Eagles. Man City to edge this 2-1.

Chelsea vs. Brentford: This game will be trickier than most expect. Antonio Conte will give minutes to plenty of youngsters as resting key men for the Premier League clash at Liverpool is the priority. That said, Chelsea will have too much talent for second-tier Brentford. Watch out for Scott Hogan up front. 3-1 to Chelsea.

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Wycombe Wanderers: Spurs have a hectic fixture list coming up with Europa League action returning next month. A defensive injuries pile up, expect Cameron Carter-Vickers (USMNT teenager) to get a run out against fourth-tier Wycombe. We will see another amazing FA Cup victory for Wycombe after their run to the semifinal in 2001? Probs not. Still, they will give Spurs a scare. 2-1 to Tottenham.

Burnley vs. Bristol City: Given the Clarets’ superb home form in the PL this season (25 of their 26 points have come at Turf Moor) you’d expect Sean Dyche‘s side to win this easily. However, they’ll rest players which may make it a little trickier. Bristol City will go for it but they are embroiled in a relegation battle to stay in the second tier. Watch out for Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham. Replay on the way: 1-1

Middlesbrough vs. Accrington Stanley: Aitor Karanka will rotate his team and hope they can grab a big win and score plenty of goals to boost confidence. Boro could do without this game and will be more focused on their battle against relegation in the Premier League. 2-0 to Boro.

Lincoln City vs. Brighton & Hove Albion: The fifth-tier Imps will be looking for another famous upset after they beat second-tier Ipswich in the last round. Brighton are battling for promotion to the Premier League for the first-time ever and manager Chris Hughton will make that his priority. No more upsets for Lincoln. Brighton to win 3-1.

Blackburn Rovers vs. Blackpool: A big local rivalry in Lancashire will stir up quite the atmosphere. Both teams are struggling with Blackburn in the Championship relegation zone and Blackpool in midtable in the fourth-tier. As is most often the case in local rivalry matches, don’t expect a classic. 1-1.

Oxford United vs. Newcastle United: Oxford have plenty of previous when it comes to giant-killing in the cup and they knocked out Premier League side Swansea City last season. Newcastle are battling it out with Brighton for the second-tier title and Rafael Benitez has an incredible squad to choose from. Newcastle will beat their third-tier opponents comfortably. 3-1.

Rochdale vs. Huddersfield Town: German-American manager David Wagner continues to keep Huddersfield in the playoff place in the second-tier and they will face a tricky trip across the Pennines to Rochdale. The third-tier team are also in the playoffs and will fancy their chances of causing an upset. Expect a draw. 2-2.

Sunday

Sutton United vs. Leeds United: The lowest-ranked team left in the competition face Leeds who are battling away in the Championship for a playoff spot. The gulf in class should be massive but Leeds will rest a few players and Sutton upset League One AFC Wimbledon in the last round. That said, Leeds will go through and win 2-0.

Manchester United vs. Wigan Athletic: The likes of Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw have plenty to prove, but it won’t be easy against a Wigan side who have picked up considerably in recent weeks with three-straight wins. Jose Mourinho has had an EFL Cup semifinal, Premier League and soon Europa League to contend with. He won’t want a replay but I think the Latics can pull this off. 1-1.

Fulham vs. Hull City: The Cottagers are scrapping away for a playoff spot in the Championship and will be expected by many to beat Hull. Marco Silva’s side beat Manchester United on Wednesday but crashed out 3-2 on aggregate of the EFL Cup at the semifinal stage. With Premier League survival the priority, Hull will make plenty of changes. Fulham to win 2-0.

Millwall vs. Watford: Another potential upset alert is going off for a Premier League club. With Walter Mazzarri‘s Watford winning just one of their last nine games, he will field a weakened team against the third-tier Lions. Millwall beat an under-strength Bournemouth 3-0 in the last round. Expect them to take another PL scalp. 2-0 to Millwall.

While PSG has won the title, Areola’s playing for his future

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PARIS (AP) Although Paris Saint-Germain has easily won the French title, Alphonse Areola still has plenty to play for.

The next four games could be crucial in deciding whether PSG keeps the goalkeeper or tries to sign a big name in the transfer window, possibly Thibaut Courtois. The 25-year-old Areola is the same age as Courtois, but has nowhere near the international standing of the Chelsea keeper.

[ MORE: Turkey hands bid plans to UEFA for EURO 2024 ]

It is hard for Areola to stand out, however, in a team noted almost singularly for its attacking prowess. While PSG has already scored more than 100 league goals, and remains on course to reach 100 points this season, Areola has rarely been talked about.

The common perception is that PSG will thrash teams in the French league, so letting in a goal or two is irrelevant.

However, Areola has been one of PSG’s most consistent players this season, and last Sunday he made a personal record of eight saves in a 1-0 win at Bordeaux.

He was also one of the few PSG players to come through the loss to Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League with any credit. Without Areola’s shot-stopping, and particularly his bravery rushing off his line, the 5-2 aggregate loss would have been bigger.

With 104 goals, PSG’s attack is the best in the league by far and has netted 25 more than deposed champion Monaco.

But PSG’s defense is also the best and Areola has conceded only 21 goals in the 31 he has played. Although PSG has dominated most of those, losing only twice all season, he has still made on average four saves per game.

Having replaced Kevin Trapp as No. 1, Areola has missed only three league games all season. It represents a reversal for both.

When Trapp was signed by former coach Laurent Blanc in 2015-16, Areola went on loan to Spanish club Villarreal. He established himself as regular in Villarreal’s side and gained further experience in the Europa League. Spanish media were largely impressed by his consistency and his agility on the goal-line.

