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EFL Cup Weds preview: East Lancashire Derby highlights slate

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Eighteen teams booked spots Tuesday in the League Cup’s third round, with Watford the lone Premier League side to take a fall.

Six more try their luck on Wednesday, the last day of tournament play before the big boys join up.

[ MORE: EFL Cup Tues. wrap ]

A sleepy big affair is the East Lancashire Derby between Burnley and now League One side Blackburn Rovers, a rivalry which has been staged in three leagues or competitions since the turn of the century. This makes it four, joining the Premier League (2009-10), FA Cup (2004-05) and Championship (six times since 2012-13).

Burnley has three wins and three draws since its last loss to Blackburn, which came via David Dunn penalty at Turf Moor in a Premier League match on March 28, 2010.

Make no mistake, Clarets goalkeeper Tom Heaton thinks it’ll be a fantastic affair (from burnleyfootballclub.com):

“And for the players. Make no mistake, we were all delighted when the draw came in,” said Heaton. “It’s a fantastic match we are all looking forward to. It’s a fantastic night as players, fans and for the club.

“We’ll be going there geared up to win the game and give it everything we’ve got. The new lads coming in will certainly get an eye opener for the atmosphere and how good it is. They’re brilliant games to play in, I’ve enjoyed every minute of them.”

If you’re surprised by the rivalry, you have company in Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray. From Rovers.co.uk:

“I have to say living in the north east of England, Suffolk and Scotland most of my life I never would have grasped that Blackburn and Burnley and the geography of how close they were to be honest,” he said.

“It is not something that has hit me in the face before of a huge rivalry and yet I can feel it from the people around the building who have lived here all their lives how important this game is to them. … We’ll give it our very best shot and leave no stone unturned in trying to get a result.”

Elsewhere…

Southampton, fresh off adding $19 million Dutch center back Wesley Hoedt, will host Wolverhampton Wanderers at St. Mary’s, one of four 2:45 p.m. ET kickoffs.

Also kicking off at that time is Newcastle United and Nottingham Forest at St. James Park, with USMNT fullback Eric Lichaj likely to feature for the visitors, as well as Rotherham United’s visit to Huddersfield Town and Cheltenham Town’s trip to West Ham United.

A quarter-hour later, the final two second round matches kickoff when Burnley hosts Blackburn Rovers and Rochdale heads to Stoke City.

FA Cup fifth round draw: Manchester City traveling to Stamford Bridge

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LeagWith the FA Cup fourth round nearly complete, and only a pair of replays to come, the fifth round draw took place today with the competition heating up. 11 Premier League teams are still alive in the competition, and we got six of them directly facing off.

The big one came right out of the gates, as the first two teams drawn were Chelsea and Manchester City, who will square off at Stamford Bridge the weekend of February 20th.

Tottenham drew Alan Pardew‘s Crystal Palace, who are in serious decline having lost four straight Premier League games and are winless in league play since December 19. However, the magic is still alive as they’ve knocked out two straight Premier League foes in Southampton and Stoke City, both in the new year.

Everton will visit Vitality Stadium, the site of their ridiculous 3-3 draw with Bournemouth earlier this season.

Other Premier League teams still in the mix include Arsenal, who will host Hull City at the Emirates. Arsenal took four points from their two league meetings with Hull last year before the Tigers were relegated. The winner of the Liverpool/West Ham replay will travel to Blackburn. West Brom will travel to Reading only if they should take care of Petersbrough in a replay. Finally, Manchester United has a road visit to League One side Shrewsbury Town, who beat Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday with a goal seven minutes into stoppage time.

Full FA Cup Fifth Round Draw:

Chelsea vs. Manchester City

Reading vs. West Brom/Petersbrough

Shrewsbury Town vs. Manchester United

Blackburn vs. Liverpool/West Ham

Tottenham vs. Crystal Palace

Arsenal vs. Hull City

Bournemouth vs. Everton

Watford vs. Leeds

Middlesbrough changes mind on new striker twice, Rhodes deal off

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Proper treatment of players is often a talking point during transfer windows. With teams wheeling and dealing, often up to the last minute, players can often be left in the dark about where their final destination will be.

