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  1. Today
  2. As a 29-year-old fan of a lower-league football club, and thus a "neutral" in Premier League terms, it's pained me to see Newcastle United having a tough time in the top flight this season following years and years of stagnation and mediocrity, with the occasional relegation thrown in. My early memories of Newcastle, as a 1990s child and 2000s teenager/young adult, were of a swashbuckling, exciting outfit boasting superb footballers and cult heroes - basically, a team well worthy of its place in the upper echelons of English football. I was a bit of a latecomer to football, to be honest, and didn't really start following it week in, week out until after the 2002 World Cup. The 2002-03 season saw Newcastle in the Champions League, having finished fourth the previous term, and under the management of Bobby Robson, one of the best (and best-loved) managers to have ever come from England. And I remember their high-scoring games against Manchester United, crazy displays of football, not to mention the Champions League run which saw them playing the likes of Inter Milan, Juventus and Barcelona. Given that was the season in which I properly got into football, that's become a benchmark of sorts, and to me, Newcastle were always a "big" club. So the events of the following 15 years were difficult to fathom. Robson being fired early in the 2004-05 season, Graeme Souness's arrival and woeful management of the side, a 14th-placed finish, and it would only get worse, with Mike Ashley seizing control of the club from Freddie Shepherd. From then on, Newcastle would lurch from disappointment to disappointment, as one of the best-supported clubs in England would make relegation battles a regular occurrence, and to date, they've had two seasons in the Championship, although to their credit, they've managed to bounce straight back up each time. Now, with the club managed by Rafa Benitez, one of the finest managers in world football at the moment, and in the Premier League, it looks as though Ashley's time owning the club could potentially be coming to an end soon. I say "could", it all depends what happens with regards to Amanda Staveley's potential takeover of the club - the last round of negotiations didn't yield a deal, in fact it ended on a somewhat sour note as Ashley stated: “Attempts to reach a deal with A. Staveley & PCP have proved exhausting, frustrating and a complete waste of time.” Ouch. Now, a report in the Chronicle claims that Staveley has completed a business deal worth £142million with the Reuben Brothers to raise renewed hopes of a takeover. So this is a space that will most certainly need to be watched. One of the most damning indictments regarding the situation at the club came from former Magpies stalwart Rob Lee, who told BBC Sport: "There is no point in Newcastle getting into the Premier League then keeping the same players that got them there. "Sometimes you need better players. Bournemouth and Watford have both spent more than us. Newcastle is a huge club but it does not feel like that anymore, people don't want to play for them anymore. "We were challenging the top teams like Manchester United and Arsenal, had trips to Europe, but it all seems so far away now. It is a shame. The club has been in decline for such a long time. "Mike Ashley takes one step forward and then three giant steps backwards. It is time now for change, we need change, we need someone else to take the helm. "It has become a stalemate. It is complicated with Ashley wanting a certain amount but prospective buyers are only willing to pay a certain amount because of what they value the club." A takeover does not necessarily mean a guaranteed upturn in fortunes, it's more of a lottery at times - it could be anything on the scale from "Man City" to "Portsmouth". But with the last 11 years having yielded nothing but disappointment for Newcastle fans, who are arguably the most passionate in the country, it's a gamble worth taking, given the stagnation, poor results and sometimes farcical issues that have beset the club in recent years. Share your thoughts about this opinion article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  3. Eden Hazard has confirmed that he is happy to remain at Chelsea for the time being but insists he will move when he decides that he wants to change clubs. The 27-year-old has long been linked with a switch to Real Madrid, while Paris Saint-Germain are also thought to be interested in the Belgium star. Hazard has brushed off the latest speculation regarding his short-term future by insisting that he feels "very good over here", as does his family. However, he has nonetheless left the door open to a move in future. "Every year they talk about Real or PSG. And when I want to change clubs, I will," Hazard told Telefoot. "But at the moment I'm good where I am. "I still have two years left on my contract. I feel very good over here. The fans love me, my family enjoys life over here. We will see." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  4. Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes has sung the praises of Germany attacker Thomas Muller following Bayern Munich’s win over Bundesliga strugglers Wolfsburg at Volkswagen Arena on Saturday afternoon. The hosts opened the scoring through Daniel Didavi in the eighth minute but Sandro Wagner levelled in the 64th minute from an Arjen Robben pass. Bayern left it late as striker Robert Lewandowski converted from the spot in the 91st minute after Arjen Robben had already seen an earlier penalty saved. The 28-year-old attacker came in for Spaniard Thiago Alcântara and he proved to be a major impact, with Heynckes attributing their win to him. "With the substitution of Muller he has changed our game, because he is very flexible, goes into the room between the lines and also creates space for team-mates," Heynckes told reporters. "We had possession, but never got deep in Wolfsburg's half. It was clear to me that we would not get chances like that. "During the second half we played more fluently and faster, and we are happy. For Wolfsburg, that is very bitter, because they have fought exceedingly. He said. Muller has been somewhat of a bit part player this season making 24 appearances in all competitions and scoring six goals in the process. Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  5. One FA Cup fifth-round takes place today as League One strugglers Rochdale take on Premier League high-flyers Tottenham Hotspur at Spotland. How will this game pan out? Football Manics takes a closer look in this match preview. Standings Rochdale have won just once in nine league fixtures, losing five of their last six, and they currently prop up the League One table. In addition they're a hefty 11 points from safety, but they do have between four and six games in hand on the teams directly above them - though that's not necessarily as good as it seems because of the ensuing fixture pile-up as they try to catch up, plus the pressure from knowing they're so many points adrift and must deliver in every game. Spurs are in much better nick - they did have a blip earlier this season but at present they're firing on all cylinders and getting the results, currently unbeaten in 13 games in all competitions. And it's an especially big achievement when you consider that four of the last five games were against Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Juventus, winning two and drawing two (including coming from two down to draw against Juve). Head to head This will be the first ever meeting between the two clubs. Stats Rochdale have four wins from their five FA Cup matches, in contrast to only five victories from 28 League One fixtures this season. Dale have reached at least the fourth round in four of the last five seasons under Keith Hill, and have been beaten only once in their last 11 FA Cup ties. This is their third appearance in the FA Cup fifth round but they have never reached the quarter-finals. They have lost their last six FA Cup ties against top-flight opposition since beating Coventry 2-1 in January 1971. Dale lost 3-1 at Wolves in their last fifth-round appearance in 2003. Tottenham, meanwhile, have drawn each of their last four away fixtures in all competitions. They have progressed from 16 of their last 17 FA Cup ties against lower league opponents, losing only to Leeds in the fourth round in 2012-13. They have not lost