He returned to PSG and battled with Trapp for the starting position last season. But coach Unai Emery seemed unsure who he really preferred, with Trapp starting 24 games to Areola’s 14. PSG ended up losing the title to Monaco.

But the hierarchy is much clearer now and the error-prone Trapp, once hailed by Blanc for his passing out from goal, is the one expected to leave.

Areola has further incentive to do well with the World Cup coming up. He is challenging Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda to be France’s No. 2 behind Hugo Lloris in Russia. For now, Areola is a squad member but has yet to make an international appearance under coach Didier Deschamps.

But he has done well at every level for France, starting with the under-16s a decade ago. He got his first taste of international success when he helped France win the Under-20 World Cup in 2013.

While Paul Pogba was one of the stars of the tournament, Areola’s crowning moment came in the final itself. France drew 0-0 with Uruguay and he saved two shots in the penalty shootout. Prior to the shootout he had a word with France’s designated penalty takers, confidently telling them “do your job and I’ll do mine.”

With Emery almost certain to be replaced next season, it promises to be a frenetic offseason of buying and selling at the club.

But whoever replaces Emery should perhaps think twice before letting Areola leave. The Parisian-born Areola came through the youth ranks at PSG, as did center half Presnel Kimpembe and midfielder Adrien Rabiot.

Star-studded sides like PSG often import their best players and fans are happy to see them arrive, because it shows ambition. But they nevertheless identify more closely with homegrown talents such as Areola.

More AP Ligue 1 coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/Ligue1

Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire

Infantino has ‘full confidence’ in Samoura amid ethics issue

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA President Gianni Infantino says he retains “full confidence” in secretary general Fatma Samoura after an attempt to embroil her in an ethics investigation.

[ MORE: Turkey hands in bid plans to UEFA for 2024 EUROs ]

Samoura has expressed irritation at “totally ridiculous and baseless” claims she broke FIFA rules by not declaring an alleged conflict of interest in the 2026 World Cup bidding contest.

FIFA has not specified the exact nature of the complaint or the progress of any ethics investigation after it was alleged she was a relative of former Senegal player El Hadji Diouf, who is an ambassador for Morocco’s bid.

Samoura insisted on Wednesday the former Liverpool forward “is not a member of my family and therefore everything is crystal clear.”

FIFA’s top administrator received a public show of support from Infantino.

“I can confirm my full confidence in Fatma Samoura to lead the FIFA administration,” Infantino said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday.

The former United Nations official was hired by Infantino in 2016 months after he was elected as Sepp Blatter’s successor.

Morocco is due to take on a joint bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico in the June 13 vote for the 2026 World Cup host.

Photo: Flamengo supporter tattoos club jersey on body

MAURÍCIO DOS ANJOS VIA VICE
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A supporter in Brazil has taken fandom to a whole new level with a piece of body art that shows his devotion to the club.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

Maurício dos Anjos, a passionate Flamengo fan, has been a life-long supporter of the Rio de Janeiro-based club, and has the tattoo to prove it.

While it may look like body paint, Dos Anjos has a tattoo on the upper-half of his body depicting the Flamengo jersey, and it’s pretty awesome.

“People ask me if I don’t find it strange that I’m always wearing a Flamengo shirt. And I just don’t,” dos Anjos told VICE. “To me, it’s normal. But it doesn’t seem like anyone I talk to about it actually dislikes my tattoo.”

In total, Dos Anjos says the body work took over 90 hours and 30 sessions to complete the tattoo.

Has the perception of MLS really changed?

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When David Beckham arrived in Los Angeles back in 2007 his presence changed the complexion of Major League Soccer for all the right reasons, and the perception of the growing league changed.

[ MORE: Go behind the scenes at NYCFC’s new training facility ]

Over the years, MLS has strived to move into the upper-echelon of the global game, in an attempt to compete with the likes of the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga, but naysayers still indicate to this day that the United States’ top flight lacks the quality of the aforementioned.

Phrases like “retirement league” and “uninspired” have been used to describe MLS in the past, particularly when it comes to the league’s willingness to spend boatloads of cash on notable players well past their prime.

Examples such as Andrea Pirlo, Steven Gerrard and Rafael Marquez have at times dampened the perception of MLS due to the lack of quality on the pitch from those players, along with several others that had previously boasted extensive resumes.

Now, we’re at a time where MLS has picked up its scouting, with clubs focused more on younger, more skilled talents from South America and Europe.

That has led to major signings over the past several years, such as Ezequiel Barco, Miguel Almiron, Diego Rossi and Jesus Medina, to name a few.

Has that changed the overall complexion of MLS though?

On Thursday, Kevin De Bruyne‘s agent, Patrick de Koster, suggested in an interview that the Belgium international would likely “finish” his career in MLS.

“For now, he’s very happy at this club,” De Koster said. “We always look what the best solution for the player, both financially and football wise. Kevin’s future? I can see him finish at Los Angeles.”

This comes on the heels of a 36-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining the LA Galaxy in a move that has sent shockwaves across the league and the world because of the Swede’s great presence on a global scale.

It’s not to say that players like Ibrahimovic, or previous signings like David Villa and Didier Drogba cannot help the overall growth of MLS, because they certainly bring an awareness to the matches and draw attention to their respective clubs.

However, the long-term viability of MLS has been and will continue to be sustained on youth players succeeding in the league, as well as being able to draw promising young talents into the top flight of the U.S.