Championship side Middlesbrough is suddenly under fire in the player treatment department.

According to multiple reports across England, first from The Telegraph’s John Percy, Middlesbrough was on the verge of completing the purchase of Blackburn strike Jordan Rhodes until they decided to call off the deal at the last second. This comes days after their reported attempts to secure Fulham frontman Ross McCormack that didn’t come to fruition either.

[ WATCH: Transfer Deadline Day show live, Monday, 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra ]

Percy writes that Rhodes had met with the club on Saturday, but that Sunday morning Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson “had a dramatic change of heart.” The cancelled deal left the 25-year-old “baffled and disappointed” according to the Daily Mail, and puts him in a very awkward situation back at Blackburn.

Middlesbrough released a statement immediately following the reports that simply stated they had “held talks with Blackburn Rovers striker Jordan Rhodes over the weekend but have failed to agree terms,” which was the same ending the McCormack deal came to.

With one of the best defensive records in the Championship over the last two years – just 14 goals allowed this season – Middlesbrough sits in a promotion position at the moment, but has been looking to bolster its goalscoring abilities for the last few weeks. It seems they can make up their minds about who to acquire, because hanging both McCormack and Rhodes out to dry isn’t exactly a good look. It’s possible agents or team valuation had a something to do with both deals falling apart, but having advanced so far in talks twice only for both to fail appears to cast the club in poor light.

They could now go back to McCormack, except that oops, he’s probably staying at Fulham.

Americans Abroad Preview: Jozy in the Capital One Cup Final

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It’s a big weekend for Jozy Altidore and Sunderland. A memorable one for sure.

The Black Cats look to become the second club in two years to upset Manchester City in the Capitol One Cup at Wembley, following Wigan’s lead from last year.

With Manchester City first-choice keeper Joe Hart set to miss out on duty between the sticks for the favorites, Altidore could look to capitalize and give his club its first major trophy since 1973.

Because of the Capital One Cup final as well as the FA Cup quarterfinals next weekend, Altidore’s Black Cats do not have another Premier League fixture scheduled until March 15.

However, other Americans across the Premier League will feature this weekend, including Tim Howard in goal for Everton against West Ham at Goodison Park on Saturday, and Brad Guzan‘s Aston Villa hosting Norwich City on Sunday.

Geoff Cameron and Stoke City have a tough fixture, hosting Arsenal on Saturday, while Clint Dempsey‘s loan at Fulham has mercifully ended. He will play in USMNT friendly against Ukraine (if it ends up happening).  If he does play, he will most likely only be in a reserve role for the Sounders in their opener March 8.

In the English Championship, major news out of Bolton has Stuart Holden playing in a U-21 match for the first time on his way back from an ACL tear (more on that later). Tim Ream will most likely feature for the senior side as they host Blackburn.

Brek Shea will look to return to the Barnsley starting lineup, against Huddersfield on Saturday. After starting in four of his first five matches with the club, he has been subbed off at halftime, sat a match, then used off the bench. Part of that could have something to do with the addition of Emmanuel Frimpong at Oakwell.

Freddy Adu failed to secure a contract with an unimpressive trial at Blackpool.

In the Eredivisie, Juan Agudelo has just one goal for FC Utrecht as they battle relegation, hosting 2nd-place Twente this weekend.  They won for the first time since December 18 this past weekend. Meanwhile, Aron Johannsson and AZ Alkmaar are looking to rebound from a 4-0 loss to Ajax as they welcome RKC Waalwijk to AFAS Stadion.

The Bundesliga list of Americans, at least for now, includes a fun new name, as Julian Green chose to train with the USMNT ahead of their (possible) friendly with Ukraine.  Elsewhere, Fabian Johnson has helped Hoffenheim to four points since his return, and figures to be in the mix as they take on Wolfsburg on Sunday. After a good start to the season, John Anthony Brooks continues to ride the bench at Hertha BSC.

