Arsene Wenger confident Gunners can seal the deal Sunday

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It’s over for Wigan Athletic, who had everything to play for over the last 180 minutes, but somewhat sadly have absolutely nothing at stake now. Due to events in North London on Tuesday, Sunday’s EPL finale (at home against Aston Villa and U.S. international Brad Buzan) will be a lot more “finale” than the Latics had in mind.

But for Arsenal the work is anything but done on the late-season drive for trophies – and remember, according to manager Arsene Wenger, Champions League qualification is a “trophy.” Ahem … we’ll just move on.

Wenger and his club has a short turn to prepare for a trip to Newcastle, where manager Alan Pardew and his club will be well rested. The Magpies won’t have much to play for, solidly settled into the lower-mid pack and already studying on how to improve for next year. But it would be nice for fans around St. James Park to drop some real pain on the glamour club from London, wouldn’t it?

Wenger, still basking in the afterglow of Tuesday’s showpiece win over Wigan, is confident that his club can get the result needed.

I am confident because we have experience. We play for a long time under massive pressure and we have always found the solutions with the problems that we have faced…. It’s a big hurdle, but we’re up for it, we can only give our best, we want to be focused.

It is all open, but it depends on our result. Even third place is not out of sight of we win the game.

There’s a chance that a tie would be enough, and even a loss does not automatically doom the Gunners, who need to hold their spot at fourth to get into the world’s richest and most prestigious club tournament. Because elsewhere in the 38th and final round of the long English Premier League season, Tottenham has to do its part at White Hart Lane against Sunderland in order to keep a little pressure on Wenger’s club.

But no matter what Clint Dempsey and Spurs do in London – Don’t forget, all matches on final day kick off simultaneously, and ain’t that always a hoot!  – a win puts Arsenal right back into Champions League.

By the way, this isn’t just a pride thing, or something to put on a resume, although that 15-year streak of Champions League qualification is  something to be proud of (and to hold over the head of their nearly, bitter rival Spurs).

It’s also about cold, hard cash. Just getting to the Champions League group stage nets a club over $10 million dollars, and the money improves from there with each step toward ultimate glory.

Reina faces hearing over links with trio connected to mafia

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ROME (AP) Outgoing Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina has been summoned to a hearing at the Italian football federation over his association with people with links to the mafia.

Reina, along with Paolo Cannavaro and Salvatore Aronica, is to face the FIGC’s disciplinary committee after an investigation by Naples’ anti-mafia department.

It is reportedly one of the reasons why Napoli decided not to renew Reina’s contract, with the former Liverpool goalkeeper set to move to AC Milan on a free transfer.

The FIGC says Reina “has had and continues to have inopportune association and friendship with Gabriele Esposito, Francesco Esposito and Giuseppe Esposito.” It adds that that includes holidays and “an exchange of favors.”

Cannavaro, who had two spells with Napoli, retired at Sassuolo last year. Aronica also spent several years at the southern club before joining Palermo in 2013.

Iran names initial squad for World Cup

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Jalal Hosseini and Vouria Ghaffouri have both been left off Iran’s provisional 24-man squad for the World Cup.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz did not say why Hosseini, a Persepolis defender, and Ghaffouri were not included.

There was space for midfielders Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi, however. Both played with Greek club Panionios against Maccabi Tel Aviv in August 2017. Iran does not recognize Israel and its supreme leader has threatened the country in the past. Both Shojaei and Hajsafi missed matches with the national team after the game.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh, a 24-year-old forward who plays in the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar, is also in the squad, which was announced Sunday.

In the midfield, Queiroz chose Saeid Ezatolahi, although the Amkar Perm player will miss the team’s first World Cup match because he was given a red card in a game against South Korea in qualifying.

Nottingham Forest midfielder Ashkan Dejagah was also chosen.

Goalkeeper Amir Abedzadeh of Portuguese club Maritimo made the squad. His father, Ahmadreza Abedzadeh, was Iran captain and goalkeeper at the 1998 World Cup in France.

Iran will play in Group B at the World Cup with Portugal, Spain and Morocco. The team will play warm-up matches in Turkey and Greece before heading to Russia.

Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo)

Defenders: Ramin Rezaeian (KV Oostende), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Al Saad), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Seyed Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal)

Midfielders: Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens), Mehdi Torabi (Saipa), Ashkan Dejagah (Nottingham Forest), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Ehsan Hajsafi (Olympiakos), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds FK), Ali Gholizadeh (Saipa)

Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiakos), Mahdi Taremi (Al-Gharafa Sports Club), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan), Reza Ghoochannejhad (SC Heerenveen)

Six Premier Leaguers named to Argentina, but no Icardi

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Argentina’s World Cup roster features a number of the usual suspects, particularly up front, but Serie A’s top goalscorer has been surprisingly left off the list of 23.

[ MORE: Belgium goes to World Cup without Nainggolan ]

Manager Jorge Sampaoli’s squad was made official on Monday, which includes the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain.

The Albiceleste won’t be taking Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi though, which has raised some questions about the decision.

Icardi led all scorers in Italy’s top flight this season, scoring 29 goals in 34 Serie A matches, while Paulo Dybala edged out the final striker spot in the Argentina squad.

Dybala is teammates with Higuain at Italian giants Juventus.

Meanwhile, six Premier League players were named into the South American nation’s squad, including goalkeepers Sergio Romero (Man United) and Willy Caballero (Chelsea), as well as Nicolas Otamendi (Man City), Marcos Rojo (Man United) and Manuel Lanzini (West Ham).

Men in Blazers POD: FA Cup recap, UCL final preview and more

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Rog and Davo recap a spite-fueled, snear-filled, peak Phil Jones FA Cup Final, preview this weekend’s Champions League tilt between Liverpool and Real Madrid and eulogize Big Sam… gone the opposite of too soon. Plus, World Cup rosters and MLS.

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