Premier League and FA Cup team news, previews and more – live!
So, who’s going to be in the FA Cup final?
This weekend’s semi-final lineup is as follows:
Chelsea v Manchester City (Saturday, 5.30pm)
Leicester v Southampton (Sunday, 6.30pm)
Both Chelsea and Manchester City made it through to the last four of the Champions League this week. It would be quite a feather in Thomas Tuchel’s cap to eliminate Pep Guardiola and City from the cup … but the bookies have a Manchester City v Leicester City final pencilled in. We shall see.
To clarify the fitness situation on Wilson and Saint-Maximin at Newcastle: both are fit to be in the squad, but Bruce isn’t sure if they will start.
“They’re both available – they’ve both trained, they’re both unscathed since last week when we took the decision to start them on the bench,” he said. “Obviously the clamour is to start the pair of them but we’ve got to look at the situation and manage it because they’ve both been out for a long time with muscle injuries, so we have to guard against it. They both rely so much on their pace and their power. But they’re both available, so that’s good news for everybody concerned.”
Bruce added: “You only have to look at statistics for the two of them to realise that when they’re in the team, we’re simply better. The facts are there in front of you. I think Allan’s only started something like 11 or 12 games this season, and we’ve won six of them. Let’s hope they can stay fit, let’s hope they can go to the end of the season, because we know – and I think everybody knows – that we’re a far better side when they’re in it than when they’re not in it. It’s quite simple.”
Multiple fitness updates from West Ham here: Aaron Cresswell is doubtful for tomorrow’s trip to Newcastle, with a decision to be made today. As stated, Rice is out, and so is Michail Antonio:
MOYES on RICE – via PA Media:
David Moyes says Declan Rice is making good progress to rejoin West Ham’s bid for Champions League football. England midfielder Rice remains on the sidelines with a knee injury sustained on international duty last month, but West Ham manager Moyes said: “Declan’s been training really well. It’s all gym-based at the moment. He’s working really hard in the gym because he wants to get back as quick as he can. He’s obviously got other reasons, he knows he’s got the Euros coming up in the summer as well. As you can imagine for any club to lose Declan Rice would be a big blow, but at the moment we’ve been able to carry it and I hope we can continue to do so.”
West Ham visit Newcastle tomorrow with wins over Wolves and Leicester taking them back into the top four. Victory on Tyneside would move them above Leicester, who are in FA Cup semi-final action on Sunday, and into third ahead of next weekend’s home game with fifth-placed Chelsea.
“We’re just trying to pick up the points and we’ll worry about the Chelsea game when it comes around,” Moyes said, when asked if climbing into the top three would strike a psychological blow ahead of that London derby. If we keep that going, who knows? Of course I’d be disappointed (to miss out on the top four) because I want to try and make it. But I’m not going to weigh the players down with the expectation that they should be making the Champions League. That would be completely unfair on our squad and players that most people would probably have put us just outside the bottom three or four. But if I don’t keep pushing those teams hard then I would be disappointed. We’re going to try and pull out results as much as we can. I want to take it as long as I can, right to the end and see where we end up.”
I am pretty keen to know who is heading up the investigation into DuluxGate, and also, how the investigation is progressing. Maybe it’s a job for Jim Bergerac? If you have any inside info, do get in touch via the usual channels.
More Steve Bruce – this time, looking to Newcastle’s match against West Ham tomorrow lunchtime: “We need to get to the levels we were at the last time at St. James’ against Spurs when we played arguably the best we have all season. If we can get a result to go nine points clear before other teams play – it would everybody a lift.”
On Jamaal Lascelles and Fabian Schär: “Jamaal is frustrated as hell and is in a boot, unfortunately. He needs time but he hasn’t ruled himself out of the season yet so let’s hope he can have a speedy recovery. Fab is making good progress and is doing very, very well.”
These hot-off-the-press quotes are courtesy of Newcastle’s official Twitter feed.
“The news about Darren Moore is really sad,” comments MrGarethE, “and also shows the fragility of our possible steps to a return to ‘normality’. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.”