to a team from the third tier or below in the FA Cup since a 2-1 defeat at Port Vale in January 1988. Spurs could reach the FA Cup quarter-finals in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2001-02. Team news Rochdale striker Calvin Andrew has been ruled out of the game due to an Achilles injury. Scott Wiseman, Alex Dobre, Billy Knott and Sam Hart are all cup-tied. Niall Canavan (ankle) and Keith Keane (groin) remain long-term absentees. Tottenham forward Harry Kane is a doubt because of a twisted ankle, so Fernando Llorente could be among several fringe players to start. Lucas Moura is set to make his full debut, with Toby Alderweireld and Michel Vorm also in line for recalls. Prediction A classic FA Cup fixture, this, with the multi-millionaire internationally capped superstars of the Premier League giants having to show their mettle by taking on a lower-league team in more modest surroundings than they're used to. But with Dale in such poor form in League One, I really can't expect much more from them than to put up a brave fight, even if they up their game considerably. Unless Spurs completely overhaul their team and make upwards of, say eight changes, which could result in a disjointed display, I think they'll have too much for the hosts. And considering Spurs haven't won a trophy this decade, they will give the FA Cup a fair bit of attention. Score prediction: 0-3 away win Share your thoughts about this preview feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  6. Yesterday
  7. Over 1100 expectant Millers fans made the trip down to Shropshire for the top of the table clash between the 4th place Millers & top of the table Shrews. Some welcome February sunshine greeted the sides as they entered the field on a less than perfect playing surface. The home side were the quickest out of the blocks & when Millers midfielder Will Vaulks lost possession straight from the kick off, Shrews midfielder Shaun Whalley was onto it like a flash, fizzing a cross towards the penalty spot that striker Carlton Morris just failed to reach. Still with less than 10 minutes on the clock Rotherham fashioned their first chance, Striker Michael Smith hitting a good chance wide after being set up by Anthony Forde. The Millers continued to press & excellent close control by the Millers David Ball produced a shooting chance well saved by Henderson in the Shrews goal with Semi Ajayi putting the rebound well wide. Shrewsbury's best first half chance fell to Whalley on 25 minutes when Millers keeper Rodak saved his low effort. Back came Rotherham & Ajayi was within inches of giving his side the lead heading inches over the bar from a corner. The Millers eventually grabbed the lead on 44 minutes with a tap in from Centre Back Richard Wood when Shrewsbury failed to deal with another Millers corner. HT SHREWS 0 MILLERS 1 Shrewsbury started the second period strongly & midfielder Abu Ogogo hit a long range effort which Rodak saved comfortably. The game was starting to get bogged down into a midfield battle & a raft of substitutions from both sides didn't help with the flow of the game. Shrews sprung to life again on 62 minutes with Whalley clear on goal for the second time & for the second time Rodak stopped his shot brilliantly. With the Millers seemingly content to protect their lead & Shrewsbury struggling to create anything of note the game dissapointingly ended in midfield attrition with Rotherham managing to see the game & the five minutes added time out. FT SHREWS 0 MILLERS 1 Not a classic by any means but another three points for the on fire Millers who are now unbeaten in 13 & have scored at least once in their last 26 competitive games. Happy days indeed!!
  8. Two Championship fixtures await us this Sunday as Norwich City host Ipswich in the hotly contested East Anglian derby, while Leeds United welcome promotion-chasing Bristol City at Elland Road. How are these games expected to pan out? Football Manics takes a closer look in our preview. Norwich City vs. Ipswich Town (12pm GMT) The East Anglian derby has brought plenty of fireworks in recent years and, due to the hype around the fixture, it has taken place 18 times on a Sunday since the turn of the century, three times as many as any other fixture in the second tier. Both teams are level on points (44) in the Championship, with the Tractor Boys in 12th and the Canaries in 13th with a slightly worse goal difference, making this latest derby even more difficult to call. The recent history seems to favour Norwich, who are unbeaten in their last nine matches against Ipswich in all competitions since a 3-2 defeat in April 2009, while the Blues haven't won at Carrow Road since February 2006. Daniel Farke's charges have the superb James Maddison on their books, who has created the most goalscoring chances in the division this season and has also won his side more points via goals and assists than any other player in the second tier. However, Ipswich have kept two consecutive clean sheets in league competition, which bodes well in terms of shutting out their bitter rivals. As I mentioned before, it's a very difficult game to call given how little there is between the two teams and how derby form tends to go out of the window, so I'm going to call this a draw. Score prediction: 1-1 draw Leeds United vs. Bristol City (4pm GMT) Leeds have been in horrendous form recently, with five defeats and two draws in their last seven league games, plus their squad remains depleted with Samuel Saiz, Gaetano Berardi and Liam Cooper still suspended, plus Conor Shaughnessy and Tyler Roberts injured. United, who go into the game 11th in the table and eight points adrift of the top six, fell further off the pace with a 2-1 loss at eighth-placed Sheffield United last weekend in Paul Heckingbottom's first game in charge since his defection from Barnsley. If the Whites' playoff hopes are diminishing rapidly, Bristol City's are at risk of slipping away, with just two wins from their last nine in the league to sit sixth, but victory in Yorkshire will see them five points clear of seventh-placed Preston North End, who have played one game more than the Robins. Worryingly for City, they have lost two of their last three away league games, as many as in their previous 15 combined, and their last game saw them fritter a three-goal lead against Sunderland for a final score of 3-3, including two own goals. So we have two sides that, although not in relegation trouble, are out of form and desperate for a result, but I can see them cancelling each other out for a share of the spoils which will do little for either side. Score prediction: 0-0 draw Share your thoughts about this preview feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  9. Leicester City boss Claude Puel has stressed that the Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City saga and subsequent absence from training has been put to bed once and for all. The Algerian received warm applause from the home supporters when his name was announced before the FA Cup fifth-round tie against Sheffield United, and a standing ovation when he was substituted late on. Indeed, Mahrez's cross from the right brought the only goal of the tie as Jamie Vardy's looping header in the 66th minute sent Leicester through to the quarter-finals. "It's behind us," Puel told reporters after the 1-0 win at the King Power Stadim. "Riyad came back with high quality and it is a good feeling for us of course. "It was good support from the fans to Riyad and important to remain a good feeling for the future. "I said before it was important to remain united after this situation but it was good in the end to see the good feeling. "The most important thing was to win the game and to see again Jamie and Riyad play together is a good feeling. "Riyad was a little frustrated at the end of the game because he wanted to score, but that is good." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  10. When as an Arsenal fan I watch Europa League games, my mind has lots of questions related to the competition which usually helps in passing time because frankly speaking almost every game (7 to be exact) has been boring so far. Let's discuss those questions related to Arsenal's Europa League campaign. The first major issue is - should Arsene Wenger now prioritise Europa League for the rest of the season? A one off season away from Champions League is okay but a club like Arsenal that is self sustaining cannot afford to make this a habit. Qualification money right now does not have the value it used to have few years back but major sponsorship deals can get affected if Arsenal do not qualify for Europe's premier club competition again. There are only 2 routes to achieve that - Premier League and Europa League. Chances of finishing in the top 4 appear to be very slim. The Gunners sit in 6th spot 8 points behind 4th placed Chelsea and with 11 games to go the gap looks big enough. Also worth considering the fact that Tottenham sit between Chelsea and Arsenal at 5th. That leaves Arsene Wenger with only one realistic option of making a comeback to the UEFA Champions League which is to win the Europa League. The knockout stages of the competition started well as Arsenal beat Östersunds 3-0 in Sweden thanks to goals from Nacho Monreal, Mesut Özil and an own goal from *this is why being a football writer is exciting* Sotirios Papagiannopoulos. Arsenal did not need a spectacular performance to beat them and return leg looks to be just a formality. The next issue is Alexandre Lacazette's knee injury. The French forward is expected to be out for four to six weeks which means he will miss the return leg of Round of 32 match and also potential Round of 16 games. With Olivier Giroud sold and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup tied for this competition, can Arsenal rely on Danny Welbeck who was not at all impressive last night/ In my opinion Arsenal will be hoping for another easier opponent for this stage. Another issue in my mind is constant changing of the side for Europa League games. Arsenal should be prioritising this competition and in order to have any hopes of winning this, a settled eleven is needed. Big players like Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan should become used to of playing with the squad that will be put out in Europa League games. There was also a change in centre-back pairing on Thursday as Calum Chambers partnered Shkodran Mustafi. Now will they pair up again for any other game this season? I don't know. By far the biggest issue is - can Arsenal beat the other strong contenders? On paper Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, Marseille, Atletico Madrid, Napoli, Olympique Lyonnais and RB Leipzig are very strong teams that Arsenal will have to overcome in order to win the competition. Arsenal have a good enough squad but I have not seen any kind of special performance so far that convinces me but problem is Arsenal didn't need to do too much so far to win games. So Arsenal should really be making the Europa League their priority for the remainder of the season and play their best team to win the competition and re-enter the Champions League next season. Share your thoughts about this feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  11. Last week
  12. Matchday 23 is here which can only mean one thing; we are back with another Bundesliga preview. Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Borussia Dortmund (Sunday) Gladbach are in a real bad place at the moment. Three straight defeats, three straight games without a goal and a significant drop down the table has left the teams' top four chances in doubt. Dortmund, meanwhile, are enjoying a really good spell under new manager Peter Stoger. In fact, they are yet to lose under the former Koln head coach. What’s more, Dortmund have a terrific recent record against their rivals winning all of their last 5 clashes and scoring 20 goals in the process. Michy Batshuayi is the man to watch. With five goals in three games he is turning out to be one of the best signings of the January transfer window. Prediction: Borussia Dortmund Eintracht Frankfurt vs. RB Leipzig (Monday) Who would have imagined a couple of months back that this would be a top four clash? Well, here we are. Eintracht are in good form. Three wins from four games has lifted them into Champions League places and they are now only two points away from second. Leipzig are also in decent form. They have won two consecutive games for the first time since October and are currently the closest challengers to Bayern Munich. This will be the first Monday night Bundesliga game in nearly two years. The last one was a cracker which saw Werder Bremen demolished Stuttgart 6-2. Prediction: RB Leipzig Hamburger SV vs. Bayer Leverkusen (Saturday) Hamburg’s position in the relegation zone is becoming more precarious with every week. The team is now winless in nine and have FC Koln right on their tails. However, there is hope. Their recent home record against Bayer has been pretty good. Three wins and one draw from their last four encounters at the Volksparkstadion does give them some encouragement. Leverkusen will be no easy pickings this time though. This is a team that a couple of weeks ago set a club record after scoring in 25 consecutive league games. What’s more, they are unbeaten in 8 of their last top flight away games. Prediction: Bayer Leverkusen FC Koln vs. Hannover 96 (Saturday) Has the Koln revival come to an abrupt end? I would argue not. Koln followed up their three straight wins with a draw and a couple of defeats. However, in those defeats the Billy Goats showed plenty of heart and plenty of spirit. In the end, the quality of the opposition got the better of them. But perhaps the best answer to that question will be the result of this game. Hannover will be no easy opposition having just lost one of their last six games. Despite that, their away form hasn’t produced many W’s. Prediction: FC Koln Wolfsburg vs. Bayern Munich (Saturday) Bayern are a few weeks away from clinching the title and they come into this away trip to Wolfsburg in good spirits. Jupp Heynckes has won 10 straight games against VfL which is his best run against a German side in his illustrious managerial career. Plus, Wolfsburg are coming into this game having won just one of their last eight league games. Robert Lewandowski is the man to watch as he has scored 11 goals in his last five games against Saturday’s hosts. Prediction: Bayern Munich Schalke vs. Hoffenheim (Saturday) Following two consecutive defeats, Schalke have dropped out of the Champions League places into 6th. In fact, Schalke have taken just four points from their opening five games in 2018. Hoffenheim, meanwhile, haven’t won away from home in six league games. They have also conceded the joint highest amount of goals since the start of the New Year (13). This will be an intriguing battle between two of the youngest managers in the Bundesliga. Prediction: Draw FC Augsburg vs. VfB Stuttgart (Sunday) Augsburg have won four straight home Bundesliga games against Stuttgart and overall, they generally perform well on their own turf. Currently, Manuel Baum’s side are on a six game unbeaten home run. Nevertheless, could Mario Gomez be the difference maker for the Swabians? He scored a goal every 82 minutes against Augsburg and should feature against them this Sunday. Prediction: Augsburg SC Freiburg vs. SV Werder Bremen (Saturday) Bremen will fancy their chances in this one. They have won two straight games and come into this game without defeat in three. Additionally, Werder have won seven of their previous nine visits to the Black Forest. Freiburg have done well to climb up the table thanks to their nine game unbeaten run. They have lost just one of their last 15 games at home and won’t be push overs in Saturday’s clash. Prediction: Draw Share your thoughts about this preview feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  13. We now know the identity of two of this season's FA Cup quarter-finalists as Leicester City and Chelsea made it through their respective ties against Sheffield United and Hull City. Four fixtures take place on Saturday - are there any upsets on the cards or will the big boys make it through unscathed as happened on Friday? Football Manics takes a closer look in this preview. Sheffield Wednesday vs. Swansea City When Carlos Carvalhal was dismissed by Sheffield Wednesday before Christmas, few thought his stock in English football would rise again as quickly as it did, but the Portuguese returns to Hillsborough in charge of a Swansea City side which has been truly revitalised and galvanised. Carvalhal has won six of his 11 games with the Swans and lifted them out of the Premier League relegation zone, as well as having propelled them to the fifth round of the FA Cup with a pulsating 8-1 win over Notts County in their