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  1. Riyad Mahrez has refused to commit his future to Leicester City but says he has withdrawn the transfer request he made in January. The Algeria international was the subject of four bids from Manchester City in the mid-season window but no move materialised. Mahrez then missed training for over a week, but denied going AWOL, and speaking this week, he says he is "relaxed" about his situation. "It has gone. It was in January, it's another transfer window. I am still here - I don't want to put a lot of things in my head," Mahrez told Sky Sports, when asked whether his transfer request still stood. "I am still in contract with Leicester so at the moment I am here and we will see. "At that time I handed a transfer [request] because I had offers from Manchester City so obviously I wanted to go. But now I am still at Leicester. "With me, especially, you never know what is happening. Every time I have to go but I am still here. "I don't really want to talk about [whether] I am going, or staying. I just want to finish the last three games. We will see what will happen for me." 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.
  2. The Premier League season continues to edge closer to its conclusion and, indeed, this weekend we could have our champions crowd amid two of the biggest derbies in the country. How will the action pan out? Football Manics takes a closer look. Everton vs. Liverpool The weekend's Premier League action kicks off with a tasty Merseyside derby as an Everton side sitting nicely in the top half of the table face a rampant Liverpool team that taught Manchester City a football lesson last time out. Although they say form goes out the window in derbies, the Toffees have a poor record against their neighbours (one win in 22 league meetings) and are a worse team on paper, while the Reds are in rampant form, so I expect them to win even if Mohamed Salah is absent. Score prediction: Everton 1-4 Liverpool Bournemouth vs. Crystal Palace Bournemouth have accrued 21 points in 2018, a tally only bettered by the current top four Premier League sides, and their never-say-die attitude has helped them pull clear of the bottom three, with safety very likely now. Palace remain in deep trouble, having lost five of their last six fixtures, and have won just one of their last nine league matches, plus their injury woes continue with a striker crisis, so I back the Cherries to victory. Score prediction: Bournemouth 1-0 Palace Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Huddersfield Town Brighton have lost three successive games in all competitions, all by a 2-0 scoreline, having previously been unbeaten in seven matches, but are better at home, having won three of their last four home games and scoring nine goals in the process. Huddersfield are woeful at present - five defeats in six away fixtures, eight PL defeats in 2018, seven goals scored in the league this calendar year, and 12 away games over the course of the season where they haven't scored. That said, I think there will be little between these two and I'm going for a draw. Score prediction: Brighton 1-1 Huddersfield Leicester City vs. Newcastle United Leicester are unbeaten in six Premier League home games, though their last three have ended in a draw, but their record against this season's promoted sides is good - 13 points from a possible 15 so far. Newcastle have pulled clear from the bottom three in recent weeks as Rafael Benitez looks to mastermind a great escape but despite a good defence, I think the Foxes - with Jamie Vardy back to his best - will be able to batter through. Score prediction: Leicester 2-0 Newcastle Stoke City vs. Tottenham Hotspur It looks pretty bleak for Stoke at present - 61 goals conceded this term, three defeats in a row and just one win in nine for Paul Lambert, who is running out of time to mastermind a great escape for the Potters. As for Spurs, they are on the longest current unbeaten run in the Premier League (13 games, including 10 wins), and they are the only side yet to lose a top-flight match in 2018, plus they have won five consecutive Premier League matches for the first time this season - so I can't see past an away win. Score prediction: Stoke 0-3 Spurs Watford vs. Burnley The Hornets boast a decent home form, with 11 points from their last five games at Vicarage Road, but they are winless in three games in which they have conceded 10 goals. Burnley, meanwhile, will be desperate for one final push to try and secure a heroic European place, and given they're on the brink of a fourth consecutive top-flight win, I reckon they'll play out of their skins and secure victory. Score prediction: Watford 1-2 Burnley West Bromwich Albion vs. Swansea City West Brom are absolutely done for this season, the stats speaking for themselves - eight consecutive league defeats and three wins all season are the very definition of "hopeless". In contrast, Swansea retain hope, with Carlos Carvalhal close to delivering one of the most unexpected PL miracle jobs in recent history, and even though the Swans are winless in their last five league away games, I nonetheless fancy them to defeat a side that has all but given up the ghost. Score prediction: West Brom 0-2 Swansea Manchester City vs. Manchester United Now this is one made for the script. Man City have dominated the PL this season and, whilst United will not have to deliver a guard of honour as was previously feared, they still will not want their big rivals to celebrate in their faces. Liverpool have thrown a spanner in the works though, with Man City potentially fielding a weakened team in order to focus on the Champions League return leg, which will see them needing to overturn a 3-0 deficit, so it could end up rather anticlimactic. Besides, Jose Mourinho is known for being somewhat of a "realpolitik" manager and has been known to park the bus, and so this could end up being a grind should he wish to deny City the title at all costs. I'll go with the more negative scenario and call this a stalemate. Score prediction: Man City 0-0 Man United 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.
