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Oscar’s up for the FA Cup, as Chelsea’s unbeaten run continues

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Brazilian playmaker Oscar has been at the forefront of Chelsea’s revival in recent weeks and he’s hoping continue in the FA Cup against Manchester City on Sunday at Stamford Bridge.

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Below is the feature with Oscar from Chelsea’s magazine.


The moment the draw was made for the fifth round of the FA Cup, eyes were drawn to the first tie out of the hat – the two most recent Premier League champions going head-tohead for a place in the last eight of the competition.

After progressing past Scunthorpe and MK Dons to reach this point, today’s game is not just about making it to the quarter-finals, it’s a big occasion in its own right, and one a lot of people have been looking forward to, not least the players involved.

Oscar was the big story for Chelsea in the fourth round. His hat-trick in Milton Keynes earned him the match ball for the first time since he moved to England in 2012 and he has high hopes for the only domestic competition he is yet to win here.

“For sure, this is a big game because Manchester City are a good side and we are performing well at the moment,” the Brazilian midfielder tells us. “We want to win the FA Cup this season, we are in good form, you have to play the best teams some time and if we don’t play Man City now we would possibly have to play them later.

“Everyone, and not just the players, knows that Chelsea are playing better now and it’s not easy to play against us because we are very confident. “We are creating a lot of chances. We are stable and we need to improve now to have good performances and go to the next level.”

Two recent matches have given us a glimpse of that next level. Last week’s 5-1 victory over Newcastle was our biggest Premier League win of the campaign and we beat MK Dons by the same scoreline in the last round of the FA Cup, when Oscar was a central figure in a fine first-half performance.

“I scored a hat-trick but I might have had five or six clear chances to score goals, or something like that. I scored just three. That’s okay, though, because we won 5-1 and the team played very well, especially in the first half.

“For one chance, me and Diego both went for the same ball in front of goal and we didn’t score. Diego didn’t see me when he shot, but if he hadn’t shot, I would have scored a goal. Then, two minutes later, I scored a beautiful goal anyway.

“We need to have players like Diego, who are hungry to score. Guus said to players like us that we need to be ambitious to score goals and that’s important. Diego is playing really good. All the players are playing well at the moment, but Diego is in the main position to score goals and he is doing it.”

Our fourth-round victory bore many resemblances to a similarly swashbuckling away performance at Swansea last season, when we won 5-0 in the Premier League. Oscar and Diego Costa were the chief instigators that day, too, and our No8 admits certain games just open up in a way which makes it easy for the central playmaker and the forward to connect.

“It’s difficult to explain this because we try to score a lot of goals and finish the games in the first half, but sometimes it’s more difficult than that.

“After that FA Cup match, when I scored a hat-trick and we had a lot of chances, we could try to do the same again but it depends on the opposition, the tactics. When the other team attacks
us, we have more chances to score goals because we have good counterattacking players, we have a lot of quick players in those situations. But normally the other team defends against us and we need to try to score more goals in those games.”

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 21: Pablo Zabaleta of Manchester City is separated from Diego Costa of Chelsea by his team-mates during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium on September 21, 2014 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

It’s fair to say today’s fixture is likely to be a different type of encounter, with two teams hungry for success going head to head.

Oscar understands the importance of this competition both in the context of Chelsea’s season and English footballing tradition. It is a chance to win domestic silverware and, after lifting the Premier League trophy and the League Cup last year, he is keen to complete the set.

“I think a lot of our players have the ambition of holding the FA Cup and I am no different,” he explains. “I want to win this competition a lot, I always enjoy playing in it because I know how important and how famous it is for English people.

“It is a very intense atmosphere when you play in the FA Cup, which I like a lot. That is one of the best things about playing football in England. Here, it doesn’t matter what club, the fans support their teams and the games are always difficult – it doesn’t matter if you play against teams from the Championship or League One. I have been surprised because even when you go to a small town or you play against a smaller team, their fans are unbelievable. They support their team a lot, so the atmosphere is always good and the stadiums are nearly always good as well.”

That typically English atmosphere in the stands rubs off on the players who come from far and wide to compete here.

This is the oldest cup competition in the game, which started out almost 150 years ago as a very British affair, but it is a sign of the growth and globalisation of the game that an old rivalry from the other side of the world will also be in full swing on the Stamford Bridge pitch today.

Chelsea’s squad includes five Brazil-born players – Oscar, Willian, Kenedy, Diego Costa and Pato – while Manchester City can point to five Argentinians in theirs – Nicolas Otamendi, Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis, Sergio Aguero and Willy Caballero.