fourth-round replay. The Owls, however, go into this game on the back of a superb win over high-flying Derby County last time out, which will give them confidence, but I still reckon the Swans will be eager to avenge their manager and go on to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 1964. Score prediction: 1-3 away win Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Coventry City Brighton have returned to form since losing consecutive games to West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea, boasting a four-game unbeaten run, and their FA Cup home form is also impressive, having only lost two of their past 15 such games - both times to Arsenal. They face Coventry, a team which often features in the FA Cup annals for their victory in 1987, but that has slumped into the bottom tier of the Football League and is slipping out of playoff contention having lost their last three in a row (although they won the two games before that). However, if any fixture is liable for a giant-killing this weekend, I would say this is the one - a side which has bigger things to worry about, ie Premier League survival, against a side that has had a bad time of things over the last few years hoping to generate more money and headlines by reaching the quarter-finals. I'm going to stick my neck out and go for Coventry to win. Score prediction: 0-1 away win West Bromwich Albion vs. Southampton Just two weeks after these two sides contested a five-goal thriller in the Premier League, West Brom and Southampton meet again in the FA Cup with both fancying their chances of a quarter-final berth as a welcome (or unnecessary depending on your point of view) distraction from their league troubles. Unfortunately for the Baggies, not only do they have their on-pitch woes to worry about, but what was supposed to be a reinvigorating warm-weather training camp trip in Spain ended up with four senior players - Jonny Evans, Gareth Barry, Jake Livermore and Boaz Myhill - allegedly getting up to naughty "lads abroad" shenanigans. In addition to that, chairman John Williams and chief executive Martin Goodman were sacked the day after the 3-0 defeat by Chelsea, making it a rather turbulent week for the club. In comparison, things aren't quite so bad with Southampton, who go into this game on the back of a defeat to Liverpool but had been unbeaten in the previous four, and given all the troubles experienced by the Baggies this week - and the disgruntlement likely to be made clear by the home fans - I can see Saints winning this. Score prediction: 0-2 away win Huddersfield Town vs. Manchester United Huddersfield are targeting a first FA Cup quarter-final since 1972 as they look to beat Manchester United on home soil for the second time this season, and go into this game on the back of two consecutive 4-1 wins, at Birmingham City in the cup and over Bournemouth in the league, although their relegation troubles persist, sitting one point above the drop zone. As for the Red Devils, they're currently embroiled in a 'mini-crisis' of their own, having lost two of their last three league games, and Jose Mourinho was forced to fend off accusations of club record signing Paul Pogba having fallen out with his manager, but on the plus side, Eric Bailly is expected to return after a three-month absence. What began as a fairytale for Huddersfield in their maiden Premier League season has now turned to cold, harsh reality and, even though it would be nice to see them enjoy a good cup run, I expect Mourinho to have made the FA Cup one of his top priorities and as such will make sure his side's well drilled to claim victory at the John Smith's Stadium. Score prediction: 0-3 away win Share your thoughts about this preview feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  14. We're edging closer to the business end of the season in the Championship and this Saturday brings forth a host of tasty fixtures which will go just a little further to determining the final outcome of the campaign. How will these fixtures pan out? Football Manics takes a closer look. Sunderland vs. Brentford Second-from-bottom Sunderland's recent form continues to be poor, with four defeats in their last six, although they go into this game on the back of a draw at Bristol City and could have Callum McManaman, Paddy McNair, Jonny WIlliams and Lamine Kone back. Brentford, meanwhile, have suffered a downturn in form and are winless in their last three league games, having won five of their previous six, though they remain a dangerous side and will harbour outside hopes of the playoffs. Both sides will fancy their chances here, given that Brentford are suffering a blip and Sunderland remain in poor form, but for me, the Bees will have too much for their opponents. Score prediction: 1-3 away win Cardiff City vs. Middlesbrough Cardiff's form remains up and down, their last six games reading LWDWDW, but they could be boosted by the possible return of striker Gary Madine from a broken nose. Boro's form is equally topsy-turvy, reading WLWDLW, and they will be waiting on the fitness of former Bluebirds Rudy Gestede and Fabio Da Silva. The two sides' up-and-down form makes this an incredibly unpredictable game and one which both sides will desperately want to win, given their respective automatic promotion and playoff hopes, and for me it'll end as a draw. Score prediction: 2-2 draw Burton Albion vs. Nottingham Forest Since beating Sheffield Wednesday on New Year's Day, Burton have failed to win any of their last five league games, losing four and conceding 15 goals in the process, to remain bottom of the Championship. However, Forest aren't in good nick either - since beating Wolves, they have since lost their following three games to go into the game at the Pirelli Stadium just seven points clear of the bottom three. Forest have also failed to score in seven of their last eight Championship matches, so Burton will fancy their chances, but at the same time I think the Reds will have just enough to get all three points. Score prediction: 0-2 away win Birmingham City vs. Millwall Birmingham have enjoyed an upturn in form in recent weeks, though they go into this game on the back of a derby defeat to Aston Villa - who in all fairness have been sensational recently - and remain hovering just above the bottom three. Millwall, meanwhile, have not lost in their last five games, claiming two wins and three draws to give them a good base upon which to build at St Andrew's. Another difficult game to call, I think the Lions - who beat the Blues 2-0 at The Den in October - will manage to complete the double over the West Midlanders. Score prediction: 0-1 away win Preston North End vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers Each of the last three league meetings between these teams at Deepdale have ended as draws, with two of those ending goalless, but Wolves have won their last two meetings against Preston. The Lilywhites are in good form, unbeaten in five and with two wins from their last three as they seek to break into the playoffs, but Nuno's men have won their last three since the setback at Forest. Given how Wolves have returned to form since their warm weather training camp and will be desperate to keep Villa at bay, I tip the visitors to win. Score prediction: 0-2 away win Queens Park Rangers vs. Bolton Wanderers Just six points separate 16th-placed QPR and 19th-placed Bolton, who continue to look over their shoulders at the bottom three, just two points further back. QPR are another of those win-one-week-lose-the-next teams, having narrowly lost to Wolves last time out but beaten Barnsley - and before that, losses to Bristol City and Middlesbrough. Bolton are capable of scraping the odd win here and there, but QPR seem to do well against the weaker teams in the division, not to mention the Whites claiming just 8 points on the road, so for me it's a home win. Score prediction: 3-1 home win Fulham vs. Aston Villa The Championship's most in-form teams collide at Craven Cottage, with Fulham boasting five wins and a draw from their last six and Villa boasting a full house of 21 points from 21. Fulham's home record is especially superb and, should they beat Steve Bruce's side, will have won seven in a row at home for the first time since 2000. Villa's seven-game winning run in the league, meanwhile, is their best since 1990. They last won eight league games in a row in April 1975 under Ron Saunders when they won promotion back to the top flight. Who will triumph in West London? Hard to call, once again, but I think Villa are unstoppable at the minute and I fancy them to nick it. Score prediction: 1-2 away win Share your thoughts about this preview feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  15. Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has hit out at speculation suggesting that the relationship between him and Paul Pogba has broken down, describing the reports as "lies". Several media reports suggested that the one-time world record signing is unhappy with the position he is being asked to play in by his manager. However, when asked about this speculation, Mourinho replied: "I think you are nice with your words because when you say a lot of speculation, you should say a lot of lies. "I can speak on Paul's behalf without any kind of problem. He accepts he's not been playing well in the last few matches, but that's all. "It's a big lie that our relationship is not good. It's a big lie that we don't communicate. It's a big lie that we don't agree with his position and his dynamic within the team. "The team needs him at a good level and when he isn't the team is not as good. So be objective and say what we all know - in the last couple of matches he didn't play well. Period. "The majority of the things you can read and listen to - don't be nice, be objective and say lies. "It's quite ridiculous to speak about his position. I would like somebody to tell me in which position they think Pogba played against Newcastle. "We played with Matic, Lingard on the right side of Matic and Pogba on the left side of Matic. "You know which is Pogba's preferred formation? 4-3-3. You know which is Pogba's favourite position in a 4-3-3? On the left. "Some of the pundits are paid millions - don't say bulls**t." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  16. In League One this Saturday, the game of the day comes at Greenhouse Meadow, where 1st placed Shrewsbury Town take on 4th placed Rotherham United. There is also a big game at the Keepmoat as Doncaster take on Fleetwood with both managers looking to start a run of results that will help them keep their jobs a little longer. AFC Wimbledon vs Bristol Rovers Wimbledon have slipped back into the bottom four after a run of four successive defeats and Neal Ardley has said that all the hard work he has put in would be undone if they are relegated. On the other hand, Bristol Rovers have lost only one of their last nine, winning four of their last five as they have recovered after losing Billy Bodin to Preston. The Pirates have pulled away from the relegation zone and have inched up into mid-table. Prediction: AFC Wimbledon 0-0 Bristol Rovers Doncaster Rovers vs Fleetwood Town A crucial game for both managers. Doncaster are winless in eight and they have dropped from 10th to 16th. Donny have drawn six of these eight games and still haven’t won in 2018. I had Fleetwood to finish 2nd in my pre-season predictions for League One. How badly wrong have I been? They have lost their last four games. They have only won three of their last sixteen games. For a team that looked like play-off contenders at the start of the season, The Cod Army are slipping dangerously close to the bottom four. Prediction: Doncaster Rovers 2-1 Fleetwood Town Gillingham vs Walsall Steve Lovell has done a brilliant job at the Gills. Before the season, I had them nailed down as relegation certainties and I was being proved right until the former Bournemouth striker took the reigns at Priestfield. They have lost only one of their last eleven games and they sit comfortably in mid-table. Walsall’s form has picked up this month with two wins and a draw, a run of results which has seen them move clear of the relegation zone and up into mid-table. Walsall were another team I had predicted for relegation at the start of the season but Jon Whitney has proved me wrong Prediction: Gillingham 2-1 Walsall Milton Keynes vs Charlton Athletic Dan Micciche is yet to pick up a point as manager so far and they are winless in six, losing their last four. The squad is decent but Robbie Neilson didn’t get enough out of the team, which resulted in him losing his job. A revival is needed quickly to spare MK a second relegation in three seasons. Karl Robinson will want to win against his former side but off the back of two successive postponements, The Addicks haven’t won in their last three, which has seen them fall out of the play-off places. Prediction: Milton Keynes 1-1 Charlton Athletic Oxford United vs Plymouth Argyle Oxford, who have lost their last two and have slipped to 13th, have still not found a new manager after the sacking of Pep Clotet. Sol Campbell was recently in talks with the U’s after Frank Lampard turned the job down. They have also been given permission to talk to Everton youth coach David Unsworth. Plymouth have been on an exceptional run which has seen them go from bottom of the league to 8th. This has seen them go from relegation certainties to play-off contenders Prediction: Oxford United 2-2 Plymouth Argyle Scunthorpe United vs Northampton Town The Iron have been n a run of one win in seven but they have retained their place in the play-offs and look set for another go at promotion to the Championship after being eliminated in the play-offs last season by Millwall. Northampton are only two points above the relegation zone going into this game. A short burst of form propelled them out of the bottom four but two home losses on the bounce have dragged them back into the mire. Prediction: Scunthorpe United 3-1 Northampton Town Shrewsbury Town vs Rotherham United Shrewsbury regained top spot in mid-week after a 2-1 win away at Fleetwood and with Wigan slipping up in the past two games, it is a great chance for The Shrews to pull away at the top. Paul Warne has got Rotherham going and The Millers are on a 12 game unbeaten run, 9 of them wins. They have also free-scoring with them bagging 22 goals in that 12 game sequence. Prediction: Shrewsbury Town 1-2 Rotherham United Southend United vs Portsmouth The Shrimpers have been revived under Chris Powell and are four games unbeaten. They have won both of their home games under the former Charlton manager. Pompey have hit a bad patch and have only one win in their last seven, seeing them slip away from the play-offs. Inconsistency is the South Coast clubs’ biggest problem with them winning and losing 14 games this season with only four draws. Prediction: Southend United 2-1 Portsmouth Share your thoughts about this preview feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  17. In League Two this weekend there are big games for teams at both ends of the table. There is a promotion clash between Exeter City and Mansfield Town, and a relegation six pointer between Morecambe and Forest Green Rovers. Barnet vs Accrington Stanley The Bees come into this game having won only 3 of their last 25 games, a run of form which has seen them bottom of the table since mid-December. They got their first win under Graham Westley last Saturday against Notts County but didn’t follow that up on Tuesday, as they lost 2-0 away at Yeovil. Accrington are on a really good run of form and have a four point advantage to the play-offs. They have won their last four and look in good place to earn a first promotion to League One. I really can’t see this being a hard game for Stanley Prediction: Barnet 0-2 Accrington Stanley Cambridge United vs Grimsby Town Cambridge are in a mess. A takeover has just taken place but Shaun Derry recently resigned and the U’s are on the lookout for a new manager. They earned a decent point at home to Lincoln and followed that up with a late win over Chesterfield on Tuesday. Grimsby also have no manager having sacked Russell Slade. The Mariners are slipping ever closer into the relegation dogfight and might want to get on with appointing a new boss before they slip any further. However, I expect these two physical sides to cancel each other out. Prediction: Cambridge United 0-0 Grimsby Town Carlisle United vs Chesterfield When I saw Notts play Carlisle on Tuesday, I thought the Cumbrians were a very poor side, despite Notts’ best efforts to make them look like Atletico Madrid. Carlisle have struggled for inconsistency this season and have sat in mid-table, virtually all season. Chesterfield need the points to stay in the division and were dealt a blow when they lost late on, on Tuesday to