FA Cup final preview: Aston Villa underdogs in Arsenal’s pursuit of back-to-back cups

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  • Arsenal to play in a record 19th FA Cup final
  • Villa haven’t won the FA Cup since 1957
  • The Gunners won 3-0 and 5-0 vs. Villa during PL season

On Saturday the FA Cup final takes place at Wembley Stadium in London, as Premier League duo Arsenal and Aston Villa do battle for the famous trophy.

Arsenal is the defending champions, as the Gunners defeated Hull City 3-2 in extra time in a dramatic final last season.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Arsenal vs. Villa from Wembley ]

Once again Arsene Wenger’s side will be the heavy favorites in their native north London but Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa stunned Liverpool in the semifinal and despite finishing just one place above the relegation zone in the PL this season and being hammered twice by Arsenal during their league meetings, the Villans will fancy their chances of causing an upset in world soccer’s oldest cup competition.

If Villa’s star striker Christian Benteke can get at Arsenal’s defense early on then we are in for one heck of an FA Cup final. Also, Villa’s U.S. national team goalkeeper Brad Guzan could be the first American to play in an FA Cup final since Tim Howard went to Wembley with Everton in 2009. In team news Arsenal will be without striker Danny Welbeck, while Mathieu Debuchy and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are battling to make the squad. Villa could welcome back Shay Given and Kieran Richardson from injury for the showpiece final which brings down the curtain on the domestic season in England.

How they got there

Aston Villa

Third round: 1-0 vs. Blackpool
Fourth round: 2-1 vs. Bournemouth
Fifth round: 2-1 vs. Leicester City
Quarterfinals: 2-0 vs. West Bromwich Albion
Semifinals: 2-1 vs. Liverpool

Arsenal

Third round: 2-0 vs. Hull City
Fourth round: 3-2 vs. Brighton and Hove Albion
Fifth round: 2-0 vs. Middlesbrough
Quarterfinals: 2-1 vs. Manchester United
Semifinals: 2-1 (AET) vs. Reading

What they’re saying

Arsene Wenger on Arsenal’s new balance: “We are more stable defensively than we were before and I think that’s a good basis to go from there. We still have some improvements to make but overall I think there’s a style of play that we set and our balance between attacking and defending is much better. We have a good opportunity to show that on Saturday.”

Tim Sherwood on Villa being underdogs: “We know we’re huge underdogs, but every time we’ve been underdogs and I’ve asked them for a big performance we’ve produced it – at Tottenham and Man City, in the FA Cup against Liverpool, even a huge performance in the FA Cup against Albion. They can rise to the occasion – they just need to do it one more time. It’s a great opportunity for everyone to give the club a platform to move on.”

Prediction

Arsenal will be the big favorites heading into this one but just like last season against Hull, it is likely to be a very tight game. Expect Villa to come flying out of the traps and if they score early, this game could change on its head. I expect the Gunners to weather the storm and prevail. 2-1 to Arsenal as Wenger will guide them to back-to-back FA Cup trophies.

James dazzles as Everton hammer 10-man West Brom

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Everton – West Brom had it all. Seriously.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]   

The Toffees beat the Baggies 5-2 as Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored a hat trick, plus James Rodriguez and Michael Keane each bagged a goal.

Superb goals from Grady Diangana and Matheus Pereira gave West Brom hope but they were reduced to 10 men before half time and had manager Slaven Bilic sent off in the aftermath for remonstrating with referee Mike Dean.


3 things we learned: Everton – West Brom

1. Everton’s attack on fire: James Rodriguez pulled the strings and scored his first Everton goal with a fine strike. His link-up play with Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and Andre Gomes was sublime and Everton’s entire attacking unit was fluid and in-tune. With Moise Keane, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Alex Iwobi able to come off the bench, they have so many options. In James, Richarlison and DCL, their front free are all on the same wavelength and even Lucas Digne on the left flank enhanced their attacks.

2. Shaky Pickford a concern: The one negative for Everton will have been Pickford’s form. He should have done better with Diangana’s goal and although Pereira hit a stunning free kick, was Pickford’ position correct? He gave the ball away early with his feet a few times too and the England international has to stay focused and prove he can be trusted. Right now, it’s tough to say if Pickford should remain as the Three Lions’ number one.

