AP Photo/Rui Vieira

PL preview: Liverpool, Arsenal hit the road in race for 4th

Leave a comment

After taking the weekend off for the fourth round of the FA Cup, the Premier League returns with a full slate of midweek fixtures, beginning on Tuesday…

[ MORE: PL TV schedule — Tuesday & Wednesday ]

Swansea City vs. Arsenal — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

With Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur each dropping points in their last league game, Arsenal took advantage with a resounding 4-1 victory over Crystal Palace and closed the gap between themselves and the Reds to five points (three back of Tottenham) in the top-four race. For one 90-minute period, at least, “addition by subtraction” appealed to Gunners fans who had accepted Alexis Sanchez would leave the club this month, as he did last week in exchange for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Tuesday’s visit to the Liberty Stadium, where Arsene Wenger‘s side will take on last-place (and three points away from safety) Swansea, should see the Armenian playmaker make his debut for the club. Wenger has insisted that Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil, a world-class playmaker himself, will play together.

“Yes, our intention is (to play them together),” Wenger said this week. “As I have said before, we signed Mkhitaryan on a long-term contract and our intention is to keep Ozil at the club and hopefully we will manage to do that very soon.”

It was Swansea, meanwhile, who did Arsenal the massive favor of knocking off Liverpool last Monday, and in the process breathed life into their own fight against relegation. Carlos Carvalhal’s side has collected seven points from their last four PL games and has begun to believe that a 17th-place finish is possible.

“When you’re in this position, you want the team to show character and that we’re fighting to get ourselves out of danger,” goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski said. “You also have to make it hard for the opposition and, when you do that, you always have a chance to get something out of it and we were rewarded for the performance [against Liverpool].”

West Ham United vs. Crystal Palace — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

It’s been something of a roller-coaster season for West Ham, who find themselves right where they were expected to be — 11th in the PL table, two points out of 9th — after 24 of 38 rounds. After winning just two of their first 15 league games, David Moyes has guided a once-wayward ship to positive results in eight of his side’s last nine league games. Last time out, though, the Hammers suffered a somewhat embarrassing defeat to League One leaders Wigan Athletic in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

“We didn’t play well at Wigan but I would hope there was a bit of an understanding that, with the team we took up there, it was always going to be a struggle,” Moyes said in the aftermath. I said after the game that I don’t think, unless we had our best team out, we had a realistic chance of winning because I don’t think you can go to these clubs with less than your best team; maybe one or two players out, but not what we had out for the game.”

Palace, meanwhile, have quickly overcome their horrendous start to the season (zero points won and zero goals scored in their first seven games), and find themselves comfortably in 13th place just shy of the two-thirds mark of the season — even if they’re still only five points clear of the relegation zone. Roy Hodgson‘s men have lost just two of 13 league games.

Huddersfield Town vs. Liverpool — 3 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Liverpool also went out of the FA Cup on the weekend, as Jurgen Klopp‘s side fell to relegation battlers West Bromwich Albion at Anfield. Couple that with last week’s defeat away to Swansea, which snapped a 14-game unbeaten run in the PL, and the Reds enter Tuesday’s visit to Huddersfield having lost back-to-back games for the first time all season. While Spurs and Arsenal loom not far behind, Liverpool also sit just three points back of Chelsea for third. In order to chase and catch the Blues, though, captain Jordan Henderson knows his side will need to maintain a strong mental approach following setbacks.

“Teams that go on to be successful always respond in a positive way. If you look at us last season there were moments where we stumbled, but we got straight back on our feet, likewise this season. I think it can become a characteristic of this team and this dressing room that we don’t sink after a loss – we make sure they are infrequent and the impact isolated.”

Huddersfield, on the other hand, have endured nothing but setbacks of late — the Terriers are winless in their last six league games and have slipped to within two points of the relegation zone after a strong start to the season. After Liverpool leave Kirklees Stadium on Tuesday, up next is a visit to Old Trafford, where they’ll face second-place Manchester Untied. No rest for the weary.

