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.

Arena reacts to USMNT draw, expects CONCACAF fight to end

2 Comments

Bruce Arena didn’t enjoy watching Tuesday’s 1-1 draw between the United States and Panama, but he’s not upset with the result.

“The referee didn’t blow his whistle too much, and that’s the way the game looked for 90 minutes,” Arena said.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things ]

Arena’s Yanks struggled to find their flow in the draw, ravaged by injuries to their back line. Arena praised his back four for their performance in difficult circumstances on the road with new teammates.

And he’s feeling a lot better than a week ago, when the U.S. had zero points and sat last in the table.

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

“We’re obviously in better shape with four points in two games. We’ve made progress. Every game in qualifying is going to be critical for every team. Everyone’s in it. It’s going to be a battle for the second, third, and fourth spots.”

The Americans’ next World Cup qualifier is June 8 against Trinidad and Tobago before a June 11 road trip to Azteca to face Mexico.

Panama 1-1 USMNT: Ugly, scrappy point for both sides

Leave a comment

The United States will finish the international break in the Hex’s fourth place after a 1-1 draw at Panama in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

Clint Dempsey scored off a feed from Christian Pulisic to give the U.S. a brief 1-0 lead, and Gabriel Gomez leveled the score before halftime.

The Americans’ next World Cup qualifier is June 8 against Trinidad and Tobago before a June 11 road trip to Azteca to face Mexico.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things ]

Here’s the Hex table as it stands, with the U.S. on pace for a playoff spot against Asia’s playoff winner:

Mexico — 10 points
Costa Rica — 7 points
Panama — 5 points
———————
USMNT — 4 points
———————-
Honduras — 4 points
Trinidad and Tobago — 3 points

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

The first 10 minutes were a bit frenetic, with the U.S. focused on adventurous first touch passes when it managed to earn the ball from Panama.

That feel wasn’t aided by the officiating, as Cesar Ramos was inconsistent in a very physical opening quarter-hour (and never pulled a single card).

Felipe Baloy flashed a header over the cross bar off a 16th minute corner kick as he lost Jozy Altidore and nodded back across goal. It was a bit of set piece foreshadowing, as Arena has yet to fix a long-held USMNT problem.

Christian Pulisic was fired up when Luis Tejada shoved him to the turf in the 20th minute.

Tim Ream bailed out Jorge Villafana, who wasn’t as composed and smart as his Friday versus Panama, sliding to divert Armando Cooper’s cross for a corner kick.

Jermaine Jones cued up Pulisic moments later, but the youngster had to wait for a bounding ball to settle before Panama conceded a corner. That opportunity was wasted by an overly aggressive Gonzalez, who was called for a foul before the ball arrived in the 18.

Howard saw his first danger and averted it when Alberto Quintero shook Zusi to rip a shot on frame. It was 0-0 after 32 minutes.

Then, the breakthrough. Dempsey moved to within a goal of Landon donovan’s all-time mark thanks to Pulisic, who cooked Felipe Baloy and held off Roman Torres before laying off to the veteran. 1-0, 39′.

The lead lasted all of three minutes, as Gomez pounced on a loose ball with the Yanks’ back line at sixes and sevens off a long throw-in. Gomez turned off Jermaine Jones and lost Villafana to bury his chance behind Howard. 1-1, 44′.

The second half began with more chunky play until Villafana blazed down the left wing on an overlapping run to cross for Pulisic, whose shot was forced out for a corner which led to nothing.

Dempsey then turned a Michael Bradley free kick to a waiting Jaime Penedo as the Yanks started to refind their flow.

Panama found a doorstep chance when Torres nodded down for Tejada, but Howard made an exceptional nether regions “leg” save to keep it 1-1.

Arena introduced Alejandro Bedoya for Darlington Nagbe with 20 minutes to play, a move that was a testament to the physical nature of the game.

Fittingly, it was creative work from Pulisic that helped the U.S. win a corner kick soon after, though Penedo claimed the offering.

More chances came Panama’s way, as the U.S. spent much of the late stages desperately clearing loose balls. On another night, with better finishing from Tejada, the Yanks would’ve been sunk.

Three takeaways from the USMNT’s 1-1 draw at Panama

AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco
Leave a comment

What did we learn from the United States’ 1-1 draw in Panama City on Wednesday?

For one thing, that the coach isn’t going to matter without a number of your very best players.

[ MORE: Match recap | Player ratings ]

The USMNT saw precious few moments of brilliance from its injury-ravaged side, saved by its soon-to-be all-time leading scorer, its 18-year-old star attacker, and its legendary goalkeeper.