Cambridge. But they have goals in them under Jack Lester and they have crucially kept hold of Kristian Dennis Prediction: Carlisle United 1-2 Chesterfield Cheltenham Town vs Wycombe Wanderers In Mo Eisa, Cheltenham have the most inform striker in the division. He has scored nine in his last fourteen games. They destroyed Port Vale 5-1 last Saturday at Whaddon Road but followed that up with a 1-0 loss to Lincoln. Wycombe are the form side in the division and seem to keep grabbing late winners lately, with goals against Carlisle and Swindon keeping them in the top three. The Chairboys are unbeaten in their last seven, winning five but trips to Cheltenham have proved difficult for some of the promotion contenders this season. Prediction: Cheltenham Town 1-1 Wycombe Wanderers Crawley Town vs Lincoln City Crawley are an example of a team of what can happen when you give a manager enough time to turn things around. They are one of the form sides currently and play some very impressive football and have won 7 of their last 10 games. Lincoln’s chase for the play-offs has stuttered recently due to, too many draws. In the seven games they’ve played since the start of the year, four of them have been drawn. Prediction: Crawley Town 2-1 Lincoln City Crewe Alexandra vs Colchester United After the events of the past week and with their form getting worse, it’s fair to say Crewe are a mess. They have lost five of their last six, twenty of their last twenty-eight. They are my favourites to go down and their bad run of form doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon. Colchester are unbeaten in their last five but have not won away since Boxing Day. However I fully expect the U’s to get that win here and push them further into the play-off picture. Prediction: Crewe 2-4 Colchester Exeter City vs Mansfield Town This game is a massive promotion six-pointer. This is Exeter’s fifth game in six against a fellow promotion contender with games against Coventry, Notts, Luton and Wycombe resulting in a mixed bag of results. The Grecians are also unbeaten in their last three at home. Mansfield are on a good run of form and having put five past Newport on Tuesday, will be full of confidence. However, I can see these two cancelling each other out. Prediction: Exeter City 1-1 Mansfield Town Morecambe vs Forest Green Rovers A big six pointer down near the foot of League Two. 21st vs 20th. The Shrimps are winless in their last five, drawing three and losing two. They sit four points clear of the relegation zone. Forest Green sit five points clear of the relegation zone and have won their last two, but haven’t won away since October. Prediction: Morecambe 0-0 Forest Green Newport County vs Notts County Newport’s FA Cup adventure ended at Wembley against Tottenham but The Exiles look like they have been suffering an FA Cup hangover, having lost 5-0 on Tuesday. This means they have lost their last three games but all were away from home. Their home form has been very strong this season and they will hope to bounce back with a win here. Notts got back to winning ways on Tuesday against Carlisle but it wasn’t convincing and having lost Mason Bennett to injury, we lack a pacey striker. Notts’ away form has been woefully bad this season having won only five and dropping points to teams lower down the table. With a virus spreading through the team, it has affected the players. Notts need to win all three games in the coming week but sadly I don’t see us winning here. Prediction: Newport County 1-1 Notts County Stevenage vs Yeovil Town Boro are winless in their last four but I don’t see them dropping into the relegation battle. Their strike-force is one of the best in the league, in my opinion, and they have underachieved for me. Yeovil are on a good run of form, unbeaten in their last four and keeping four clean sheets in a row. However three of these wins have come at Huish Park and they haven’t won away since Boxing Day. Prediction: Stevenage 1-1 Yeovil Town Swindon Town vs Port Vale Swindon are in the thick of the promotion race and sit in sixth, five points off the automatics and two points clear of 8th placed Exeter. They have had a mixed run of results against promotion contenders in recent weeks, beating Mansfield, drawing to Lincoln but losing to Accrington and Wycombe. Vale had a good run of form before the turn of the year but in 2018, they have not won a game yet, they are winless in seven and are slipping ever-closer back into the relegation scrap. Prediction: Swindon Town 3-1 Port Vale Share your thoughts about this preview feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  18. Leicester City vs. Sheffield United (7:45pm GMT) Leicester City recorded a comprehensive 5-1 win over Peterborough United in the fourth round to set up a home tie with Sheffield United, who sneaked past Preston North End 1-0 last time out. The big team news for the Foxes involves the return of Riyad Mahrez, who is expected to start after missing training for a number of days after the transfer window closed, plus defender Wes Morgan may also make his first start since New Year's Day. Leicester head into this game on the back of a slump in the Premier League, having lost to Manchester City last time out (no shame in that) and having drawn to Swansea City and lost to Everton before that. The Blades - who could potentially call on David Brooks following a spell of glandular fever - are in better form, having beaten Leeds United last time out to offset two defeats in a row prior to that. Having got this far in the competition and with little else to play for elsewhere, I reckon Claude Puel will put a lot of resources into this game and his side will edge it by the odd goal. Score prediction: 2-1 home win Chelsea vs. Hull City (8pm GMT) Antonio Conte earned a reprieve last time out with victory over West Bromwich Albion, which is just as well because things get really serious now. Following this game, Chelsea will face Barcelona in the Champions League last 16, before going up against Manchester United and then Manchester City - both away. After that there's a home game with Crystal Palace, a potential banana skin, before the return leg against Barca at the Nou Camp. Conte has already confirmed that he plans to make numerous changes against the Tigers with an eye to the European crunch clash and, as we saw with Arsenal against Nottingham Forest, it could turn out risky. However, if you thought Hull would be able to capitalise, they have a huge list of absentees and remain perilously close to the Championship relegation zone - one point and a place above. Although Nigel Adkins's charges ended their woeful league run with victory at Nottingham Forest last time out, the manager's admission that his side needs "a lot of magic to help us" equally does not bode well. I'd like to think that Chelsea have more than enough to see this tie out, but I fancy Hull to throw a spanner in the works and force a replay, which will give Conte yet more things to worry about. Score prediction: 1-1 draw Share your thoughts about this preview feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  19. The Scottish Football Association (SFA) has announced the return of Alex McLeish as Scotland head coach. McLeish returns to the post he held for less than a year before leaving to become Birmingham City boss in 2007. The 59-year-old replaces his former Aberdeen and Scotland teammate Gordon Strachan, who left in October after failing to guide the country to the World Cup in Russia. Michael O'Neill turned down the opportunity to manage Scotland in January and opted instead to sign a new contract with Northern Ireland. "I am incredibly fortunate to have had the chance to lead my country already and I am immensely proud to be in this position for a second time," McLeish told reporters. “There is much to be positive about in Scottish football, with players playing at the highest level and promising talent breaking through. “With Hampden Park as one of the host venues for Euro 2020 we have an amazing opportunity to showcase our talents to the world from our own back yard. “I am relishing the challenge of leading us to a major tournament and I cannot wait to get started.” McLeish's first games in charge will be the friendly against Costa Rica at Hampden Park on March 23, followed by an away game against Hungary four days later. Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  20. Arsene Wenger has stressed that he plans to see out the remaining year and a half of his Arsenal contract. The 68-year-old signed a two-year deal at the end of last term but, with the Gunners looking likely to miss out on the top four of the Premier League for a second successive season, there have been suggestions that he could leave a year early. However, Wenger dismissed those claims, telling beIN Sports: "I have always respected my contracts, I would like to remind you I said no to all the biggest clubs in the world to respect my contract so that's always what I try to do. "After that, we have as well to accept in our job that the future is the future but for me, that's to win the next game. "We have to perform better in every single game and show until the end of the season a complete hunger to win every single game. That's what it's about for us." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  21. Former Newcastle United midfielder Rob Lee has claimed that the club "does not feel" like an elite outfit any more and feels that players "don't want to play" for the Magpies. The Tyneside outfit sits 13th in the Premier League but just two points above the relegation zone. Owner Mike Ashley put the club up for sale in October, but ended talks last month over a potential £250m sale. Speaking to BBC Radio Newcastle, Lee said: “There is no point in Newcastle getting into the Premier League then keeping the same players that got them there. “Sometimes you need better players. Bournemouth and Watford have both spent more than us. Newcastle is a huge club but it does not feel like that anymore, people don’t want to play for them anymore. “We were challenging the top teams like Manchester United and Arsenal, had trips to Europe, but it all seems so far away now. It is a shame. The club has been in decline for such a long time. “Mike Ashley takes one step forward and then three giant steps backwards. It is time now for change, we need change, we need someone else to take the helm. “It has become a stalemate. It is complicated with Ashley wanting a certain amount but prospective buyers are only willing to pay a certain amount because of what they value the club.” Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  22. Roma sporting director Monchi has admitted the club should have received more money from Liverpool for Mohamed Salah but the Giallorossi board felt they had to sell. The Egypt international has become the second-fastest player in Liverpool's history to reach 30 goals, second only to George Allan. Salah's excellent form has prompted questions from Roma fans about why he was allowed to leave for a fee that could eventually reach £44.4m, in the same summer Neymar left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain for £198m. "At the end of the day, we could reach €50m with bonuses, but at that moment we had to sell and that was an important option," Monchi told Sky Sport Italia. "The Neymar and Kylian Mbappe transfers changed the market, but at that moment it was necessary that we sell. "I still think the price could've been better for Salah, but it did give us the possibility of making other moves. When I arrived, the Liverpool offer for Salah was 32m euros plus 3m euros in bonuses. In today's football, players go wherever they want to. "The figures are important, because at the end of the day we are a business, but the fans cannot be bought. In my years at Sevilla, people counted the trophies and those are so far missing at Roma. "I understand the fans perfectly well, I know they don't want to talk about numbers, they just want to win, but that is my job. We have to build a club that doesn't just win, but does so consistently over time. Fans don't want promises, they want results. "I accept all of that, but ask them for a little faith. It takes time. We've got to stay quiet and work harder to find the right path towards what the fans want." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  23. Hearts have announced that they will apologise to former player Isma Goncalves after the striker claimed that racist abuse had played a big part in his January exit from the club. The 26-year-old left the Scottish Premiership club last month and made a £350,000 switch to Uzbekistan outfit Pakhtakor Tashkent. Goncalves told the Edinburgh Evening News that racist abuse directed at him from "a minority" of Jambos supporters and heard by his family had been a major factor in his departure. "The club will be contacting Isma to apologise to him and his family," Hearts said in a statement. Hearts said they would do so on behalf of "thousands of supporters who share our anger and disappointment that they were subjected to this behaviour". "I was obviously sad and slightly embarrassed that Isma didn't feel he could come to me and talk about it," manager Craig Levein told BBC Sport. "That's on me and it's something I need to look at. "If we have a player who has been struggling and has suffered racial abuse, then I need to make it easier for him to come and speak to me and talk about it. "If you read the statement [from Hearts on Wednesday] you can see how clear [chairwoman] Anne [Budge] has been about this and how everybody is disgusted by what has happened. "I have been trying to get hold of Isma and we're going to speak this afternoon and I will apologise to him about what has happened." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  24. The Champions League fixtures are done and dusted for this week and attention now turns to the Europa League, with Arsenal the last English side still in the competition. A tricky last-32 first leg against Ostersunds FK awaits them at the Jamtkraft Arena, a game against a side which has risen from the Swedish fourth tier to the top flight in just a few years and will be playing the biggest game in their history. How will this game pan out? Football Manics takes a closer look in this match preview. Standings Arsenal finished top of Group H with four wins, a draw (against Red Star Belgrade at the Emirates Stadium) and a defeat (away at FC Koln), and did so utilising largely fringe players. In the Premier League, the Gunners continue to flounder, with three defeats from their last five, and were also humbled in the FA Cup at Nottingham Forest, but are in the final of the EFL Cup final against Manchester City. Ostersunds claimed some impressive victories in qualifying for the Europa League, overcoming Turkish giants Galatasaray and Greek side PAOK, before beating Hertha Berlin and drawing with Athletic Bilbao on their way to finishing second in Group J. In terms of the league, they are between seasons, with the 2018 Allsvenskan beginning in April and finishing in November. Head to head This is straightforward - Arsenal and Ostersunds have never met before. Team news Danny Welbeck will start up front for Arsenal as Pierre Emerick Aubameyang is cup-tied and Alexandre Lacazette is out injured. Mesut Ozil, who is yet to play in the Europa League, is also set to start in Sweden. Laurent Koscielny and Jack Wilshere have not travelled for the Europa League tie, Arsene Wenger admitting to concerns over how the Frenchman would cope with the pitch and adding that Wilshere's absence was precautionary. David Ospina will remain in goal for Arsenal as they seek to overcome Graham Potter's side. Stats Ostersunds FK were formed on October 31, 1996, 30 days after Arsene Wenger officially took charge of opponents Arsenal. Ostersunds will be the 124th different opponent that Wenger has faced as manager of Arsenal in all competitions. The Gunners ended their group stage with 13 points from six games - the only English team to have won more in a Europa League group stage were Tottenham Hotspur (18) in 2013-14. This is the furthest that a Swedish side have progressed in European competition since Helsingborgs IF reached the last 32 of the UEFA Cup in 2007-08. Graham Potter has won three of his six Europa League games as a manager (excluding qualifiers); the only English managers to have won more in the competition are Roy Hodgson (10/21), Steve McClaren (6/18) and Alan Pardew (4/12). Only two players (Sergio Canales & Miralem Sulejmani) have created more chances in this Europa League campaign than Ostersunds player Ken Sema (16). Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored in six of his final nine appearances for Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League last season, including in the final against Ajax as they won the competition. Prediction Ostersunds's rise from the Swedish fourth division to the upper echelons of the top flight over the last seven years has been nothing short of remarkable and the journey hits another milestone in meeting one of the biggest clubs in the world having navigated through the Europa League group stages. Although the Swedes have performed admirably against numerous high-profile opponents, Arsenal will be the biggest they've ever faced, but they have the advantage of playing in especially cold weather which could faze the Gunners. I think Arsenal boast far too much class to lose here although it won't be easy for them - their opponents will step up their game given the occasion, but providing the Gunners are singing from the same hymnsheet, I can see them taking a decent lead back to the Emirates. Score prediction: 0-2