Wednesday’s PL schedule

Chelsea vs. Bournemouth — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Everton vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Newcastle United vs. Burnley — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Southampton vs. Brighton & Hove Albion — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United — 3 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Man City vs. West Bromwich Albion, 3 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Stoke City vs. Watford — 3 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham: Davies stuns Spurs late

Twitter/@BBCSport
Leave a comment

A valiant effort from a League One side has rewarded the minnows with a replay set to be played at Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur looked on its way towards the FA Cup sixth round on Sunday, but a late finish by Steven Davies gave Rochdale a 2-2 draw with the Premier League club at the Spotland Stadium.

[ MORE: Willian stars as Chelsea routs Hull in FA Cup ]

Harry Kane — who scored his 34th goal on the season in all competitions — converted from the penalty spot in the 88th minute, however, Davies had the final say deep into stoppage time to send the two sides towards a replay.

Ian Henderson’s finish in the 45th minute gave Rochdale a gift at the conclusion of the first stanza, after the hosts capitalized on a Spurs giveaway near midfield.

Meanwhile, Tottenham managed to level the match at 1-1 on the hour mark when Lucas Moura calmly slotted his close-range shot past goalkeeper Josh Lillis after a timely through ball from Moussa Sissoko picked out the former PSG man.

The visitors began pressing on in the second half, with Mauricio Pochettino‘s side having trailed at the halftime break.

The two sides will now meet on either Feb. 27 or 28 in the reverse fixture to decide which team advances. The winner will either meet Sheffield Wednesday or Swansea City in the quarterfinals.

Scholes: Pogba didn’t earn Man United spot in 2012 before Juve stint

Chris Brunskill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Paul Pogba‘s young career has been bright, but a former Manchester United legend suggests that there was a time where the Frenchman struggled to find his way at Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Man United draws Brighton, Chelsea gets Leicester in FA Cup quarters

The 24-year-old Pogba is now in his second stint with the Red Devils, after spending four seasons in Italy with giants Juventus.

Former United midfielder Paul Scholes says though that back in 2012 — prior to Pogba’s move to Juve — that the physical player wasn’t pleased with the fact that he wasn’t getting regular minutes with the first team.

“Ferguson wanted me initially to come back and coach the reserve team with Warren Joyce,” he told BT Sport. “I said in September I’d come back. So I started helping Joycey, and I was training with the reserves.

“I was training every day with the likes of Pogba, Lingard, all these types of players. They were a really good side and I was really enjoying training. I was getting fit, I felt great, and it got to December time and the team was struggling a bit.

“They had a load of injuries, no central midfield players were fit. They ended up playing Phil Jones and Fabio da Silva in central midfield in a game against Blackburn at Old Trafford.

“Funnily enough that was the end of Pogba, because he thought he should have been playing instead of them. But he wasn’t doing well enough.”

Scholes, who had retired briefly in 2011, came back after just six months for the Red Devils, and ended up playing a year-and-a-half more following the decision to end his playing career.

It is widely believed that Pogba’s decision to head to Juventus was largely due to the impact of Scholes in the United squad.

Video: Rochdale puts Tottenham on upset alert at the half

Twitter/@FOXSoccer
Leave a comment

It’s been a tremendous season for Ian Henderson, particularly in the FA Cup, and now he and his side are one half away from upsetting one of the Premier League giants.

Henderson’s finish on the brink of halftime has put League One side Rochdale up 1-0 against Tottenham Hotspur, as the minnows aim to become the first non-PL side to advance to the quarterfinals in this season’s tournament.

A sloppy giveaway from Spurs near midfield created the attack for the hosts, and allowed Rochdale to capitalize on one of its few attacks during the opening stanza.

Benfica routs Boavista 4-0 to take lead in Portugal

@slbenfica_en
Leave a comment

LISBON, Portugal (AP) Benfica routed Boavista 4-0 to move ahead of FC Porto at the top of the Portuguese league on Saturday.

Benfica is one point in front of Porto, which has two games to play.

[ MORE: Man United gets Brighton in FA Cup quarters, Chelsea draws Leicester ]

Ruben Dias opened the scoring for Benfica in the 18th minute when he headed in a pass from Jardel.

Jardel added a goal just before halftime. Boavista’s Nuno Henrique also scored an own goal before Raul Jimenez polished off the victory in the 90th.

Jonas had a penalty saved by Boavista goalkeeper Vagner with the score 0-0.

Porto hosts Rio Ave on Sunday. Sporting Lisbon is three points behind Benfica before visiting Tondela on Monday.