But mainly, we saw that you can change the boss, but you need better performances to make a difference.

Limits of depth tested in ugly affair

Bruce Arena was without his best center back pairing thanks to injury, and you could argue he was without his best back four if you see Fabian Johnson as a left back (John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, DeAndre Yedlin, and Johnson).

The U.S. also couldn’t pair Bobby Wood with Jozy Altidore or Clint Dempsey, and lost Sebastian Lletget to injury on Friday. Timmy Chandler has rarely thrived with the USMNT, but it certainly would’ve been nice if Arena had called him up for the second match alone (He was suspended Friday for yellow card accumulation).

Given the above, this was not a pretty match. You just have to hope this isn’t the result that keeps them from Russia.

Mexico, revisited (What game plan?)

This might be an unpopular take, but Tuesday’s loss was nothing more than the performance put forth against Mexico in Columbus.

The main differences? Tim Howard was there to make a tremendous save, and Panama is nowhere near to the level of El Tri.

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

The Yanks didn’t have a great plan other than to outwork Panama. This isn’t a big knock on the coach’s tactics given the lack of starting caliber players noted above, but once Panama flooded the middle of the pitch with fouls and tight tackles, an answer wasn’t provided by the players or the coach.

Plan B hasn’t been a U.S. strong suit for a long time, perhaps back to the finer moments of the Bob Bradley era. Arena got away with one on Tuesday.

Rough road ahead

This is something we know, but my was it reinforced: Winning CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers at home is a necessity, because there’s carnage and bad pitches on the road.

Perhaps that could’ve changed if referee Cesar Ramos brought a yellow card out for either team at any point in the proceedings. Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe were fouled as part of Panama’s game plan, and the Yanks’ beleaguered defense went with a similar plan as the sloppy match wore into the waning moments.

The U.S. is still in control of its own World Cup destiny, of course, but simply must handle its business in remaining home matches against Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, and Costa Rica. T&T is next, and anything other than three points sends them into Azteca in a bad, bad way.

Player ratings from the USMNT’s 1-1 draw in Panama

Leave a comment

Player ratings reverted to old form after Tuesday’s 1-1 draw in Panama City, though fortunately one of the other U.S. tropes is dead.

That’s because “Christian Pulisic is the future” can officially be moved into “Christian Pulisic is the present”.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

The Borussia Dortmund teenager again manufactured the United States’ best moment, feeding Clint Dempsey for the Yanks’ lone goal.

Starting XI

Tim Howard  — 7 — Don’t know what he’s supposed to do on the goal, but his jewels save to deny Luis Tejada could be a World Cup saver.

Jorge Villafana  — 4 — One of the many star men from the win over Honduras was too adventurous and less composed. Bad combo.

Omar Gonzalez  — 4 — I say this in a way that ignores Timmy Chandler’s fine work in the Bundesliga: Is Gonzalez going to be Bruce Arena’s Chandler? Hopefully this is the last time he has to start.

Tim Ream — 5 — Had a bad time on the goal, and made several bad plays. But it’s hard to get a read on the Fulham’s man night because he bailed out Gonzalez and Villafana on a number of occasions.

Graham Zusi  — 5 — Gets bumped up a point for handling a very difficult situation, still adapting to right back in a match where Panama’s tactics were to attack his side. A better second half than the first.

Michael Bradley  — 6 — Nothing exceptional from the captain, but still an upgrade from his form under Jurgen Klinsmann. A little too deep in the formation on the evening, but that could’ve been the plan?

Jermaine Jones  (Off 75′) — 5 — Ornery as usual, his only successes came in standing up for his oft-fouled midfield mates.

Darlington Nagbe  (Off 68′) — 6  — This game looked set up for him to pick the ball up from Michael Bradley and dance into the midfield, but he only got a few chances as Panama’s tactics were aimed at fouling the Yanks’ two best dribblers in him and Pulisic.

Christian Pulisic  — 9 — A simply incredible bit of work to work two veteran defenders and assist Dempsey’s goal. Failing an unforeseen dip in company, Pulisic is going to be one of the most important players in American men’s history.

Clint Dempsey  — 6 — Scored the goal that earned the point, but otherwise fought to be a part of the match. That’s the sign of a legend, though, still finding a way to make himself matter on a poor evening.

Jozy Altidore  — 5 — Might’ve had a dozen touches in the game. Part of this was down to the U.S. aiming balls at his head and not his feet, but not his day.

Subs

Alejandro Bedoya (On 68′)  — 6 — Dogged work rate from the Union man.

Kellyn Acosta (On 75′) — 6 — Some creativity on display in limited time

Paul Arriola (On 83′) — N/A —