3. Diangana backs up West Ham outrage: When Diangana was sold by West Ham to West Brom, the club he was on loan at last season, Hammers skipper Mark Noble hit out at the West Ham owners. That tells you how highly Diangana is rated. His goal summed up his class and he had some lovely flicks. Alongside Pereira, he will score and create plenty of goals for the Baggies this season.

Man of the Match, Everton – West Brom: James Rodriguez – Now, DCL scored a hat trick of tap ins and he was in the right place at the right time, but James oozed class. Everton’s entire attack is now clicking into place because of the Colombia star.


Everton should have taken the lead early on as James Rodriguez whipped in a superb corner but Calvert-Lewin could only head wide.

West Brom took the lead after Diangana was given the freedom of Goodison to run towards goal and he then drilled home a low shot into the bottom corner, past a slow-moving Jordan Pickford and in.

Everton responded well to going behind with Calvert-Lewin and Allan having chances, but then Jake Livermore did superbly to control and get a shot off but he hit the post.

Before the break Everton were level as Richarlison caused havoc after a cross and Calvert-Lewin flicked home. The equalizer was initially ruled out for offside but VAR checked the decision and it was overturned. 1-1.

James Rodriguez then made it 2-1 with a lovely strike from outside the box for his first Everton goal, then a few moments later Kieran Gibbs raised his hands to the face of James and was shown a straight red card. At half time West Brom boss Slaven Bilic was also sent off for remonstrating with referee Mike Dean as the Baggies imploded.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The second half saw the chaos continue.

Within a few minutes of the restart 10-man West Brom were level as Matheus Pereira curled home a stunning free kick into the top corner from distance.

But it wasn’t 2-2 for long as Richarlison’s header was saved but Michael Keane was on hand to tap home the rebound to put the Toffees 3-2 up.

Soon it was 4-2 as James brilliantly found Richarlison who teed up Calvert-Lewin to tap home. And Calvert-Lewin completed his hat trick as the ball bounced off the back of his head and in to make it 5-2.

Lucas Digne hit the bar with a free kick and Richarlison had a goal disallowed for offside as Everton eased to a second-straight victory to start the season in style.

Leeds – Fulham: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Leeds – Fulham: A battle between two Premier League new boys on Saturday (Watch live at 10am ET, online via Peacock) is the first top-flight game at Elland Road for over 16 years.

LEEDS – FULHAM STREAM LIVE

Marcelo Bielsa and Scott Parker both delivered promotion from the Championship last season and both were expected to, even though Bielsa is the revered master of coaching and Parker is only in his second full season as a head coach. These new boys have very different styles of play but ultimately they are both much better going forward than they are at the back.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Leeds – Fulham this Saturday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Fulham – Leeds (INJURY REPORT)

Leeds welcome back captain and center back Liam Cooper and that is their only change from the team which lost at Liverpool last weekend.

Fulham star new goalkeeper Alphonse Areola and right back Kenny Tete, with Mario Lemina on the bench. Aleksandar Mitrovic starts after being on the bench for the first game of the seasn due to injury.


What they’re saying

Marcelo Bielsa on Leeds’ start to life back in the Premier League: “Every game is a new story. We will try to correct all the things we did badly against Liverpool and we will try to maintain all the good things. A positive performance always gives a certain amount of optimism and a defeat generates sadness. This week the two of those things combined. The season is very new and the adaptation of the new players is going to take a while, which is the same for everybody.”

Scott Parker on facing Leeds and if it will give him a better idea of where they’re at compared to playing v. Arsenal: “Yeah, definitely, [but] saying that, we want to be competitive in those games [too]. Every game we go into we want to be competitive and get something out of the game. Of course, this weekend we go to another promoted team, a team that won the division last year, very handsomely, who have spent a lot of money to improve the team even more. The challenge for us is we want to go in and try and get a result in this game, like we will do every game this year, so we’ll try and do that and plan accordingly to get a result.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Leeds (-160) are the heavy favorites but Fulham (+450) are worth a pop at these huge odds. The draw (+290) is intriguing as the bookies were obviously impressed by Leeds’ opening day display at Liverpool, but were they too impressed?

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction

I’m going to go for a draw here. I know people are well on board the Leeds bandwagon, and rightly so, but I still think there’s a lot for them to improve on before they start pushing for a top 10 finish in the Premier League. Fulham were a bit unlucky with the first two goals in their opening day loss to Arsenal and if Aleksandar Mitrovic is fit to play, he will have plenty of joy up top. 2-2.


