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Man City completes epic three-goal comeback to top Swansea in FA Cup

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Sergio Aguero scored in the 88th minute to complete a three-goal comeback as Manchester City tops Swansea City 3-2 in FA Cup action on Saturday.

20 minutes in, the Swans stunned the Premier League leaders by scoring twice in the opening half-hour to take an early 2-0 lead. Fabian Delph scythed down Connor Roberts in the box and Matt Grimes buried an emphatic penalty to take the lead and set the Liberty Stadium alight.

Nine minuets later, the Swans doubled the lead with an absolutely stunning buildup that made the home side look more like the visitors. As Swansea produced a glittering counter, Daniel James cut inside from the left flank and fed Nathan Dyer who touched to Bersant Celina to finished fabulously with a curler.

Celina, a Kosovo international and former Man City youth product, scored in his third straight FA Cup game and Swansea secured a 2-0 lead into halftime.

The visitors needed a bit of luck to find their way back in, and they got that with 21 minutes to go as the ball took a few Man City bounces in the box and it fell to Aguero who found Bernardo Silva for the opener. United States international Cameron Carter-Vickers was then called for a foul on Raheem Sterling with 15 minutes to go, and it put Aguero at the spot.

While the Argentine’s penalty struck the left post and bounded parallel to the goal mouth, it deflected off goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt‘s leg and found its way in to level the score.

Then, the controversy. In the 88th minute, Aguero bagged the winning strike as he redirected Bernardo Silva’s cross into the back of the net with his head, having beat Carter-Vickers to the ball. Replays, however, showed that Aguero was clearly leaning offside on the delivery.

The play was not reviewed, as while VAR is made available at some of the FA Cup matches as the English governing body continues to slowly roll out the new technology, this match was not one of those, leaving the referees exposed to their own mistakes. Nevertheless, Manchester City is moving on to the FA Cup semifinals, while Swansea will refocus on the Championship where they sit 15th in the table.

FA Cup QF draw: Man City, Man Utd avoid derby showdown

FA Cup draw
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Manchester City and Manchester United were handed what should be comfortable draws for the quarterfinal round of the 2018-19 FA Cup on Monday, with the only undesirable tie one that would have drawn the only two remaining giants together.

[ FA CUP: Paul Pogba scores, assists as Man Utd bounce Chelsea (video) ]

The defending Premier League champions will travel to south Wales, where they’ll take on Championship side Swansea City the weekend beginning March 16. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side will travel to Molineux Stadium for what a should be a trickier, all-PL tie with Wolverhampton Wanderers.

In the other all-PL matchup, Watford will host Crystal Palace at Vicarage Road. Brighton & Hove Albion will be away to the other remaining Championship side, Millwall.

Full FA Cup quarterfinals draw

Swansea City v. Manchester City
Watford v. Crystal Palace
Wolverhampton Wanderers v. Manchester United
Millwall v. Brighton & Hove Albion

FA Cup preview: Lampard hopes for upset; Chelsea host Man Utd

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
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The FA Cup’s fifth round kicks off with some underdogs and finishes with a pair of giants.

That first match, QPR versus Watford at Loftus Road, kicks off at 2:45 p.m. ET Friday, with the Championship hosts hoping to overrun Abdoulaye Doucoure and the visiting Hornets.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

The weekend was scheduled nicely by the FA, with only one match conflicting with another via a Sunday morning 11 a.m. kickoff.

There are no signs that any of the Premier League sides are taking this lightly, including Pep Guardiola’s claims that Newport County is a more physical side than his City.

There’s a guarantee of at least two non-PL sides in the quarterfinals, and either Chelsea or Manchester United will not be alive for the FA Cup title come Monday evening.

United will have neither Anthony Martial nor Jesse Lingard against a Chelsea side capable of looking unbeatable… or flat-out terrible.

Maybe Frank Lampard will outlast his former team (well, at least the one most often associated with the English midfielder). Derby County leads his side into Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday.

“I’m not sure how much recent form will matter.

“We are unbeaten (in six) but we’ve got room for improvement,” Lampard said of his Rams. “Brighton are a very strong team, with a really good manager, and it will be a hugely tough challenge for us.”

Full FA Cup fifth round schedule

Friday
QPR v. Watford — 2:45 p.m. ET

Saturday
Brighton and Hove Albion v. Derby County — 7:30 am. ET
AFC Wimbledon v. Millwall — 10 a.m. ET
Newport County v. Man City — 12:30 p.m. ET

Sunday
Bristol City v. Wolves — 8 a.m. ET
Doncaster Rovers v. Crystal Palace — 11 a.m. ET
Swansea City v. Brentford — 11 a.m. ET

Monday
Chelsea v. Manchester United — 2:30 p.m. ET

Canada coach Herdman aims for 2022 World Cup

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP, File
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We haven’t talked about 2022 World Cup qualifying in some time, as the focus was on the USMNT finding its coach, then Gregg Berhalter implementing his style, and soon winning the 2019 Gold Cup to ensure a spot in the 2021 Confederations Cup.

[ MORE: Montreal adds Serie A striker ]

There should be a ton of focus on the U.S. bounce back for any number of reasons, especially considering that qualifying for the next World Cup may be the last time the U.S. has to truly worry about its berth (unless Gianni Infantino gets his way and miraculously implements an expanded field for 2022. Then Berhalter and Co. are set already).

So with three-and-a-half spots available, it’s of-note any time a manager admits his national team side should earn one of those berths in Qatar.