Jermaine Jones was unable to feature for Besiktas last weekend against Galatasaray despite his best wishes, but he made his debut today, starting and playing 58 minutes in a 0-0 draw with Antalyaspor.

Anderlecht are still chasing the second spot in Belgium’s Jupiler Pro League, and Sacha Kljestan continues to play a major part. With three matches left in the season, they take on sixth-place Genk on Sunday.

Shipped from abroad, England: Blackburn visited by the ghost of chaos’ past

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In a season that will end with a new club winning the title (this has only happen five times in 20 seasons), one of the Premier League’s few previous winners will go down. Not that this hasn’t happened before. None of Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea have sniffed relegation since finishing atop Sky’s league, but Blackburn Rovers? They’ll be making their second trip to the Championship since Jack Walker bought the title in 1995.

(Don’t take offense, Blackburn fans. All titles are bought.)

That fate was confirmed on Monday. Perhaps you heard about it? The match with the chicken? Well, like all matches, it also ended with a final score: 1-0 in favor of visiting Wigan, with Paraguayan international Antolín Alcaraz’s 87th minute winner helping Blackburn fill the Premier League’s quota of sending one chaotic mess back into the Football League.

Three years ago, that mess was Newcastle. The club’s season was sent spinning early when manager Kevin Keegan walked away amidst disagreements with then-maligned owner Mike Ashley. By season’s end, Match of the Day face Alan Shearer (also a wildly prolific scorer with Newcastle) was brought in to keep the Toon up, only he couldn’t guide the club to a final day win at home over Aston Villa, a side whose season had long since been decided.

Two years ago, Portsmouth adopted an involuntary ownership rotation scheme, apparently intent on testing the bounds of fit and proper personhood. By March they were on their fifth owner, had been docked nine points, and were relying on Avram Grant to save them (fact: nothing says chaotic ownership like Avram Grant). Two years later, the club’s been relegated to the third tier, a 10-point deduction dropping them from 18th to 22nd in the Championship. But at least the doors are still open.

Last year, West Ham started the season by looking at Pompey’s problems and demanding “get us the man who orchestrated that.” Grant was brought in and didn’t disappoint. The Hammers finished dead last despite an array of enviable talents (by relegation standards): Scott Parker, Robert Green, Matthew Upson, Mark Noble, Carlton Cole, Victor Obinna, Wayne Bridge, Tomas Hitzlsperger, Demba Ba, Pablo Barrera amongst them. They were no match for the power of Avram, nor the powers of Davids Gold and Sullivan, a duo that had previous guided Birmingham City into the Championship.

Blackburn is the latest club to fall beneath the scythe of ownership chaos. Last year, Venky’s Limited Group (best known for interests in poultry, hence the chicken) bought the team at the behest of agent Jerome Anderson. Quickly, it became known that Swiss sports agency Kentaro (affiliated with Anderson) where the brains behind the Venky’s soccer operation. Manager Sam Allardyce was let go, presumably for stylistic reasons, yet ownership never replaced interim manager Steve Kean, who proved willing to accept the Kentaro-introduced policies. One year later, downtrodden Rovers supporters are releasing live chickens during matches.

Looking to next season, which club could become the Premier League’s annual inane ownership offering? There aren’t any obvious candidates, but you can’t sleep on a club that made the brilliant decision to hire the manager of a recently-relegated arch rival. That’s what Aston Villa did at this season’s onset. Now, two years after a string of three consecutive sixth place finishes, Villa could finish 17th. It’s difficult to see next year being better if Alex McLeish is still in charge.

This season, Blackburn predictably filled the chaos quota. Hopefully next year will see 20 ownership groups appropriately value their club’s place in the first division.

