Wenger hopes FA Cup win can inspire Bayern turnaround

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Super-sub: Giroud celebrates after two late goals from the Frenchman gave Arsenal a dominant win over Everton.

Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal can use their march into the FA Cup semi-finals as a springboard for a great escape in their Champions League tie at Bayern Munich on Tuesday.

Wenger's side cruised into the last four of the FA Cup for the first time since 2009 thanks to their 4-1 win over Everton on Saturday.

That stroll in the spring sunshine in north London should serve as a morale-booster before the far more daunting task of taking on reigning European champions Bayern in their own backyard.

Arsenal need to overturn a 2-0 deficit in the last-16 second-leg tie in Germany and Wenger said: "It was important for us to win on a psychological front for a good mind.

"We can be inspired by our focus of the day and we need that same desire to go to Bayern with the same spirit.

"The statistics are against us going to Bayern. But we have to make sure the performance goes for us."

Arsenal, who beat Bayern in Munich at the same stage of the competition last season but still bowed out on away goals, face an uphill task to keep alive their European hopes and their Premier League title charge appears to be fading. But Saturday's FA Cup success means they do at least remain on course to end their nine-year trophy drought.

Mesut Ozil's early opener against Everton was cancelled out by Romelu Lukaku. But there was no way back for the Merseysiders once Mikel Arteta converted a penalty against his old club before substitute Olivier Giroud added the gloss to the win late on with two goals.

"We are in the semi-final and we have always taken this competition seriously," added Wenger.

"We had a good FA Cup draw in the fact we had games at home, but we played difficult opponents in Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton so it shows we have taken this seriously."


Wenger reserved praise for Ozil, who will return to Germany with a point to prove. Arsenal's record-signing has struggled since the turn of the year and was even jeered by his own country's supporters in their friendly win over Chile last week. But he ended his three-month goal drought and turned in an improved display which suggests he has turned the corner.

"It's important for him as you want him to take his chances," added Wenger. "He always looks for a good pass.

"What I liked from him is he looked physically regenerated and he did a lot of dirty work. He tracked back with long runs."

Everton's best chance this season now lies in winning a spot in the Europa League and Roberto Martinez, who won the FA Cup with Wigan last season, won't let his players go through the motions in the run-in.

"You know it's going to be a difficult task coming to Arsenal," Martinez said. "If anything this leaves us more focused on what is in front of us.

"There's 33 points left and that's a huge amount. We focus on the 11 games we have so we can finish as strongly as we can.

"We have good competition for places and we want to get as many points as we can.

"I don't like losing in the FA Cup. It's something you don't want to experience and we will try again next season."

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Barcelona on the hunt for Puyol successor

Andy West 8/03/2014
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Once in a generation: Martino admits Puyol will leave a substantial legacy at Barca.

Barcelona manager Tata Martino has confirmed his club will enter the transfer market this summer in the wake of Carles Puyol’s departure from the Nou Camp.

Speaking in public for the first time since veteran captain Puyol announced his decision to quit the club earlier this week, Martino admitted he will not choose to stick with the current trio of central defenders – Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Marc Bartra – who have played nearly every game between them this season because of Puyol’s many absences.

Hailing Puyol’s contribution to Barca over many years, Martino said: “I’m probably not the bestplaced person to comment on this, because I’ve only worked with him for seven or eight months, but Carles Puyol is irreplaceable.

“He’s the type of player that a club has only once every so often. He’ll always be in everyone’s heads because he leaves an indelible mark, but life goes on for Barcelona and we will look for a replacement.”

Martino also added with a smile that his own job will not come under threat as Puyol looks for alternative employment, revealing that the defender told him he has no plans to enter into coaching: “No, he told me. I thought he could become a coach, but he said no.”

In addition to a long list of central defenders, Barca have also been linked with reinforcements in a number of other areas on the pitch, with Juventus midfield ace Arturo Vidal one name to feature prominently in speculation.

But Martino brushed the rumours aside, adding: “The only new development is that Puyol has confirmed he’s leaving so the club needs a central defender.

“Vidal is an excellent player, but I haven’t spoken to the club about him or any other footballer.”

