Getty Images

Gylfi Sigurdsson in Iceland World Cup squad despite injury

Leave a comment

Iceland has handed Gylfi Sigurdsson a chance to make the 2018 World Cup in Russia, despite his absence from the Everton squad for the last two months with a knee injury.

Sigurdsson has not played for the Toffees since a 2-0 win over Brighton on March 10th, and will not be fit to make the field for Everton’s final game of the Premier League season on Sunday. However, he is expected to recover in time for the tournament. The initial diagnosis for the 28-year-old playmaker’s injury saw him out six to eight weeks, suggesting a potential ligament injury, but earlier Friday, Everton manager Sam Allardyce said Sigurdsson is still “a way off” from returning.

Also in the 23-man squad is injured captain Aron Gunnarsson. The Cardiff City midfielder, who recently celebrated automatic promotion to the Premier League next season, missed nearly four months in the middle of the season due to ankle surgery, and has had knee surgery as recently as late April.

With the two not a sure thing, manager Heimir Hallgrimsson has left 23-year-old Kolbeinn Sigthorsson on the reserve list. The Nantes striker was a member of the 2016 Euro finalist squad, but has seen knee injuries squash his last two seasons and has not played a single club minute this campaign.

Iceland opens World Cup play in Russia with Argentina as the two begin Group D play on June 16. Their other Group D opponents are Croatia and Nigeria.

Watch Live: Newcastle United vs. Cardiff City (Lineups and Discuss)

Leave a comment

Cardiff might be playing to save their Premier League skins, but it’s the Newcastle fans that just might take center stage on Saturday. (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).

Supporters have planned a protest at St. James’ Park, coordinating efforts for the home fans to walk out of the stadium during the 69th minute of the match. While the Magpies are assured of another season in the Premier League, that’s down to performances in the first half of the season, after which they’ve only managed to disappoint. Newcastle have lost their last six in a row, their opponents scoring 17 goals to their…zero. No wonder fans are frustrated.

Bluebirds fans don’t have it easy, either. Cardiff are last in the league and could very well find themselves relegated by the end of the weekend. Last week’s 4-0 loss to Sunderland did them no favors, and should the Black Cats and Norwich both win, and Newcastle manage to find three points, it’s right back to the Championship for Cardiff.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE VIA NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA

After last week’s disastrous showing at Sunderland,Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has rung the changes for the match at St. James’ Park. Ben Turner, Declan John, Aron Gunnarsson, Kim Bo-Kyung and Wilfried Zaha all start for the visitors.

It’s just one change for Alan Pardew, who, in absence of Yohan Cabaye, seems to have no idea how to convince his side to score. Loic Remy does start up top, but will his partnership with Shola Ameobi, in for Dan Gosling, actually produce a goal for Newcastle?

LINEUPS

Newcastle United: Krul; Debuchy, Williamson, Coloccini, Dummett; Sissoko, Anita, Tiote, Gouffran; Shola Ameobi, Remy

Subs: Elliot, Yanga-Mbiwa, Haidara, S.Taylor, Gosling, Armstrong, de Jong

Cardiff City: Marshall; Fabio, Caulker, Turner, John; Whittingham, Gunnarsson, Kim, Mutch, Zaha; Campbell

Subs: Lewis; Jones, Eikrem, Cowie, McNaughton, Berget, Bellamy

Report: Cardiff, Tan claim to have evidence against Palace in spy accusation

2 Comments

After falling to Crystal Palace 3-0 this past week, mercurial owner Vincent Tan protested the result shouldn’t stand.

Tan cried witchcraft before and after the match, claiming former Cardiff assistant Iain Moody, now working for Palace, successfully attempted to obtain Cardiff’s lineup prior to the game.

He says Cardiff have what The Mirror calls “concrete evidence” that Moody sent texts to a trio of his former coworkers at Cardiff, who apparently gave up the lineup but also alerted manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Norwegian then in turn alerted his superiors, but decided not to change his teamsheet.

Moody was disgraced by Tan for an apparent overspenditure late last calendar year in an ugly parting which ultimately saw a falling out between Tan and then-manager Malky Mackay.

There is no concrete law against Moody’s actions (and shame on whoever gave up the lineup), but Cardiff believe his actions violate the “good faith” rule that reads: “In all matters and transactions relating to the league, each club shall behave towards each other club and league with the utmost good faith.”

Back in December, Moody claimed in an interview with the Guardian that “most of my best friends in football work” at Cardiff City still, and that he holds no bitterness against the club.

UPDATE: In a report released by the BBC, there are some absolutely wild, yet surprisingly detailed accusations brought to the Premier League.

According to the BBC, the following is the order of events leading up to the Cardiff City vs Crystal Palace match, which Palace won 3-0:

  • Two days before the match, Iain Moody called (previously reported to be text messages) Cardiff City performance analyst Enda Barron to attempt to obtain Cardiff’s lineup. Moody claimed to be “under pressure from Tony Pulis. Barron denied to release the lineup.
  • Moody then went to another source, reportedly Cardiff City player Aron Gunnarsson, and successfully obtained the lineup. Gunnarsson and his agent have both since denied to the club his involvement in this part of the story.
  • Moody contacted Barron again (unclear whether it was by phone or twxt) to tell his former colleague he was successful.
  • Here’s the wildest part of the story: Moody then mistakenly texted the lineup to current Bolton manager Dougie Freedman (what?!?!). Freedman, a friend of Solskjaer, alerted the Cardiff manager of the leak and the club proceeded from there.

The most unfortunate part of the story in the BBC is that Barron, who denied to leak the lineup to Crystal Palace, was still relieved of his duties with Cardiff claiming breach of contract (possibly for failing to bring the attempt by Moody to his superiors?).

