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Arsenal 1-3 Man United: Lukaku shines as Sanchez haunts old club

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Alexis Sanchez opened the scoring against his former club, Romelu Lukaku reprised the right-wing role he found success at for his country at the World Cup this summer, and Manchester United eased by Arsenal in the FA Cup 4th round by a 3-1 scoreline.

Arsenal’s injury woes deepened as Sokratis came down from an aerial challenge awkwardly on his ankle inside the opening 20 minutes, and while he tried to stay on after lengthy treatment, he was eventually forced off, replaced by Shkodran Mustafi.

After the forced change, Manchester United seemed to hold much of the meaningful possession, and the visitors took advantage of an Arsenal mistake at the back. Lukaku received the ball at the top of the box, and no fewer than four Arsenal defenders stepped to challenge him on the ball. That left acres of space behind the stepping defenders, which Sanchez filled with a perfectly timed run, allowing Lukaku to feed him with a through-ball

Just moments later, Manchester United struck with the second barrel, as Jesse Lingard doubled the lead. On the break, Laurent Koscielny attempted to catch Lukaku offside down the right flank, but his trap was late and it sprung the Belgian down the wing. Triggering a three-on-two break, Lukaku cut across to Lingard standing all alone at the penalty spot, and the England international finished cooly for a 2-0 lead.

Arsenal found a way back just before halftime as Aaron Ramsey barged into the United box and tapped across the face of goal. The ball was out of reach of Alexandre Lacazette, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was on hand at the far post to poke it in past Sergio Romero. Just seconds after the break, Arsenal nearly equalized but Aaron Ramsey’s header was acrobatically tipped over the bar by a great Romero save.

Past the hour mark, as Arsenal pushed hard for an equalizer, the Gunners lost yet another defender as Koscielny went down and required lengthy treatment before coming off. Ole Gunner Solskjaer made tactical changes of his own for the stretch run, taking off Lukaku and Sanchez in favor of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.

Manchester United weathered the storm and put the game away in the 82nd minute on the break. Paul Pogba picked Arsenal’s pocket in the middle third and broke at pace the other direction. Despite a pair of options open on either flank, Pogba shot on Petr Cech‘s net, with the Czech parrying the effort. He pushed it right into the path of Martial, and the substitute bagged the decisive goal.

The match nearly boiled over in the final minutes as Sead Kolasinac and Marcus Rashford went head-to-head, but neither did enough to earn a sending-off, with both given yellows. After a lengthy stoppage time, the win for Manchester United gave Solskjaer his eighth win in succession across all competitions to start his Red Devils tenure. For Arsenal, after winning the FA Cup two years ago, they’ve not been eliminated early in each of the last two seasons, falling last year in the 3rd round to Nottingham Forest, with this year’s defeat coming in the 4th round.

Bundesliga schedule for Matchweek 29

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The return of German soccer has been hugely successful and the Bundesliga schedule for Matchweek 29 is locked and loaded.

Dust off your lederhosen, fill that stein to the brim and make sure you know which young American stars to keep an eye on. Live sports is back.

[ LIVE: Bundesliga scores ] 

Bayern Munich are top of the table with a seven-point lead after their big win at Borussia Dortmund, while RB Leipzig, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach have all dropped points as their title bids have faltered.

Given that Bayern look likely to secure an eighth-straight title, there is an epic scramble for European qualification. The top four in Germany qualify automatically for the UEFA Champions League group stage and that means one of the five teams mentioned above as title contenders will miss out, while Wolfsburg, Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin are surging and Schalke and Freiburg have struggled in the Europa League spot.

Below is the full Bundesliga schedule for this week, as the fourth round of games to restart the campaign is a beauty.

Bundesliga schedule

Friday, May 29

2:30 p.m. ET: Freiburg v. Bayer Leverkusen

Saturday, May 30

9:30 a.m. ET: Hertha Berlin v. Augsburg
9:30 a.m. ET: Mainz v. Hoffenheim
9:30 a.m. ET: Schalke v. Werder Bremen
9:30 a.m. ET: Wolfsburg v. Eintracht Frankfurt
12:30 p.m. ET: Bayern Munich v. Fortuna Dusseldorf

Sunday, May 31

9:30 a.m. ET: Borussia Monchengladbach v. Union Berlin
12 p.m. ET: Paderborn v. Borussia Dortmund

Monday, June 1

2:30 p.m. ET: Cologne v. RB Leipzig

Barcelona ready to sell six players this summer

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According to the latest news out of Barcelona, the Catalan giants are ready to rework their squad and want to sell up to six players to fuel their transfer plans.

Those players being sold are Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets… just kidding. Of course not.

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According to a report from the Daily Mirror, Barca have made Rafinha, Arturo Vidal, Jean-Clair Todibo, Nelson Semedo, Junior Firpo and Moussa Wague available for permanent transfers. Wague is currently on loan at Nice, while Todibo is on loan at Schalke and Rafinha at Celta Vigo. Ousmane Dembele is another player who has been consistently linked with a move away from the Nou Camp too, as he continues to be hampered by injuries.