  25. The Manchester United Supporters' Trust (MUST) has sent an open letter to the club over Jose Mourinho's issue with the Old Trafford atmosphere. Mourinho labelled the stadium "quiet" after United's 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town earlier this month, prompting MUST to defend the club's supporters, insisting it was "an issue affecting clubs throughout the country". The letter, addressed to group managing director Richard Arnold, says "expansion [of Old Trafford] is essential to fully address the key issues" but also outlines "interim measures" that can be put in place more quickly. They include removing executive seats in the Stretford End, relocating the Family Stand, allowing groups of supporters to sit together, reducing ticket prices for younger fans and pushing ahead with safe standing. MUST wrote: "As you know the atmosphere in the stadium is a key issue for supporters and also for the manager and the team. "While we understand that the issue of stadium expansion at Old Trafford remains under active consideration, and that a firm decision has not yet been made on whether the investment will be made into a significant capacity increase, we recognise the major financial, technological and logistical challenges this presents. "We acknowledge the positivity of our initial discussions with you and ask that the club continues to work in partnership with supporters in developing plans to the mutual benefit of the club and supporters. "We are keen to push ahead as quickly as possible on discussion of interim measures which will produce progress while we await the major stadium development that is so badly needed." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  26. Former West Bromwich Albion chairman John Williams has admitted that he was surprised after being sacked by owner Guochuan Lai. Williams and chief executive Martin Goodman were dismissed on Tuesday by Mark Jenkins, who helped oversee Lai's takeover in 2016 and has returned as the new chief executive. A statement read: "Chairman John Williams and Chief Executive Martin Goodman have been given notice of termination of their contracts and have been placed on garden leave with immediate effect. "Following his recent appointment as a director of WBA Holdings, the Club's controlling company, Mark Jenkins is returning to be the football club's CEO. "These changes follow Albion's poor results this season which currently sees the Club at the bottom of the Premier League." "It is an odd feeling, it's certainly unusual," Williams told The Times. "We had gone through a managerial change but it's a results-based game and I accept my part in that. "As top of the managerial tree, you have to take responsibility. It has been a challenging job but I felt we had done well in the time I was here until this season, and I have enjoyed it. "We didn't get the bounce we hoped for when Alan (Pardew) came in and are well short of his usual average points per game, but I think we are now heading on a really favourable run of games. "I believe in Alan and the squad and I wish them well and really hope they stay up. I believe it will be a fight until the end." Williams was appointed as Albion chairman after the takeover, while Goodman was made CEO in January 2017 when he replaced Jenkins at The Hawthorns in his former role. Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  27. Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has admitted that he does not know what the future holds for Simon Mignolet. The Belgian has managed just one appearance for the Reds in recent weeks, a 3-2 loss to West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup. Klopp has suggested he has now abandoned his rotation policy in favour of Loris Karius, who is expected to start when Liverpool travel to face Porto in the last 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday. Mignolet recently admitted that he is considering his options after being dropped to the bench and Klopp has cast further doubt over the keeper's future. "Nobody knows about the future, or I don't know about the future," the German told reporters. "In this business it is always the same - it says nothing about that. "It's not for me to think about these kind of things. I have to make a decision for tomorrow night and that's all. No problem." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  28. Wednesday brings two Champions League games as Porto and Liverpool, who both won the trophy last decade, go head to head at the Estadio do Dragao, while Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain lock horns in a titanic battle between the "old order" and the "new order". Valentine's Day it may be but there won't be any love lost in these games! How will these games pan out? Football Manics takes a closer look with our dedicated preview. Porto vs. Liverpool (7:45pm) Jurgen Klopp's charges topped Group E with an unbeaten record and their reward is a tie against former Champions League winners Porto, starting with the first leg in Portugal. The Reds haven’t been past this stage since the 2008-09 season when they reached the quarter-finals of the competition before losing 7-5 on aggregate to Chelsea. Porto, meanwhile, came second in Group F, behind Besiktas, and are unbeaten in 21 Primeira Liga games so far this season. Jose Mourinho's former club also boasts a good home record against English opposition having only lost three of 16 - although those three defeats did come in their last four games. Cameroon forward and Porto star player Vincent Aboubakar didn't practice with the rest of the squad on Tuesday because of a lingering muscle injury and remains doubtful for the first leg at Estadio do Dragao. If Aboubakar doesn't recover, Porto's firepower will be severely diminished, but I still fancy Liverpool to get the better of the hosts. Score prediction: 1-2 Real Madrid vs. Paris Saint-Germain (7:45pm) Fate has thrown these two teams together in the last 16 when this fixture could have easily been the glittering final - the Champions League holders and three-time winners in the last four years against the contenders boasting the world's most expensive player. By their own mythical standards, Real Madrid aren't doing particularly well this season. Finishing second in Group H behind Tottenham Hotspur isn't shameful, but sitting fourth in La Liga, 17 points behind Barcelona, and being knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Leganes is unacceptable for the Blancos fanbase. PSG have spent big money to put their already impressive squad into the stratosphere in the summer, adding Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to their ranks. Last year they threw away a 4-0 first-leg lead to Barcelona in this stage and were pipped to the Ligue 1 title by Monaco, but this year they lead the French top flight by 12 points and will hope to proceed in Europe too. While there will be key clashes all across the pitch, the focus will be on the front lines - will the trident of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo get back to their best, or will Neymar, Mbappe and Edinson Cavani cut through Real's lacklustre defence? I predict a high-scoring draw. Score prediction: 3-3 Share your thoughts about this preview feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
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Football Manics is an independent football fan site that aims to provide a platform for every football lover and supporter to discuss anything and everything about the beautiful game, regardless of which team they support.

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