As Oscar points out, “It’s not just an English cup game, it’s a South American derby as well.”

Perhaps that combination is the simplest way of explaining why so many people will be tuning in around the world to watch this game today.

Crystal Palace – Everton: How to watch, start time, prediction, odds

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Crystal Palace – Everton: It’s a battle of perfect teams on Saturday when Everton visits Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park (Watch live at 10 am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

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The Eagles have knocked off Southampton and Manchester United to open their 2020-21 Premier League season while Everton has handled Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

Two legends of the game will be at the helm when Roy Hodgson and Carlo Ancelotti match wits on Saturday. Can the former continue to coax unexpected results of his Eagles against the strengthened and powerful Toffees?


Team news: Crystal Palace – Everton (INJURY REPORT)

James Tomkins (thigh), Nathan Ferguson (knee), Patrick van Aanholt (shoulder), Christian Benteke (ankle), Gary Cahill (thigh) and Jairo Riedewald (undisclosed) are all set to miss out for Roy Hodgson’s Eagles.

Fabian Delph returned for the midweek League Cup game but Everton won’t have Jarrad Branthwaite (ankle), Mason Holgate (ankle), Cenk Tosun (knee), and Jean-Philippe Gbamin (calf).


What they’re saying

Roy Hodgson on how the Eagles won (again) at Old Trafford: “We made certain and kept them playing in front of us and they could not profit from those spaces they are skillful enough to find. And when we had the ball I thought we looked very dangerous and threatening so I don’t think it was a big surprise that we scored three.”

Carlo Ancelotti after Jordan Pickford made a gaffe against Fleetwood Town: “I think the first goal was not an individual mistake because we passed the ball back to Jordan, it was a really difficult ball and we could behave differently. Of course you have to improve there. We want to build up from the back, but when there’s no risk. If it’s risky it’s no good because we can concede a goal like we did. It can be a good lesson for the future. I didn’t speak to him and, as I said, I have to speak with players that were involved when we build-up.Jordan was not the only one.”

Jordan Pickford
FLEETWOOD, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 23: Jordan Pickford of Everton is challenged by Josh Morris of Fleetwood Town (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images).

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

Palace is an underdog despite beating United and it’s perhaps a bit surprising to see them at +275 with a draw at +220. An Everton win delivers +110.

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Crystal Palace – Everton prediction

Hodgson has coaxed some tremendous midfield performances out of James McArthur, James McCarthy, and Luka Milivojevic in his tenure at Palace but out-performing Abdoulaye Doucoure, Allan, and Andre Gomes is a big ask even for that steely crew. James Rodriguez is in incredible form but so is Wilfried Zaha. Couldn’t this one go either way? Yes, but if Everton’s moving in the direction many believe it will be able to take all three points in a composed 2-1 win.


How to watch Crystal Palace – Everton stream and start time

Kickoff: 10 am ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Brighton – Manchester United: How to watch, start time, odds, prediction

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Brighton – Manchester United: Impressive Brighton and Hove Albion hopes to continue Manchester United’s winless league season when the Red Devils visit the Amex Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

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It will be the first two meetings in several days, as Brighton’s win at Preston North End and United’s takedown of Luton Town set up a League Cup fourth round date at the Amex.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

United handled Brighton well last season, winning 3-1 and 3-0, so this will be a great test at the acumen of both managers: Graham Potter in his second full season with the Seagulls and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer attempting to prove his doubters wrong.


Team news: Brighton – Manchester United (INJURY REPORT)

The Seagulls will not have Yves Bissouma, who was suspended three matches for his no-look, studs-up kick into the face of Newcastle defender Jamal Lewis. Brighton manager Graham Potter revealed that the long-term recovery of Jose Izquierdo is about two weeks away from being complete.

Manchester United will be without Axel Tuanzebe and Phil Jones.


What they’re saying

Potter on the League Cup win setting up consecutive Man United tests: “It’s a big week for us with those two matches and then Everton before the international break. That’s what we wanted because we wanted to go through in this competition. Players always want to play and the best thing for them is to be out on the field on nights like tonight to keep everyone in the group ready for when they’re needed. You saw that today. There was a willingness to run and fight for the team and get the result and that’s why I’m very happy.”