  3. Claude Puel has expressed his delight with Leicester City having something to fight for this season with a place in next season’s Europa League still up for grabs. With eight matches remaining, the Foxes are eighth in the Premier League and three points behind seventh-placed Burnley, who they still have to play next month. Seventh spot could be enough for a place in Europe and Puel says it would be a "good reward" for the squad who were 14th in the table when the Frenchman took over as manager in October. "I think it's a good thing for us, a good opportunity for us to keep the focus until the end of the season," he told Sky Sports. "If in October we said it was possible to make something and to play for something come the end of the season then we would have been happy. "It is a good opportunity and an exciting challenge and it would be a good reward for the squad for all their hard work until now. But we have a difficult schedule with some tough teams to play. "But we must have that ambition. It is important to finish as high as possible." 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. Wigan Athletic vs. Southampton Wigan are the last non-Premier League side remaining in the competition and they claimed one of the biggest giant-killings of recent years when they vanquished Manchester City in the last round. Up against them will be a Southampton side ripe for the taking, given they've got bigger things to worry about - their Premier League place - and have a new manager, Mark Hughes, in place. That said, Hughes is a tough-as-nails manager and will demand more character and fight from his players than they have shown in recent months under Mauricio Pellegrino. Wigan have already eliminated three Premier League teams this season in Bournemouth, West Ham and Man City, so they will fancy their chances against one of the league's worst teams this season. Hughes will only have two players unavailable for the trip to the DW Stadium, with Steven Davis and Charlie Austin both remaining sidelined. Wigan will be without influential forward Nick Powell, who sustained a hamstring injury in the league victory over Bradford City on Wednesday. But in Will Grigg they have the competition's leading scorer with seven goals already, including the winner against Man City in the last round. Can Wigan do it? I'd like to think so, but I think the new manager effect and a the knowledge of a place in the semi-finals at stake and solace in a bad season will see the top-flight side end the Latics' journey. Score prediction: Wigan 0-1 Southampton Leicester City vs. Chelsea Having won the Premier League title two years ago, Leicester will fancy their chances of going even further in the FA Cup and try to land a second piece of major silverware in a relatively short space of time. In their way stand Chelsea, who cruised to the title last year but have had a harder time of things this season, and the FA Cup remains that last chance of a trophy after Champions League elimination at the hands of Barcelona in midweek. The two sides have met in five previous seasons in the FA Cup and Chelsea have progressed in all five ties, most recently in the quarter-final in 2011/12. The West Londoners have won 12 of their last 15 matches against Leicester in all competitions, losing just once, and they will be favourites in this game once again. However, the Foxes are unbeaten at home in 2018 and Claude Puel took charge in October, only two sides have won away to Leicester - Crystal Palace and Manchester City. In terms of personnel, Leicester's Daniel Amartey is expected to be unavailable as he continues his recovery from a hamstring problem. The Foxes, who spent four days of warm weather training in Spain this week, could be unchanged from last weekend's 4-1 win at West Brom. Chelsea are again without David Luiz and Ross Barkley because of respective ankle and hamstring problems, while Antonio Conte has declined to say whether Willy Caballero or Thibaut Courtois will play in goal. The Blues are a shadow of last season's team and Leicester are right to fancy their chances, given the Blues were battered by Bournemouth and Watford not long ago. But I think Conte and his charges will want to put the Barca defeat behind them and I see them responding with victory in the East Midlands. Score prediction: Leicester 1-3 Chelsea 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.
