Getty Images

FA Cup fourth round preview, predictions: Upsets galore?

Leave a comment

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.

Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap official (video)

@ManUtd
Leave a comment

Arsenal and Manchester United have completed their American-style trade, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan joining the Gunners and Alexis Sanchez on board the Red Devils’ train.

Both 29 years old, the playmakers arrive at their new homes with plenty to prove.

More to come…

One player for each of the Premier League’s Top Six

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

The Premier League’s transfer window is going to close within the next two weeks, and each of the big boys feels a need to find help in at least one position on the field.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Manchester City: Yes, it’s laughable that City would require another piece; They’ll be fine either way. But injuries to Fabian Delph and Benjamin Mendy and lack of faith in Danilo does mean that left back would be a spot of interest for Pep Guardiola. This is not shot at young Oleksandar Zinchenko, but City wants at least a treble. This is why City is being linked with Fred, who can play at left back as well as his traditional center mid. It makes sense.

Manchester United: Yeah, yeah, Alexis Sanchez, we know. But with Michael Carrick retiring and Ander Herrera‘s surprising lack of consistent starting time, perhaps Jose Mourinho is aiming for more presence in the center of the park. It betrays things in terms of age, but Lassana Diarra is a free agent and could provide the competition United craves at an easy-to-digest budgetary addition.

Chelsea: Adding Ross Barkley was a nice pick-up, but depth behind Alvaro Morata is clearly a desire for Antonio Conte considering the names which have been linked with Stamford Bridge: Andy Carroll, Ashley Barnes, Edin Dzeko, Peter Crouch. West Ham might like a Carroll-for-Batshuayi swap, and the big Englishman would be a huge get for the Blues should he stay healthy. We wonder if newly available loan target Andre Schurrle has any love left for Chelsea

Liverpool: Here’s a name you probably expected in the City portion of this post: Johnny Evans. The ex-Manchester United defender may be on the move from West Brom, and pairing him with Virgil Van Dijk would give Jurgen Klopp‘s 4-4-2 perhaps the toughest center back pairing in England. Obviously pushing the Naby Keita transfer earlier would be way more effective for Klopp’s project, but it is extremely unlikely to happen in January. So we stick with Evans. Bold statement: With Evans, Liverpool could post the most points in the PL the rest of the way. With Evans and Keita, they’ll be a favorite to rival Man City next season.

Tottenham Hotspur: This club is very, very good and two deep at nearly every position. Heck, Victor Wanyama can’t even get on the field. That’s why it makes sense that the club’s been linked with unfinished project Malcom as well as Schurrle, who Bordeaux said today will not be moving in January. So while that’s the name we’d choose, we’ll instead nod to Cagliari youngster and Golden Boy nominee Nicolo Barella, whose name continues to pop up as a target of several top clubs in the Premier League.

Arsenal: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would be nice, and forward is being magnified as a position at the Emirates Stadium thanks largely to a slow period for the very good Alexandre Lacazette. But his numbers are going to increase with (probably, almost certainly) Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil as twin playmakers, the former who will be motivated to prove his Manchester United critics wrong (See his amazing final Bundesliga season for hope, Gunners fans).

So we’ll seek Arsenal help closer to the back, where they need center back experience thanks to the predictable slide of Per Mertesacker and the unpredictable dip in form of Laurent Koscielny. Man, Evans is a good shout here, but we’ll go off the board completely and speculate that Ajax teen center back Matthijs de Ligt is a very Arsene Wenger type player. In other words: instantly effective or not, how Wenger would it be to add a teenage CB? In a window in which he’s (maybe) sated those who want both a playmaker (Mkhitaryan) and striker (Aubameyang), that seems pretty possible.

LA Galaxy looks set for massive turnaround

Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Major League Soccer’s parity lends itself to dramatic turnarounds, and 2018 should be no different.

[ MORE: High profile loan for Palace ]

We’ll detail several in the run-up to the 2018 season, but the confirmation that Chris Pontius is taking his talents to Carson really blasts one side’s turn-around into the stratosphere.

Part of this admittedly feels like cheating considering the LA Galaxy’s awful 2017 campaign may have always been destined to be a one-off after suffering through a miserable season under Curt Onalfo and Sigi Schmid.

At the risk of carrying Bruce Arena vitriol from the USMNT realm and into MLS, this was about more than him. Part of it was happenstance: The Galaxy were one of just two teams to finish below .500 at home, and they were absolutely miserable there.

The other part was the departure of so many parts of their 2016 base: Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, Mike Magee, and Alan Gordon all left after accounting for 22 goals and 18 assists. Gerrard, for what it’s worth, never overcame league-wide fan perception of his worth and was responsible for 11 assists.

Throw in Gyasi Zardes’ continued regression and both his, Sebastian Lletget‘s and Jermaine Jones’ battles with injuries, and the Galaxy were up against it despite their status as a flagship institution of MLS competition (We got this far without mentioning Jelle van Damme’s desire to go home, which was granted before the end of August).

Now Zardes is gone. That’s a more than acceptable loss as the Galaxy sent a lot of money to land Ola Kamara, who will join up with Pontius, Romain Alessandrini, Giovani dos Santos, Jonathan dos Santos, Perry Kitchen, and Lletget to form a verifiably solid front. David Bingham arrives to steady the back, too.

Plus, there are rumors of Ross McCormack arriving on loan, with Colorado and Orlando (another flip candidate) in the running as well.

In a world where the Galaxy weren’t dead last in the league, Alessandrini would’ve been an MVP candidate last season.

The West was largely underwhelming last season, as seventh place FC Dallas simultaneously finished just seven points shy of first while also missing the playoffs. LA could flip its script as dramatically as 2017 Chicago, and this should be a wonderful West Coast battle given Bob Bradley and the excitement across town.

West Brom: Evans relegation release reportedly just $4m

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jonny Evans has been fantastic for West Bromwich Albion this season, shepherding the Baggies back line while being involved in as many goals as any player not named Salomon Rondon or Jay Rodriguez.

[ MORE: High profile loan for Palace ]

So it would make sense for West Brom to hang onto the player at almost all costs given its status as a team in danger of the drop after its slow start under Tony Pulis has kept its lackluster pace under Alan Pardew.

Here’s the rub: Some big clubs would like to purchase Evans, who has 18 months left on his deal but reportedly no interest in signing a new deal the Hawthorns. Even worse? Monday’s story that a Baggies’ relegation would make his buyout clause just over $4 million.

Defenders who cost more last summer on the Premier League market include Jan Bednarek, Nathan Ake, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Michael Keane, Florian Lejeune, Mathias Jorgensen, Andrew Robertson, Bruno Martins Indi, and many others.

Heck, Evans’ buyout clause is the same price Derby County paid Liverpool for Andre Wisdom. And these fees are all pre-Virgil Van Dijk to Liverpool madness.

Considering only Swansea and Brighton have scored fewer league goals than the Baggies, who are just now committing to a two-striker approach under Pardew, does it make sense for West Brom to sell now?

Evans’ value at 18 months out will be more than it is at 12 months out even if the Baggies avoid relegation, but he’s possibly a lynch pin of the team. And the volatile value for attackers mean the $25-35 million he’d generate may not make for like-for-like value.

It’s not an easy decision, but desperate times call for similar measures. The Baggies have played in four nil-nils this season, and lost 1-0 to relegation rivals Southampton and Huddersfield Town away. Both of the reverse fixtures remain.

There are creative options here, too. Would Jurgen Klopp sanction a high(ish) profile attacker loan to WBA in order to pair Evans with Van Dijk? Same for Pep Guardiola at Man City?