United’s Solskjaer after goalkeeper Dean Henderson starred on his senior debut: “The goalkeeping department and training level has been really high, of course, you can see driven and dedicated people and I’ve enjoyed watching them. Dean in goal, good save, you can see he’s having to concentrate and it’s a different job to what he’s done a few times last season and he came up with the save when he had to.”

League Cup results
LUTON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 22: Dean Henderson of Manchester United saves a shot at Kenilworth Road (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

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

Brighton is +375 to win at home, while a draw nets the wagerer +260. Manchester United is expected to win and thusly -130 to take all three points.

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


Brighton – Manchester United prediction

The only thing keeping us from pegging a very impressive Brighton team to collect another win is the shadow cast by Manchester United’s 2019-20 season (and long tradition of winning). United was rusty in its loss to Crystal Palace and had to work hard to defeat Luton Town in the League Cup. If that rust was there last week, how do the legs feel after a week? Anyway, the Red Devils still have Bruno Fernandes and it just doesn’t seem like this team starts 0-2 (or even 0-1-1). I grimace as I write 2-1 to Manchester United.


How to watch Brighton – Manchester United stream and start time

Kickoff: 7:30 am ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Lampard gushes after Thiago Silva debut, Havertz hat trick

Frank Lampard reaction
Photo by ALASTAIR GRANT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
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Chelsea rebounded from its weekend loss to Liverpool by getting the good vibes going through a number of new faces Wednesday in a League Cup blowout of Barnsley.

Kai Havertz scored three times, Ben Chilwell came off the bench to chip in an assist on debut, and Thiago Silva went 60 minutes in his first match in a Chelsea shirt as the Blues pounded the Championship side 6-0.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

We’ll start with the longtime PSG defender, who had four clearances, an interception, and a tackle while winning both of his duels.

He passed at 94 percent including six-of-seven long balls. Even accounting for the competition, that’s solid.

Lampard called Silva’s outing “a perfect 60 minutes” via Football.London:

“He also gave us something for me on the night in the dressing room and on the pitch of a leader with authority in terms of his demands on others,” Lampard said. “He can’t speak the language but at the minute that’s not even a problem because his presence and the way he commands people around him is already showing that to me in training and in our game tonight. Yes, I am very very pleased with Thiago. It is what I expected of a player of his level but it is very refreshing to have him here at the club.”

ProSoccerTalk talked about Chelsea’s need for a leader at the back during this week’s “Unfiltered,” and Lampard has clearly been waiting for someone like Silva.

As for Havertz, you only needed the box score to see his influence on the game.

Two of Havertz’s three goals were assisted by Tammy Abraham and a third from Mason Mount.

The German phenom also racked up five tackles and two key passes against Barnsley.

“He makes the recovery tackle for Ross (Barkley)’s goal, but then to also just have some freedom on the ball in central areas roaming behind Tammy,” Lampard said. “The combinations he had with Tammy, the way he grew into the game and had confidence and the three goals. It was a great night for Kai and the first of many for him.”

Havertz scored seven braces for Bayer Leverkusen, but this was his first hat trick. Barnsley may play in the second tier, but they had allowed three goals in their last four games.

Whoops.

Actors Reynolds, McElhenney bid to invest in Wrexham AFC

Wrexham AFC
Photos by Amy Sussman/Getty Images and Jim Spellman/WireImage
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“The Gang Buys a Football Team?”

“It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” actor Rob McElhenney and “Deadpool” star Ryan Reynolds are said to be in talks to buy National League side Wrexham AFC, reports The Guardian.

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The Welsh club, nicknamed the Red Dragons, was founded in 1864 and made it to the European Cup Winners’ Cup eight times between 1972-96.

They’ve since been relegated out of the Football League, dipping out of League Two in 2008.

McElhenney and Reynolds have bid to take over the club, and the Wrexham Supporters Trust says 97.5 percent of their members voted to allow the actors to propose their vision for the club before a second vote.

From wst.org.uk:

As a result, talks with the proposed bidders will now continue and we are in a position to confirm the two people interested in investing in Wrexham AFC.

Rob McElhenney is an American actor, director, producer and screenwriter, best known as the creator of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Ryan Reynolds is an award-winning Canadian actor, writer, producer and business entrepreneur whose credits include Marvel’s Deadpool.

It’s gotta get McElhenney’s goat that Reynolds gets the “award-winning” adjective added to his name.

Either way, this is definitely an intriguing club for investment and the potential addition of Reynolds and McElhenney to the fray would only increase the interest in Wrexham AFC.

Deadpool and Mac would be quite a combo in the transfer market.