Today, we’re talking about the biggest underachievers in CONCACAF for the better part of the last 20 years, and that’s Canada. The Canucks are led by John Herdman, and he’s bringing a mentality of expectation that’s been lacking from the unit in some time (although there were strides under Benito Floro) From Sportsnet.ca:

“We don’t have excuses. I don’t want to be that guy making them. At the end of the day if we don’t qualify for [2022], it’ll be a disappointment. To put that level of expectations on the team is critical. The team wants that, they’re ready for it. They know it’s now or never for many of them,” Herdman said.

“So, when you say, ‘how do you know it’s going to happen?’, we have to make it happen. But more importantly, we have to believe, and I think that belief is there from the men who are going to be leading the charge.”

He also, albeit not in so many words, admitted that the Canadians have underperformed in recent cycles.

First of all, no one is catching Mexico this cycle. El Tri are in something akin to a golden generation, and have the following stars in their prime: Wolves’ Raul Jimenez, Diego Reyes, and Hector Herrera, with Hirving Lozano getting there and several veteran leaders on the end of their elite window but still easy CONCACAF stars (Memo Ochoa, Hector Moreno, Andres Guardado).

So that’s 2.5 half spots.

Canada is ranked 78th in the world by FIFA and is 68th in the Elo Ratings. That puts them 8th and 7th amongst CONCACAF sides, as El Salvador is much lower in Elo than FIFA (and Elo is superior as an analytical tool. We’ve placed the chart at bottom).

Considering that the USMNT historically underperformed in 2018 qualification and Panama lucked into the tournament via a goal that did not cross the line, and it’s easy to predict a reverse in fortunes for the those two, but can Canada get in the Top Three (or the playoff spot) by moving ahead of 2-3 of the U.S., Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, Jamaica (Considering Canada a contender requires they pass El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago).

If anything, the time is now for this group of Canadians, considering they’ll host the 2026 tournament with the U.S. and Canada. Les Rouges have vastly under-performed at two of the last three U-20 World Cups since giving the Americans a scare in the 2013 Round of 16. But they had a quality 2017 Gold Cup, and missed the 2018 World Cup qualifying Hex because Mexico had nothing to play for in the final game and drew Honduras.

Canada is still very low on overall depth and has a generation of player-first entitlement to overcome, but has CONCACAF star power in Alphonso Davies, Junior Hoilett, Scott Arfield, Cyle Larin, and Jonathan Osorio, a UEFA Champions League goalkeeper in Milan Borjan, a rising Liverpool teen in Liam Millar and the wild card of Barcelona property and former Montreal forward Ballou Tabla. Not to mention, the new and promising Canadian Premier League will make it easier for Herdman to scout potential next level stars.

Canada is currently en route for a Pot 3 ranking for the fourth round of World Cup qualifying (the last stop before the Hex). It would be drawn into a group where the main combatants will be one of Mexico, the USMNT, and Costa Rica, and one of Jamaica, Honduras, or El Salvador.

It’s not crazy at all to think Canada would edge Honduras and El Salvador for a top spot, and a group with Costa Rica where points will be live in those two fixtures. And the Canucks have a tactical boss with a chance to outwit another manager.

Hot take: Los Ticos are still long on experience but a bigger question in terms of depth and youth, missing three of four U-20 World Cups. That tournament shouldn’t be the lone arbiter of future goodness, but it’s something.

Even given the 2018 qualifying embarrassment, I fully expect the Yanks to qualify for 2022 in Qatar. Honestly, I think Jamaica might be the third-best group in terms of talent, with Costa Rica and Honduras interesting for different reasons. To borrow from the other football, Panama out-kicked its coverage and should be considered no certainty for the Hex. T&T is tricky at home. If Canada can be, there’s a really good chance they make the Hex.

Barcelona president: We want to play three La Liga matches abroad per season

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For the first time, FC Barcelona has put down the mantle for where it sees the future of La Liga, and beyond.

Speaking to the BBC, Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu declared that he wants to see the league play as many as three games abroad. Barcelona previously agreed to face Girona in the match that was set for Miami on January 26. However, the decision to play the game in Miami was rescinded and was instead played in Girona due to opposition from the Spanish Football Federation.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

“If we want La Liga to be strong, we are to play in these games,” Bartomeu told BBC Sport. “At Barca we have sometimes been talking to La Liga and have been telling them that if you want to promote La Liga more and more, then we should have three games of the year outside – one in America, one in the Middle East and one in Asia.

“We have to go and be closer to the fans. We do the summer tours in July and August to go closer to the fans. It’s us showing respect to them, going to Miami would have been respect to our fans in the USA.”

It’s the first time that a club has agreed with La Liga’s preference to bring league matches abroad. La Liga’s decision to sign a marketing rights deal with Relevant Sports without consultation with other stakeholders, such as the players union or the Spanish Football Federation angered those parties and set off a political row that shows no signs of ending any time soon.

Bartomeu’s statement though is a true sign of the times. After more than a decade of clubs across the world going abroad for preseason training, as well as some minor cup matches taking place abroad, it was only a matter of time before leagues started petitioning their federations to go abroad – in part to please fans, but more likely, for the bags of money those matches bring.

With a 90,000+ seat stadium, Barcelona can make plenty of money selling tickets to its Cules. But taking games to the U.S., the Middle East and East Asia can mean marketing contracts, plus selling seats and suite packages that can help every team’s bottom line.