Hear, hear, Gareth. Get well soon Darren Moore.
Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette got up close and personal with the Slavia Prague team when taking the knee before last night’s Europa League encounter – with the full backing of the head coach Mikel Arteta, as you can see from this video:
On a related note, there was a bizarre outburst yesterday from a Czech government official, Vratislav Mynar, who hit out at Uefa for the 10-game ban received by Ondrej Kudela for racism against Rangers –
The Newcastle boss Steve Bruce pours a bit of praise on defender Federico Fernández, who had a fine game in that 2-1 win over Burnley: “The one thing about Fede is he’s a great pro. He’s always the first in, the first in the gym – he’s immaculate in his preparation. It didn’t surprise me he did so well and we needed him at Burnley. I was delighted for him.”
Hot press conference update!
Steve Bruce says ‘there’s a decision to be made’ on the Newcastle forwards Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin, who have both had muscle injuries to look after this week:
Newcastle host West Ham at 12.30 tomorrow – Saint-Maximin almost single-handedly won last weekend’s match against Burnley so Newcastle fans will be hoping he’s fit, and for more of the same.
Scotland news here, courtesy of PA Media’s relentless news machine:
Ryan Jack has been ruled out of Scotland’s Euro 2020 campaign, Rangers boss Steven Gerrard has confirmed. The Ibrox midfielder has struggled with a persistent calf issue and has been told by a top London specialist he requires an operation next week, meaning he will play no part for Steve Clarke’s squad this summer.
Gerrard said: “Unfortunately it’s mixed news for Ryan and the bad news is he’s ruled out for the rest of the season, so you won’t see Ryan play for Rangers again this season. He’s also ruled out of the Euros this summer, which is bad news for him from a personal point of view and everyone connected with the Scottish game as I think he’s been phenomenal for the national team.
“He was very much looking forward to that so it’s sad news for him. But the good news is that we’ve found a solution and got to the bottom of the problem. All being well in terms of his rehab from the procedure that he will have next week, he should be due to return in pre-season at some stage.”
Another worrying bit of news, this time from the Championship: The Sheffield Wednesday manager, Darren Moore, will take a further period of leave after developing complications from Covid-19, including pneumonia and blood clots on his lungs:
Another quick one from last night, if you missed it – it’s going to be Unai Emery and Villarreal v Mikel Arteta and Arsenal in the last four of the Europa League. Spicy!
Chris Smalling and Roma will be facing Manchester United in the last four, in a similarly seismic reunion. On which note, worrying reports are emerging via La Gazzetta dello Sport that Smalling and his family were robbed at gunpoint overnight at their house in central Rome. More on that when we get it.
What’s going on on the continent this weekend, I hear you cry. A quick round-up of fixtures in Italy, Germany and Spain here –
Serie A fixtures
Saturday: Crotone v Udinese, Sampdoria v Hellas Verona, Sassuolo v Fiorentina, Cagliari v Parma Sunday: Milan v Genoa, Lazio v Benevento, Atalanta v Juventus, Bologna v Spezia, Torino v Roma, Napoli v Internazionale Tuesday: Hellas Verona v Fiorentina
Friday: RB Leipzig v Hoffenheim Saturday: Borussia M’gladbach v Eintracht Frankfurt, Wolfsburg v Bayern München, Freiburg v Schalke 04, Union Berlin v Stuttgart, Augsburg v Arminia Bielefeld, Bayer Leverkusen v Köln Sunday: Borussia Dortmund v Werder Bremen, Mainz 05 v Hertha BSC Tuesday: Köln v RB Leipzig, Bayern München v Bayer Leverkusen, Eintracht Frankfurt v Augsburg, Arminia Bielefeld v Schalke 04
Saturday: Copa del Rey final – Athletic Club v Barcelona Sunday: Osasuna v Elche, Real Sociedad v Sevilla, Deportivo Alavés v Huesca, Atlético Madrid v Eibar, Real Betis v Valencia, Cádiz v Celta de Vigo, Getafe v Real Madrid, Levante v Villarreal
And here, also from yesterday, is Louise Taylor on #DuluxGate. Would Farrow and Ball’s social media operation ever have been responsible for such a crime? Not a chance, surely.