  5. An exciting weekend of Premier League action is upon us and it begins with arguably the most exciting fixture in English football. How will Saturday's games pan out? Football Manics takes a closer look. Manchester United vs. Liverpool The two biggest, best known and most successful sides in English football lock horns at Old Trafford and the 200th meeting between these two promises to be a fiery affair even if the title is all but gone for either side. Starting with United, they are currently second and have lost only once at home this season in all competitions, with that defeat coming against Manchester City. Liverpool, a place and two points behind, are the Premier League's form team with 25 points gained from 10 games and have lost just once in their last 20 league matches. With little to separate these two sides many are going for a 1-1 draw but I'm going to stick my neck out and fancy Liverpool's illustrious attack to punch holes in the Red Devils' defence. Score prediction: Man United 1-3 Liverpool Newcastle United vs. Southampton Newcastle, 16th in the table, have the third worst home form in the Premier League this season but they are yet to lose at St James’ Park thus far in 2018. They face Southampton, a team who are a single point and position below them in the table but are also unbeaten away from home in their last four matches. One of many relegation six-pointers to take place this campaign in a super-tight survival battle royale, I see little between them and am expecting a draw. Score prediction: Newcastle 0-0 Southampton Everton vs. Brighton & Hove Albion Everton's pendulum season continues to swing from danger to safety and back again, with two wins from 11 top-flight matches seeing Sam Allardyce's stock tumble somewhat, but they welcome Brighton to Goodison Park having lost just one of their last nine at home. Brighton's victory over Arsenal stretched their unbeaten run in all competitions to seven games but they haven't won away from home in the Premier League since a 1-0 win over Swansea at the start of November, a run of eight games, so for me, Everton will edge this. Score prediction: Everton 2-0 Brighton Huddersfield Town vs. Swansea City Swansea head into this game on the back of a 4-1 win over West Ham last weekend and boast a record of just one loss in their last 13 matches in all competitions. Huddersfield, meanwhile, have only picked up two wins in eight Premier League matches this calendar year, and six defeats in that time have seen them remain too near the danger zone. Carlos Carvalhal should get the manager of the year award should he keep the Swans up, and I think another positive result against a Terriers side that has done well in the first half of the season but is now running on fumes will help the Welsh side further in their endeavours. Score prediction: Huddersfield 0-1 Swansea West Bromwich Albion vs. Leicester City Eight points from safety with nine matches remaining and having lost their last five league games, West Brom are as good as gone from the top flight this season, barring a miraculous recovery. Leicester, though 10 points clear of the drop zone - a chasm by this season's standards - are winless in five league matches, losing two of them and drawing on the other three occasions, and also without a win in their last five away league fixtures, losing four of those matches. Can the Baggies make the most of their opposition's poor form to sneak a good result? I don't think they can - Leicester are much stronger on paper and much more with it both on and off the pitch, so it's an away win for me. Score prediction: West Brom 0-2 Leicester West Ham United vs. Burnley Successive 4-1 away defeats have got West Ham looking nervously over their shoulders again, and they have won just one of their last six league games, but on the plus side they have lost only one of their eight home league matches under David Moyes. Burnley, meanwhile, are seeking back-to-back wins for the first time since December, having claimed their first victory in 12 league matches against against Everton last weekend, but are winless in their last seven Premier League away games, failing to score in five of those matches. For me, this is a dead set draw. Score prediction: West Ham 1-1 Burnley Chelsea vs. Crystal Palace Chelsea are desperate to return to winning ways after four defeats in their last five Premier League matches, which have left them five points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur. Palace, meanwhile, have lost four and drawn two of their last six games, and will be reeling from their collapse from 2-0 up against Manchester United on Monday to eventually lose 3-2. Under-fire Blues boss Antonio Conte is however also needing to cast an eye to the midweek Champions League trip to Barcelona and may possibly rest some players, but given that Palace remain so depleted in terms of personnel, I fancy Chelsea to get all three points from this game, though it won't be easy. Score prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Palace 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. Leicester City have denied that Riyad Mahrez has retired from football and stressed that the relevant Facebook update on his page was as a result of hacking. The post appeared on the Algeria international's official FB page late on Tuesday night, causing concern among Foxes and Fennecs supporters. However, it was understood the so-called 'announcement', which did not appear on the 27-year-old's Instagram or Twitter pages, did not come from the player. The Foxes have now confirmed that the post was not a genuine one, and that they are attempting to have it deleted. A spokesman confirmed: "Yes that’s correct. It’s not a genuine post and we’re working with Facebook to have it removed." A picture of Mahrez was uploaded to the popular social media platform, with an accompanying caption, which read: "After the last consultation with many doctors, I've decided to stay away from football. "As my time as a football player comes to an end, I would like to say few words. I want to thank everybody for the kindness and support they have shown me in this incredible city. You will be always in my heart." 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.