Why the huge exodus? It is believed Barcelona want to sign Lautaro Martinez from Inter Milan and Miralem Pjanic from Juventus to spruce up their squad under relatively new manager Quique Setien, who only arrived in mid-January.

It is believed Inter boss Antonio Conte is a big fan of Vidal, but any deal for the Chilean midfielder would reportedly be separate for a deal for Martinez. The Argentine striker has been sensational for the Italian giants so far this season and is said to have been in close contact with Messi about a move to Barcelona.

As for Pjanic’s potential arrival, what does that mean for Ivan Rakitic? He has just one year left on his current Barcelona contract and seems relaxed about his future but Pjanic plays in a very similar position to the Croatian playmaker.

One thing is for sure, Barcelona need to freshen up this squad and there is plenty of transfer news floating around when it comes to ins and outs. They are just ahead of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga and Real have certainly had a huge overhaul over the last 12 months with Vinicius Jr., Eden Hazard, Brahim Diaz, Ferland Mendy, Rodrygo and Luka Jovic all arriving at different times.

Barcelona’s old guard remains intact with Messi, Busquets, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba as instrumental as ever but there’s no doubt Setien will want to strengthen his squad as they aim for Spanish and European glory next season and beyond.

With plenty of talk about Barcelona’s financial situation and the huge contracts that Messi, Suarez and Antoine Griezmann in particular have, offloading this many players suggests they have to cut their cloth accordingly in order to bring in top talent.

Setien will be hoping he can offload as many players as possible reshape this Barcelona squad which is still incredibly talented but has a few glaring needs.

Reports: Premier League clubs want June 17 restart; neutral stadiums possible

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The Premier League is holding in-depth meetings with all 20 clubs on Thursday to determine a potential restart date for the 2019-20 season and June 17 has emerged as the leading contender, although there is plenty to still sort out before then.

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Multiple reports claim that clubs and the league have agreed that from June 17 games can resume, which is five days later than the original placeholder date suggested last month. It has been reported the two games in hand, Man City v. Arsenal and Aston Villa v. Sheffield United, could be played on June 17 so all teams are on 29 games played, then the rest of the games would kick off on June 20.

It is believed that the clubs want the Premier League season to be finished by August 1, so clubs can then focus on the FA Cup and European action in the Europa League and Champions League, while the 2020-21 season can then resume in early September.

Other reports suggest that a sticking point remains neutral stadiums as police forces in the UK want certain high-profile games to be played at neutral stadiums over fears of fans congregating outside home stadiums. However, it is believed the majority of games could be played home and away as normal.

More details will no doubt filter out in the coming hours, while the meeting is also set to discuss the plan for possible curtailment if playing the remaining 92 games of the 2019-20 season is not possible. The schedule for how games will be played will also be discussed, with five games back-to-back on both Saturday and Sunday reported as a possibility.

The third round of COVID-19 testing saw a slight rise in positive tests compared to the last, as a total of 2,752 COVID-19 tests have now been carried out on Premier League players and staff with a total of 12 positive results.

All players and staff at Premier League clubs will be tested twice a week during the strict return to training protocols put in place.

All 20 Premier League clubs have agreed to return to contact training in stage two of the ‘Project Restart’ plan, as the Premier League’s main focus is to agree on a restart date that managers and players can focus on.

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith’s father dies of COVID-19

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Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has lost his father, Ron, who died at the age of 79 after contracting COVID-19.

Ron Smith was a lifelong Aston Villa fan who worked at Villa Park as a steward and passed on his love of the club to Dean and the rest of his family.

The Premier League club released the following statement honoring Smith.

“The Aston Villa Family are saddened to announce that Ron Smith, the father of our current head coach Dean, has passed away at the age of 79.

“Ron, who had recently been living in a care home after being diagnosed with dementia six years ago, contracted coronavirus four weeks ago and after a short spell in hospital passed away with his family at his side.

“A lifelong supporter, Ron was a steward at Villa Park for many years and passed on his love of the club down to his children. As well as being a regular at home games, Ron was also there to witness that greatest of days in May 1982 when Villa lifted the European Cup in Rotterdam.

“The thoughts of everyone at the football club are currently with Dean and his family at this most distressing of times and would kindly ask for the family’s privacy to be respected.”

Dean Smith is a hardcore Aston Villa fan and the fact he joined them midway through last season and got them promoted back to the Premier League via the playoffs was a hugely emotional moment for the former Walsall and Brentford manager.

He has spoken candidly in the past about his close relationship with his father and the impact dementia had on his dad. Last summer Dean Smith revealed this story before he led their beloved Aston Villa to promotion back to the Premier League.

“I went to see my old man on Friday and I managed to get his eyes open for two minutes and I said to him ‘next time you see me I’m going to be a Premier League manager’,” Smith said. “He smiled and nodded, for me that’s enough.”

Man City manager Pep Guardiola lost his mother to the coronavirus pandemic and the Premier League rallied around the Spanish coach. They will do the same for Smith who has lost the man who introduced him to the beautiful game in the first place.