Apropos of the cash-crazed Champions League, here’s Jonathan Wilson on Manchester City v Paris Saint-Germain, AKA the ‘sportwashing derby’:
If you missed last night’s European action, here are the match reports as Arsenal and Manchester United both breezed into the semi-finals of the “Loser’s Cup”, as Franz Beckenbauer used to call the Uefa Cup (according to Thomas Helmer).
“The next step is to get to a final, win a trophy, get over the line. That is the aim,” said Ole Gunnar Solskjær. “I can see the hunger and motivation in the players.”
Important story here from PA, about fans’ groups protesting the proposed changes to the Champions League:
Arsenal and Manchester United supporters’ groups have accused their own clubs of being involved in a “blatant power grab” over plans to reform the Champions League. The clubs are part of the European Club Association (ECA), which meets on Friday to see if it can sign off on UEFA’s plans which would increase the number of Champions League matches from 125 to 225.
The ECA’s chairman Andrea Agnelli has described the new format, where each team would play at least four extra group stage matches compared to now, as “ideal”. UEFA’s proposals also controversially include plans which would effectively provide Europe’s most successful clubs with a safety net should they miss out on qualification via domestic performance. However, it is understood some ECA members are still pushing for greater commercial control of the new competition.
An open letter to Agnelli, signed by 17 fans’ groups from 14 clubs who are represented on the ECA board, read: “We are writing to you on behalf of them and millions of others across the continent who you have chosen to ignore in your attempt to take over European football. Your plans to restructure the Champions League by increasing the number of games, introducing qualification based on past achievements, and monopolising commercial rights present a serious threat to the entire game.”
The letter continued: “Instead of realising your supposed goal of ‘building a successful, sustainable, and socially responsible football industry’, you will only make the gap between the rich and the rest bigger, wreck domestic calendars, and expect fans to sacrifice yet more time and money. All for the benefit of whom? A handful of already wealthy clubs, investment firms, and sovereign funds, none of which have the legitimacy to decide how football should be run. Even most ECA members stand to lose out from the proposed reforms. Such a blatant power grab would be indefensible at the best of times, but at the height of a global pandemic, it is nothing more than crisis profiteering – not to mention a stark contrast to the solidarity displayed by fans.”
As if poor old José Mourinho didn’t have enough problems, one of his former charges, Paul Pogba, has taken aim at the Portuguese’s man-management:
“Once I had a great relationship with Mourinho. Everybody sees that and the next day you don’t know what happened. That’s the strange thing I had with Mourinho. And I can not explain to you because, even me, I don’t know.”
Tuchel v Guardiola at Wembley, Leicester need Covid trio back, and Jürgen Klopp’s front-three selection problems – here are 10 things to look out for in the FOOTBALL this weekend:
Will the football ever end? It will not, as far as the Premier League is concerned, for the next 11 days. Tottenham travel to Everton in the domestic top flight this evening, ushering in an almost two-week daily run of Premier League football, concluding when Leicester meet Crystal Palace on Monday, 26 April.
So yes, there’s a lot of football, but needless to say, it doesn’t stop at the Premier League. Chelsea meet Manchester City in an FA Cup semi-final tomorrow, before Leicester take on Southampton in the second semi-final on Sunday evening. There are four Premier League ties to be played over the weekend, along with increasingly crucial fixtures in the Championship and Leagues One and Two, as the season speeds towards its conclusion.
There are also Women’s FA Cup ties to be played – Chelsea Women meet London City Lionesses tonight and Manchester City Women face Aston Villa Women tomorrow, before the vast majority of the fourth-round fixtures are played on Sunday.
And of course there is action in Scotland, across Europe, and the burning question of the week: who was responsible for the Tottenham-goading tweets emanating from the official Dulux account yesterday, and when will they be brought to justice? The investigation continues. In recognition of the impending Premier League feast, let’s kick off with some Mitchell and Webb, because it just never gets old, does it?
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