In the immediate future, Martino is more concerned about today’s league trip to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid. The hosts’ lowly status in the bottom three belies the fact that they have been in decent form in recent weeks, losing just one of their last six games in a sequence that has included four draws.

“The match concerns me because our opponents are fighting at the bottom of the table and have only lost three games at home all season,” said Martino.

“Due to the internationals it has been a short week and many players arrived back on Thursday and Friday. But we can’t make excuses.”

Messi’s sickness

Martino claims to be unconcerned by star man Lionel Messi’s habit of vomiting on the pitch during games, which resurfaced again during Argentina’s midweek friendly against Romania after also happening on at least two occasions this season with Barca.

Messi has been to see medical experts about the problem and Martino insists it is not serious. “It’s something that’s not normal,” admitted Martino. “But it doesn’t affect his performance.

“It isn’t a cause for concern and it doesn’t affect him at all in terms of doing his job.”

Valladolid are the division’s draw specialists, tying 11 of their 26 games this season including four of their last five, but coach Juan Ignacio Martinez knows it is three-point hauls they need to be getting now if they are to escape the drop.

He said: “Maybe these three points will save our season. There’s still games to come, but it could help influence things with regards confidence and morale.”

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Andy Gray & Richard Keys: EPL predictions – Week 29

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Bad reputation: Adebayor has started firing again for Spurs but how long will it last?

Chelsea host a Tottenham side pushing for an all important top four finish with Emmanuel Adebayor in blistering form since being brought in from the cold by Tim Sherwood. He will be a major threat to Chelsea but can his form continue?

Andy Gray and Richard Keys who front beIN Sports’ English Premier League coverage think his reputation suggests the answer is no:

Andy Gray: Tottenham are six points behind Arsenal and Liverpool having played the same number of games. You can’t count Man City because they have a couple of games in hand.

Liverpool are looking strong so I can’t really see Spurs catching them so Tottenham will be hoping their London rivals Arsenal slip up, which is possible, but unlikely.

Tim Sherwood has done a decent job since he took over but no better than Andre Villas-Boas would have done if he hadn’t been sacked. But what he has done, which AVB steadfastly refused to do, is give Emmanuel Adebayor a chance and to be fair to the player he has repaid that faith with eight goals in 12 games.

Adebayor has had plenty of chances at Tottenham in the past and hasn’t taken them but Tim has been working with him, got to know him, and has got a reaction from the player but how long will it be before he spits the dummy and stops scoring goals?

His history isn’t good when it comes to consistently playing well so I am not overly confident that his current form will continue and if he isn’t scoring he doesn’t have much else to offer the team.

He is not the sort of player you can rely on to dig in and fight for the team. So it’s up to the other players to raise their game and not rely too much on Adebayor.

It remains to be seen whether Tim Sherwood stays in the job next season with Louis Van Gaal tipped to take over. You may wonder how these rumours affect Sherwood as this season progresses.

Personally, I think this is a no lose situation for Tim. If he manages to hang on to the job then great but if he doesn’t he has had two thirds of a season to show people he can cope with the Premier League and manage a top team, which is good for his CV.

He has got Spurs playing a bit better recently and today he has to cope with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Every game Chelsea play now is vitally important because although they could be nine points ahead of Man City if they win today they know Manuel Pellegrini’s men are in the kind of form that could see them win all their games in hand.

City will probably go out of the Champions League as they are 2-0 down to Barcelona and have to travel to the Nou Camp and that means they will have less distractions and will make Chelsea’s job of winning the title doubly difficult.

Liverpool and Arsenal are also a threat so Mourinho can’t afford any slip ups.

Tottenham have got the best away record in the Premier League with nine wins and have only lost three so they are not going to roll over at the Bridge.

But you are looking at a Chelsea side who have won 12 and drawn two at home. In the last 16 games the only defeat they have had is in the FA Cup against Man City. I think they will have too much for Spurs. 3-1

Richard Keys: Sherwood has put his faith in Adebayor and good luck to him but I don’t think that the player has done anything more than he always does when he gets a new lease of life by either moving clubs or playing for a new manager.

