FA Cup Preview: Arsenal host Tottenham in huge North London derby

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A game like this is what the FA Cup is all about.

Passion, history, rivalry and intensity; it will all be on display at the Emirates on Saturday at 12:15pm ET between North London foes Arsenal and Tottenham in a massive clash.

The two Premier League teams were drawn at random against each other in the third round (the stage when Premier League sides enter) of the oldest cup competition in world soccer. Just to give you a heads up, amateur, semi-pro and tens of lower league sides in England and Wales have already been through qualifying and many other rounds just to get to the last 64 of the most famous knockout tournament in the global game.

(MORE: Full draw for FA Cup third round, as 32 games take place)

But back to Arsenal vs. Tottenham, and the Premier League leaders are in good form after a fruitful festive period that saw them keep their lead at the PL summit. As for Spurs, they’ve changed managers since these sides last met on September 1, 2013 as Tim Sherwood has had a sensational start to life in charge of Tottenham following Andre Villas-Boas’ departure.

Spurs have won three of Sherwood’s four games PL games in charge and are unbeaten since he took over on a permanent basis before Christmas. But this will be a huge test for Sherwood, as Arsenal have been sweeping away sides since the start of the season and look resolutely defensively but one bonus for the visitors is the amount of injuries piling up for the Gunners.

This FA Cup tie has great importance, not only for local pride but a positive result will help to keep both teams good league form going. And here’s a crazy stat for you, this is only the sixth time Arsenal and Spurs have met since the competition began in 1871 and on the other five occasions whoever triumphed in the North London derby has gone on to lift the FA Cup that year.

In team news, Arsenal strikers Olivier Giroud and Nicklas Bendtner are set to miss out while left back Kieran Gibbs is also sidelined. For Spurs, they could welcome back Jermain Defoe, Lewis Holtby and Andros Townsend from injury, while former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor looks to have overcome the knock which saw him stretched off in Tottenham’s win over Manchester United on Wednesday.

What they’re saying

Wenger says his side will be focused: “My players are highly focused on this game. They are determined to win every single game they play, their attitude has been absolutely fantastic since the start of the season and will be like that on Saturday.”

Tim Sherwood on Adebayor: “I spoke to Ade after United and he said he cramped up in all areas, some where he’d never cramped before, so he wasn’t sure if he had strains or pulls, but thankfully it has settled down, he’s had some great treatment and he’s ready to perform.”

Prediction

Tottenham looked revitalized and more stable since Tim Sherwood took over, they also look more capable of scoring plenty of goals. If they can score early away at Arsenal, the home fans will get restless and pile the pressure on their side. North London derbies are usually very tight affairs and I expect this to be no different. A draw would see a replay take place at White Hart Lane and a chance for another pulsating clash, my money would be on a stalemate at the Emirates this Saturday evening.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Halted World Cup flip-throw heard around the world

AP Photo/Sergei Grits
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Milad Mohammadi knew the time was right for something special, but special isn’t always good.

And good is a subjective term. Cause to us this is very good, Milad.

The Iranian national team defender failed with a flip-throw bid in the final moments of a 1-0 loss to Spain on Wednesday at the World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

And this wasn’t like he illegally flipped or broke some other rule. No, like a kid trying an audacious jump into the deep end, Akhmat Grozny star Mohammadi just bailed and climbed in from the side (so to speak).

The kiss, the look skyward, the headbutt… all integral parts of a wonderful World Cup moment.

Renard, Morocco ‘very proud’ of unlucky national team

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If you would’ve told Morocco fans or their manager, Herve Renard, that they’d outshoot and outpossess both Iran and Portugal at World Cup, their next question would probably be, “So do we need to do against Spain to win Group B?”

Alas, Morocco lost a pair of 1-0 decisions to become the first team knocked out of the 2018 World Cup.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The Lions of Atlas fell to Iran in their opener on a stoppage time own goal after carrying 64 percent possession and a 13-8 advantage in shot attempts, then lost to a Cristiano Ronaldo fourth minute goal on Wednesday despite a 16-10 shot advantage and 53 percent of the ball.

“I’m very proud of the performance and I am very proud of my players, I’m very proud of this country,” Renard said.

With no hope of advancing to the next round, the manager is finding the experience bittersweet. From RTE:

“What I am sure of at this moment is that the entire Moroccan people is proud of this team. Of course it’s easier to play with a player who has one chance and he puts it away. But we are in Morocco.

“We have quality players. Despite the ups and downs of the game, we should have been more effective. Because, like in the first game, we had plenty of chances. I won’t blame anyone. That’s football. It’s always those who know how to be present in the box, the most gifted players, who make the difference. We took a lot of risks and we didn’t get our reward.”

It’s unlikely Morocco will hold either of those statistical advantages against Spain, especially a Spanish side yet to qualify, but there is plenty to like from the tournament aside from poor finishing quality.

But the performances of 19-year-olds Amine Harit (Schalke) and Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid) — not to mention Hakim Ziyech (25, Ajax) — seem to hint at a promise for 2022. And Renard’s men can still play spoiler for Spain, which is no small shockwave.