  7. The big freeze hasn't stopped the Premier League fixtures this weekend from being cancelled, so here is Football Manics with a preview of Saturday's action. Burnley vs. Everton Two out-of-form sides clash at Turf Moor in Saturday's early PL kickoff, with Burnley winless in 11 Premier League games including their last five home games. Everton have been okay at home but have picked up just one win from their last 22 league away games, losing the last four in a row. That said, I think they will have enough to break their away duck and get the better of a side that has long since been exiled from Proudsville. Score prediction: 0-2 away win Leicester City vs. Bournemouth Leicester have only managed two victories in the last 11 league games and have gone four without a win, conceding nine goals in that run. Bournemouth, meanwhile, have lost only one of their last nine Premier League fixtures and have found the net in nine consecutive league games, scoring 18 goals. However, the Cherries have only kept one clean sheet in their last 15 Premier League games, and away at a side that can be dangerous, I think this will see them defeated. Score prediction: 2-0 home win Southampton vs. Stoke City Another game between two out-of-form sides, with Southampton having picked up just one win in their last 15 league games and winless in their last seven at St Mary's since beating Everton 4-1 in November. As for Stoke, they have won just once in nine Premier League games, conceded a league-high 54 goals this season, and have the joint-worst away record, alongside West Brom, with seven points and only one victory. So we're unlikely to see much quality here but I think it would be too easy to dismiss this as a draw, so I'm going to back the hosts to claim victory. Score prediction: 2-1 home win Swansea City vs. West Ham The Swans' upsurge in form under Carlos Carvalhal came to an end last time out against Brighton but they could earn seven victories in a row at the Liberty Stadium in all competitions for the first time since November 2004. As for the Hammers, they have earned 20 points in their last 13 league games - twice as many as in their first 15 fixtures this season - but have only won once in five league games and are in danger of suffering three straight away defeats. For all their efforts, Swansea remain in the drop zone and I think it'll be a close call in this game, with points split. Score prediction: 0-0 draw Tottenham Hotspur vs. Huddersfield Town Spurs are unbeaten in 16 games in all competitions, undefeated in 13 league games at Wembley and have not lost in 33 Premier League games against promoted sides, winning the last 15 in a row. Huddersfield, meanwhile have put their recent downturn behind them and could win three consecutive top-flight games for the first time since April 1956, as well as scoring 10 goals in 14 away league games this season. However, the Terriers continue to ship goals and away against an attacking side boasting Harry Kane, this could prove their downfall. Score prediction: 3-0 home win Watford vs. West Bromwich Albion Watford are looking to win three successive Premier League home games for the first time since April 2017 - one of those matches was against West Brom - and have won four of their last six home games in all competitions The Baggies' season, meanwhile, lurches from bad to worse, currently seven points adrift of safety, having won hust three times in 37 league matches dating back to March last year, and with yet another off-pitch issue besetting the club, this time in the form of a dressing room leak. So for me this is a foregone conclusion - Watford to claim all three points and potentially getting Alan Pardew the sack. Score prediction: 3-0 home win Liverpool vs. Newcastle United Liverpool are the division's form team with 22 points from the past nine games, are unbeaten in 16 league matches at Anfield, and their only league defeat in 19 games came at Swansea City in January. They will be visited by their former manager Rafael Benitez, who takes his Newcastle United outfit to Merseyside in good form, their only defeat in eight coming at Manchester City. That said, I still think Liverpool, with their world-class attacking setup, will have too much for a Magpies side only really punching above their weight because of their inspirational manager. Score prediction: 4-1 home 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.