If he could keep his mind solely on playing at a consistently high level he would be one of the best in the business. Unfortunately, that has never happened and I suspect his form will fall away in exactly the same way it did previously at Arsenal, Man City, Tottenham, Real Madrid on loan and when he returned to Tottenham.

I understand why Villas-Boas didn’t want him around but good luck to both him and Tim. Adebayor is on fire at the moment but I think it will end as it always does with this guy. Nobody has been able to change him and Tim Sherwood won’t have any more success.

I don’t think they will finish in the top four, particularly if they think Adebayor will get them there, and even if they do Sherwood won’t be in charge next season. Van Gaal will be the next Spurs boss.

Today’s game is also vital for Chelsea and although Jose Mourinho is saying that a nine-point lead over Man City will be a false lead, he is talking rubbish. Of course it’s not a false lead – it’s points in the bag which nobody can take off you and leaves a huge gap for City to close.

I know Tottenham have a good away record and although Chelsea need to play better than they have in recent weeks I can see them winning this 2-1.

WEST BROM v MAN UNITED

AG: David Moyes has written a letter to season ticket holders thanking them for their support and apologising for the disappointing start to his reign at the club. It seems a bit early to be writing letters saying sorry. If he feels he needs to explain things to United fans why didn’t he just say it in an interview?

The best way to get the message across to fans is to win games like the one at West Brom today which won’t be easy. The Baggies have drawn their last four home games 1-1 with Everton, Liverpool and Chelsea all held.

That should be a warning to United because they are not playing any better than those three teams. However, after their shocking performance in the Champions League against Olympiakos I do expect to see a reaction from United and I think they will win 2-1.

RK: It’s obvious why Moyes has done this – it’s season ticket renewal time. There might be some fans who have been disappointed with the performances so far this season who might be wavering so what better time to get a letter from the manager?

I have to agree with Andy on this. If Moyes feels the need to explain things to fans why hasn’t he just come out and said it. I’m not sure what kind of message this game at West Brom will send out because I can’t see United winning. 1-1.

CARDIFF v FULHAM

AG: This will be the point of no return for one of these teams. Both are in deep trouble but Fulham at least look like a team who still have some fight left in them.

Cardiff have too many players on loan. It doesn’t matter to them whether they survive in the Premier League or not because they will be go going back to the clubs they are on loan from.

Sacking Malky Mackay never felt like the right decision and thinking that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could come from the Norwegian league and keep them up was folly. This will be nervy and tense but I think Fulham have the better players so I fancy them to win 1-0.

RK: Cardiff are a shambles and have been since Malky Mackay left. I couldn’t tell you whether Solskjaer is a good manager or not but two years at Molde can’t possibly prepare you for a Premier League relegation scrap.

They were 16th when Malky left and they have never been higher. I think Fulham will win this 2-0.

CRYSTAL PALACE v SOUTHAMPTON

AG: Southampton will probably play the better football because they have more quality players but Tony Pulis will have Palace organised at the back and will look to hit the Saints on the counter attack. I think this will be an interesting game which will end 1-1.

RK: Palace are good at getting a 1-0 win at home and that’s what I think will happen here. Southampton’s Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw and Jay Rodriguez were with the England team in midweek so they may be a little tired and Palace have had a good rest. Tony Pulis knows that his team are still not clear of the threat of relegation and need at least another two wins. This will be one of them.

NORWICH v STOKE CITY

AG: Chris Hughton has survived at Norwich when many thought the 3-1 defeat at Villa Park last week might cost him his job. I am glad they have stuck with Chris because there is nothing to say sacking your manager makes matters any better.

If you look at the bottom four teams they all changed their managers this year. Teams that stuck with their managers seem to be having the better of it right now and Hughton will fancy his chances against Stoke, who have one of the worst away records in the league, having lost ten of 14.

Mark Hughes will be happy with a point and may set up his side to get that draw but I am actually going for Norwich to win this 1-0.

RK: I think Stoke can win this 2-0 and put Norwich in the mire. I don’t think they are going to be able to get the required points they need before their last four games of the season which are against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

It saddens me to say this because I like Chris Hughton and the club, but I think Norwich will go down with Cardiff City and probably Fulham.

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