How to watch Leeds – Fulham stream and start time

Kickoff: 10 am ET Saturday
Online: Stream via Peacock

VIDEO: James, Pereira stunners; Gibbs, Bilic sent off

Everton - West Brom
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Everton-West Brom: So, the Baggies went from being 1-0 up at Everton with just over 10 minutes of the first half to go, to then being 2-1 down at half time and having left back Keiran Gibbs sent off and manager Slaven Bilic also shown a red card.

STREAM EVERTON – WEST BROM LIVE

Then a few minutes into the second half Matheus Pereira scored a superb equalizer via a long-range free kick.

Bonkers. Everton-West Brom was just chaos.

Let’s break this all down.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Colombian sensation James Rodriguez made it 2-1 right on half time with a lovely strike from outside the box for his first Everton goal.

Then a few moments later Kieran Gibbs raised his hands to the face of James and was shown a straight red card. West Brom had hit the self destruct button in a big way.

At half time West Brom boss Slaven Bilic was also sent off for remonstrating with referee Mike Dean as the Baggies imploded.

Pereira then scored a beauty of a free kick to stun Everton and make it 2-2, but soon after Everton were ahead again in a real topsy-turvy game.

Here’s a look at Bilic being sent off.

Everton – West Brom: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Everton – West Brom: The Toffees and Baggies are set to kick off weekend no. 2 of the 2020-21 Premier League season on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 am ET, online via Peacock).

It was a chaotic game from start to finish as we had stunning goals, red cards and VAR drama galore.

EVERTON – WEST BROM STREAM LIVE

Everton were one of the PL’s most impressive sides last weekend, as they began their campaign with a 1-0 victory away to Tottenham Hotspur. Most impressively, though, was the instant impact of three newcomers — James Rodriguez, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure — who slotted into the team and played important parts in collecting three points on their debuts.

As for West Bromwich Albion, returning to life in the PL brought something of a rude awakening in the form of a 3-0 home defeat to Leicester City. After two seasons in the EFL Championship, West Brom undeniably have their work cut out for them if they’re to stay up this season.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Everton – West Brom this Saturday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Everton – West Brom (INJURY REPORT)

Everton are without four players — Mason Holgate (ankle), Cenk Tosun (knee), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (calf), Fabian Delph (calf) — none of whom were available for selection to the 18-man squad a week ago.

The Toffees are unchanged from the win at Tottenham on the opening weekend.

West Brom will be missing Danish forward Kenneth Zohore (calf), who also missed out on the opening weekend, and name an unchanged lineup from the opening weekend.

 


What they’re saying

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti, on his squad’s depth: “They are experienced players, all three of them in different ways, James, Allan have international experience. Doucoure has played really well in the Premier League. They have brought more confidence to their teammates. We have a more competitive squad. It is difficult to do the lineup, difficult to make the bench and the most difficult part is to tell the player to stay home and watch the game on TV. But if we want to be a more competitive team we have to have competition in the squad.”

West Brom manager Slaven Bilic, on wanting more signings: “We would love to do it. It is important we bring a different type of striker to what we have into the club. We are trying to get it done but it’s not easy, but it is instrumental for us. Then the next phase is to improve the team from last season. We got Button the goalkeeper, we got Kipre from Wigan – two good additions to our squad. We’ve got [Branislav] Ivanovic, and now [Conor] Gallagher, and we’re hoping and trying to get a couple more. It’s not a secret — we have good numbers of strikers, but we’re looking to add a bit more quality.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Everton (-190) are, predictably, heavy favorites for this one, with West Brom checking in at +525. The draw is currently sitting +320, if you’re a firm believer that West Brom stand a chance.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction

It’s a mighty tough schedule to start the season for West Brom, as they go from last season’s fifth-place finishers to a side with similar aspirations this season. For as long as James and Co., stay healthy and fit, Everton look set to be a handful and a half for bottom-half sides like West Brom. They will have to wait another week for their first points — and their first goal. Everton 2-0 West Brom.


How to watch Everton – West Brom stream and start time

Kickoff: 7:30 am ET Saturday
Online: Stream via Peacock