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Norwich rolls, Watford stunned, Aston Villa falls in FA Cup

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Three more Premier League sides booked a place in the FA Cup fourth round, but one was left on the outside looking in as Saturday’s heavy slate of magic continued along.

[ MORE: Early FA Cup slate recap ]

18-year-old Adam Idah picked up a hat-trick to as Norwich City used a storming first half to beat Preston North End 4-2. Idah was on target less than 90 seconds into the match as Marco Stiepermann delivered a fabulous through-ball on the break and Idah split two defenders expertly and finished from outside the box. Onel Hernandez hit for Norwich’s second in the 28th minute before Idah grabbed his second of the game via a deep 40-yard effort with the goalkeeper out to secure a 3-0 halftime lead. Preston got one back after the break through Billy Bodin, but Idah struck from the spot past the hour mark to bag his big moment.

Watford also appeared on its way having taken a 3-0 lead by halftime, but was left red-faced after coughing that all up in a 3-3 draw with League One side Tranmere Rovers. 20-year-old Tom Dele-Bashiru gave Watford the lead inside the opening 15 minutes, while Nathaniel Chalobah and Roberto Pereyra tacked on goals before halftime in what was a comfortable first 45 minutes. However, in good form and with a big lead, Watford absolutely collapsed. Connor Jennings was first to pull a goal back for Tranmere as he headed home on a corner, while another set-piece provided Tranmere’s second off the head of Emmanuel Monthe. The equalizer came from the spot after VAR gave a penalty on Mason Barrett just inside the box, and Paul Mullin slotted home the spot-kick. Pereyra was then sent off late harshly for a somewhat innocuous trip on Kieron Morris.

Fulham used a pair of absolute beauties to shock Premier League side Aston Villa 2-1 at Craven Cottage. Anthony Knockaert was the first to strike, blasting a left-footed effort from outside the top of the box to find the top-left corner and earn a 1-0 lead. Anwar El-Ghazi was on hand at the far post to tap in a deserved equalizer for Villa past the hour mark, but Harry Arter produced a stunning winner from acres out that curled away from Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland and buried into the same corner as Knockaert’s.

Southampton struggled through the first 45 minutes with Huddersfield Town’s stout defense, but they broke through just after halftime and advanced on Will Smallbone‘s debut goal that led to a provided a 2-0 win. Shane Long headed it from the byline back to the penalty spot where Smallbone was all alone, and the 19-year-old took his time before calmly firing a half-volley into the back of the net. 19-year-old Jake Vokins was on hand to put the game away with three minutes to go.

Brighton & Hove Albion was dumped out of the competition after Adam Reach’s 65th minute goal gave Sheffield Wednesday a 1-0 victory at The Amex.

Non-league side Hartlepool United’s trek through the FA Cup came to an end despite an early lead, falling 4-1 to Oxford United. Mark Kitching gave Hartlepool the lead inside the opening 10 minutes, but a quickfire pair from Robert Hall and Shandon Baptiste after halftime saw Oxford survive and advance before tacking on another two late for good measure.

Reading and Blackpool will require a replay after a 2-2 draw that saw Blackpool twice throw away a goal advantage. Cardiff City completed a two-goal comeback at home to force a replay with Carlisle United.

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.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

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.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

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 19-21.

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 at home stadiums 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.

All players and staff at Premier League clubs will be tested twice a week during the strict return to training protocols put in place, with contact training now allowed after a return to small-group training was a success.

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 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 now 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.