  8. Just one of the Premier League's big six is in action on Saturday, making this an exciting day in terms of the lower half of the table, aka the Relegation Royal Rumble. How will these fixtures pan out? Football Manics previews the day's action. Leicester City vs. Stoke City First up this weekend is Leicester against Stoke, with the Foxes hoping to bounce back from two defeats and a draw in their last three games, as well as remedying a run of just two wins in their last 10. The Potters also haven't won in their last three games and have especially struggled away from home, without a win in their last eight and just one win and three draws from their 13 games on the road so far. In those 13, Stoke have scored just 11 goals, and I expect more of the same at Leicester, a place where they haven't had much luck over the years, so for me this will end in a home win. Score prediction: 2-0 home win Bournemouth vs. Newcastle United The Cherries had been on a good run prior to their heavy defeat at Huddersfield Town last time out but are unbeaten in four league home games, winning the last three in a row. As for Newcastle, they have lost just one of their last seven league games and will be boosted by their 1-0 win over Manchester United in their last game. With just three points separating the two sides it'll be a close encounter but I reckon the Cherries will bounce back from their previous loss and get all three points. Score prediction: 2-1 home win Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Swansea City Brighton are unbeaten in their last five matches in all competitions and have lost just three of their 13 home matches in the league this season, against Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea. They take on a revitalised Swansea side that has earned 14 points in seven games since Carlos Carvalhal took charge, one more than they recorded in their first 20 games before his arrival, and are unbeaten in their last 10 in all competitions. Both these sides are in the relegation fight, along with half the league, and it's yet another difficult game to call, with little between them, so I'm going to take the safe option and go for a draw. Score prediction: 2-2 draw Burnley vs. Southampton Good job Burnley had such a superb first half of the season because their form is relegation-worthy at present, but they sit 10 points clear of the bottom three which, in the current climate, is light years ahead - for now. The Clarets, far from their tenure at Proudsville, have gone 10 Premier League games without a win, the longest current streak in the division, and have picked up just five points out of a possible 30. They face a Southampton side that has managed just one win and clean sheet in 14 league games but are unbeaten in three successive matches on the road, even holding Manchester United to a draw. I'm going to go for Burnley in this as this will be their first game they face a side outside the top five at Turf Moor in their last five games and I just feel they will be able to rediscover their form in a winnable game in front of their faithful fans. Score prediction: 2-1 home win Liverpool vs. West Ham United Liverpool are the Premier League's most in-form team with in 19 points over the past eight games, with just one defeat in their last 18 matches - the shock loss to Swansea - and they are also unbeaten in 15 league encounters at Anfield. The Hammers, meanwhile, have only lost two of their last 12 league games and earned 20 points during that period - twice as many as in their first 15 fixtures this season - and come into this game on the back of a win over Watford which also yielded their first clean sheet in nine games. Though they will certainly fancy their chances, I think Liverpool are just too strong at home and are in such good form that they will see this one out relatively easily. Score prediction: 4-1 home win West Bromwich Albion vs. Huddersfield Town An absolutely crucial encounter between two of the league's worst teams, with the Baggies having lost their last four in all competitions and laying claim to just one win in their last 25 Premier League matches - could it be "taxi" for them out of the top flight come May? Huddersfield, meanwhile, began the season brightly but their form took a nosedive to leave them flirting with relegation, though they go into this game on the back of a superb 4-1 win over Bournemouth last time out. That said, there remains a lot of work to be done by the Terriers, especially away from home, and I can't see past a draw for those two teams, though I think there will be goals in it. Score prediction: 1-1 draw Watford vs. Everton Unbelievable how a team 11th in the league can be said to be fighting relegation but Watford sit just four points clear of the bottom three, while Everton are still looking over their shoulders with a mere eight-point gap despite being NINTH in the table. The Hornets lost in their last game against West Ham but they did record a superb win over Chelsea in their last home fixture, which will give them hope of seeing off the out-of-form Toffees, who have lost their last three away games in a row and have won just one of the last 21 on the road. Neither side is particularly apt defensively, Watford having shipped 47 goals this term and Everton not having kept a clean sheet since their Boxing Day stalemate at West Brom, but the Toffees have proven they can come back from losing positions, while the Hornets are the opposite - so it'll be Everton to do the double over Watford for me in this. 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.