Elsewhere in England

Saturday’s results
Arsenal 3-3 Norwich City

Sunday’s results
Newcastle 0-2 Manchester City
Aston Villa 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Bolton Wanderers 2-2 West Bromwich Albion
Fulham 2-1 Sunderland
Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Stoke City
Wolverhampton 0-0 Everton
Manchester United 2-0 Swansea City

Monday’s results
Blackburn Rovers 0-1 Wigan Athletic

Races

Champions League: Manchester City (86 points/37 games), Manchester United (86/36), Arsenal (67/37), Tottenham (66/36)*

Europa League: Newcastle (65/37) (Liverpool has already qualified by virtue of winning the League Cup; Chelsea has qualified by virtue of winning the FA Cup)

Survival (relegation): Aston Villa (38/37), Queens Park Rangers (37/37) Bolton (35/37) (Blackburn and Wolverhampton have already had relegation confirmed)

* – if Chelsea wins Champions League, they take Spurs’ spot in the 2012-13 tournament, relegating Tottenham to Europa.

Stuff that stuck out:

  • Steve touched on it on Saturday, but with Sunday’s results, Arsenal got a bit of an undeserved reprieve. Tottenham dominated Aston Villa but couldn’t get more than a point, leaving the Gunners in control of their own destiny ahead of a final round visit to The Hawthornes. That match is far from a foregone conclusion. Arsenal’s winless in four, and if they can stumble at home to Norwich, they certainly can be had in Roy Hodgson’s last match with West Brom.
  • Robin van Persie scored twice on Saturday, giving him a four-goal lead atop the league’s scoring charts after Wayne Rooney failed to find the net against Swansea.
  • Speaking of scoring charts, Clint Dempsey’s goal against Sunderland (a team that checked out when they were eliminated from the FA Cup) leaves him alone in fourth place amongst Premier League goal scorers. He’s the only player amongst the chart’s top nine whose total hasn’t been bolstered by a penalty kick.
  • Despite their loss to Manchester City, Newcastle can still qualify for Champions League, though they will have to win at Everton. Should they do so, they finish top four with as little as a +8 goal difference. It’s been seven years since a club finished as high was a worse ratio, Everton remarkably claiming fourth in 2004-05 with a -1.
  • It’s the least Djibril could have done. Since arriving from Lazio in the winter window, QPR’s Djibril Cisse has seen red twice. On Sunday, he may have reclaimed the points he’s cost Rangers, his 89th minute winner giving QPR three from Stoke.
  • Mark Hughes’ team is still in dire straits. They have to get a point at the Etihad on Sunday, which isn’t going to happen. Bolton go to the Brittania to face a Stoke side that’s last in the league in goals scored. One will do for Owen Coyle’s boys.
  • If ownership is a hint as to who will and won’t survive relegation battles, it’s no wonder Wigan keeps pulling off these May escapes. Dave Whelan has kept his small-ish club in that rugby-ish town up for seven straight seasons. The faith he’s shown in Roberto Martíne, has been admirable. There’ve been many times over the last three seasons another owner would have changed course. A steady hand with realistic goals, Whelan has the Latics set for an eighth season of Premier League soccer.

Up next: It’s Survival Sunday, we’re told. Ten matches, all kicking off at the same time (10:00 a.m. Eastern), only a few of which are worth your time:

  • Manchester City vs. Queens Park Rangers: City will win and claim the title.
  • Sunderland vs. Manchester United: I suppose United could make up their eight-goal disadvantage in difference.
  • West Bromwich Albion vs. Arsenal: If Arsenal draws, they can finish no worse than fourth. If they win, they claim third.
  • Tottenham vs. Fulham: Spurs win only gives them third if Arsenal stumbles. Anything less opens the door for Newcastle.
  • Everton vs. Newcastle:
  • The Magpies can only move up with a win. If they get it, they need Arsenal to lose or Fulham to win to climb into (at least) fourth.

  • Norwich City vs. Aston Villa:
  • Villa would have to lose by at least 16 goals, have QPR get a point from Man City and have Bolton win in order to go down. I don’t know why I bothered to type that out.

  • Stoke City vs. Bolton Wanderers:
  • The Trotters need a win. If they get it, they should survive (with QPR’s loss at City).