The mistaken text to Freedman, according to the report, read, “Straight from Gunnarsson their line up is 4-4-2 Marshall, KTC, Caulker, Turner, Taylor, Daehli, Medel, Mutch, Zaha, Campbell, Jones.”  That lineup turned out to be exactly correct, with Solskjaer making three changes from their previous match.

In addition, the BBC claims Solskjaer and Pulis discussed the incident following the match, with the following taking place:

Solskjaer: “I am disgusted that your head of recruitment is texting one of my players to get our team.”
Pulis: “Oooh I know. I didn’t ask for it.”

Cardiff are apparently claiming that response as evidence Pulis was aware of the leak.

Premier League Preview: Cardiff City vs. Fulham

Leave a comment

Saturday boasts a relegation six-pointer, as last-placed Fulham travel to Cardiff City Stadium to take on the Bluebirds, who are just one point above in the standings. (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).

Both sides have struggled in the Premier League this season, and both sides have undergone changes in hopes of ensuring survival. But will new faces – both on the field and in the dugout – be enough to keep either Cardiff or Fulham afloat?

Since coming in at the beginning of January, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has guided Cardiff to just one Premier League win, during which new Bluebirds Kenwyne Jones and Wilfried Zaha scored to cancel out Norwich’s early lead. Combined with a goalless draw with Aston Villa, that’s just four points from nine games for the new manager.

Something’s gotta give, you feel, as it doesn’t seem as though owner Vincent Tan is a patient man. But while not even three points will pull Cardiff into safety – unless they manage to close the -22 goal gap between themselves and West Bromwich Albion – Solskjaer will likely sleep much better should he take what amounts to six points from Fulham.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE VIA NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA

Fulham, meanwhile, are on their third manager of the season. Felix Magath stepped in to replace René Meulensteen a few weeks ago – strangely enough, after the Liverpool barely managed to nick all three points from their match. Fellow strugglers West Brom came back to get a draw late in Magath’s first match in charge, then Fulham fell 3-1 to Chelsea last time out.

It doesn’t much help that Fulham, in addition to their many pickups over the January transfer window, appear to have acquired a record-breaking dud. Greek striker Kostas Mitroglou, who should have been able to help Fulham collect some goals, is injured once more, leaving fans wondering if they’ll ever see him in action. That leaves the Cottagers relying on Darren Bent up top. Hey, at least the striker managed an assist to Johnny Heitinga’s consolation goal last weekend.

What they’re saying

Magath on Premier League survival: “I’m convinced that we will avoid relegation because we’ve developed in the last 14 days,” Magath said. “The team is growing together and that is what makes me sure that we can avoid relegation.” The Fulham manager continued, “I get the feeling here that everybody knows that and everybody sleeps well with the knowledge there are games ahead of us we can win.”

Aron Gunnarsson on Cardiff’s desperate need for points:  “It’s what you call a six-pointer. It’s going to be a hard game. We know they’re fighting for the three points and they need the points as well,” said the Bluebirds midfielder. “Hopefully we’ll keep on fighting and get the points we need because we desperately need them at the moment.”

Prediction

A cautious game. What’s clear is that both sides need three, rather than one, points, but the fear of collecting none at all may lead to a dull affair. With Fulham’s forward problems and Cardiff having scored just 19 goals in 28 games (and no goals in 399 minutes), a free-flowing, frenetic affair seems highly unlikely. Should the deadlock be broken, expect the hosts to nick it, 1-0. Because a streak’s gotta end sometime, right?

Watch Live: Manchester United vs. Cardiff City (Lineups and Discussion)

1 Comment

Ole Gunner Solskjaer, who spent 11 seasons as a player at Manchester United, makes his return to Old Trafford today, only this time he’ll be the opposite bench. When the Red Devils kick off against Cardiff City at 2:45 p.m. ET (available on NBC Live Extra), the former Norwegian international will be managing a Bluebirds team striving for their first Premier League win since Dec. 14.

That slide leaves Cardiff in last place after 22 rounds, with the team still winless in league since Solksjaer’s Jan. 2 arrival. Though they have claimed two FA Cup wins in that time, multi-goal losses to West Ham United and Manchester City leave the Bluebirds with only four wins on the season. Should they pull and upset and claim their fifth today, Cardiff could climb as high as 16th in a jumbled relegation battle.

They’ll face a United team that has a new look on life after management opened up the checkbook on Friday, agreeing to terms with Chelsea on the acquisition of Juan Mata. Brought in for a $61 million fee, Mata’s going to be thrown right into the fire, with David Moyes electing to put him into today’s starting XI. He’s set to start behind a newly healthy Robin Van Persie, with Wayne Rooney starting the match on the bench.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE VIA NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA

One of the nice upshots of Mata’s acquisition has been a refocus of energies. Instead of dwelling on the team’s form (United having lost four of their last six games), people are looking forward, hoping the commitment shown to the club’s new record transfer will translate onto the field.

The first test will be here shortly. Against a team sitting in 20th place, United will be expected to claim full points. Fail to do so, and the positive vibe that came with Mata’s arrival will be eclipsed by new worries the Red Devils won’t make Champions League.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: David De Gea, Rafael, Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra, Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, Ryan Giggs, Ashley Young, Juan Mata, Robin van Persie

Subs: Andres Lindegaard, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez, Tom Cleverley, Darren Fletcher, Shinji Kagawa, Adnan Januzaj

Cardiff City: David Marshall, Declan John, Steven Caulker, Mark Hudson, Kevin McNaughton, Gary Medel, Craig Noone, Jordan Mutch, Craig Bellamy, Peter Whittingham, Frazier Campbell

Subs: Joe Lewis, Michael Turner, Kim Bo-Kyung, Magnua Wolff Eikrem, Aron Gunnarsson, Mats Moller Deahli, Jo Inge Berget