  9. The Premier League is currently plodding along as expected, with Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal occupying the top six spaces. Likewise, last season finished with those same teams in the top six, in a slightly different order. It's hard to fathom that, just two years ago, the entire country - and perhaps the world - was rooting for the success of a team that had absolutely no right being at the top table and, as it turned out, Leicester City miraculously finished top of the pile in arguably - in fact no, call it DEFINITELY - the greatest underdog history of all time. However, on this day one year ago, everyone's favourite underdog became everyone's most despised villain, when Claudio Ranieri - the man who had delivered miracles at the King Power Stadium - was sacked from his role. How appropriate that the city where Richard III is interred would yield a triumphant king who would go on to die - in a sporting sense - in battle and also provide a tale of treachery and tragedy which William Shakespeare would have been proud of. As an East Midlander myself who was absolutely delighted to see my region triumph against all odds, I was naturally heartbroken at the turn of events, and likewise, the entire sporting community that had hailed Leicester was now mourning collectively and willing the club, that had betrayed them as they had betrayed Ranieri, to suffer relegation. But as emotional as football is, the reality is one of pragmatism and logic. And the cold hard truth is that, for all of Ranieri's amazing work in 2015-16, Leicester were at real risk of having all that hard work undone with relegation, which would have tarnished their legacy - the first Premier League champions to be relegated the following season - and also compromise the club from a financial perspective. Ranieri's second season at Leicester saw him make three major errors. The first was in the transfer market, as his post-title signings ended up not delivering in the blue shirt. The second was his somewhat blind loyalty in the previous season's key players, who were underperforming in 2016-17 and should have really been dealt with more sternly, and the third was his refusal to change his 4-4-2 despite the rest of the division now knowing exactly how to counter it. Obviously N'Golo Kante's departure left a huge gap in midfield and Ranieri could do nothing about his exit, likewise with scout Steve Walsh's move to Everton while the added expectations and status as reigning champions probably gave the entire club a huge bout of stage fright. However, the reality is that Ranieri couldn't adapt appropriately and so the club's league status was at risk. Hence the board's unpopular but ultimately appropriate decision to commit regicide. The appointment of Craig Shakespeare only added to the narrative - the Brutus to Ranieri's Julius Caesar, the Claudius to Ranieri's King Hamlet, who usurped the throne after the predecessor's downfall. And then when the players suddenly began playing superbly again, it only added to the illusion that the players had downed tools under Ranieri. Going back to that old pragmatism, Shakespeare managed to keep the club in the top-flight, and this is where the owners, in my opinion, made their one big mistake in their tenure so far - giving him a three-year contract. And incidentally, this is probably the most "emotional" decision that the club made, looking at his results in the short term rather than lack of experience at the top level or indeed any kind of long-term vision for the club. As it turned out, Shakespeare was himself sacked just eight games into the 2017-18 season, with the team struggling once again, and the ensuing appointment of former Southampton manager Claude Puel appears to have finally yielded that the plan was all along for Leicester - a solid, efficient, stable top-ten Premier League side. Meanwhile, Ranieri is now at Nantes, who sit a very impressive fifth in the Ligue 1 table and are dreaming of "going on a European tour", while Shakespeare has linked up with Walsh at Everton, where he currently plies his trade in his natural position, that of coach. So, all's well that ends well basically. One year on from the biggest act of sporting regicide in history, it seems like things have worked out well for everyone. One last point to make - the Srivaddhanaprabha family has made several important and often unpopular decisions at Leicester. Not sacking Nigel Pearson when the team looked set for relegation was one. Sacking Pearson after the team was safe was another (although his son's sacking by the club following the Thai tour scandal probably played a big part). Then, the decision to appoint Ranieri was met with howls of laughter and derision, while his sacking was met with widespread condemnation and sadness. Then we moved on to Shakespeare and now Puel, with the club finally doing well. My point is, the owners have more often than not been vindicated in their crucial decisions, so massive credit to them for sticking to their guns and doing what's best for the club rather than what's best for the narrative. 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.
  10. Leicester City have agreed to pay £3.1m to the EFL in order to settle a Financial Fair Play dispute incurred during the 2013/14 season. The Foxes exceeded the permitted £8m loss in the campaign when they finished first in the Championship to earn promotion to the Premier League. Leicester have vowed to legally challenge the charge after claiming £13m of the £20.8m deficit was "allowable". In a joint statement, the EFL confirmed that Leicester "did not make any deliberate attempts to infringe the rules or to deceive" and that the "dispute arose out of genuine differences of interpretation of the rules". "The EFL and the club have reached an agreement to settle a dispute between them arising out of the Financial Results of the club in 2013/14," the statement read. "The club was deemed to have breached the EFL's Championship Financial Fair Play Rules ("the Rules") at the time, but proceedings were stayed pending the outcome of a legal challenge by Queens Park Rangers against those Rules. That challenge by Queens Park Rangers is on-going. "In reaching a settlement, the EFL acknowledges that the club did not make any deliberate attempt to infringe the Rules or to deceive and that the dispute arose out of genuine differences of interpretation of the Rules between the parties. All relevant matters were taken into account when determining the quantum of the settlement. "The agreed settlement of £3,100,000 is in full and final settlement of all and any claims by the EFL against the club and its officers, in respect of the FFP Regulations for Season 2013/14." 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Islam Slimani has suggested that he would be willing to pen a permanent deal with Newcastle United should he keep the club in the Premier League. The 29-year-old has endured a frustrating spell since his £29m switch from Sporting Lisbon to Leicester City 18 months ago and is desperate to reignite his career under Rafael Benitez on Tyneside. Slimani could make his Newcastle debut, a thigh injury permitting, in Sunday's home clash with Manchester United, and the Algeria international expressed his eagerness to impress at the club. “I feel most comfortable in the No 9 shirt so why not in the future here? I’d be very happy if I could stay here longer. My objective is to score goals here. I already knew a lot about Newcastle and about Alan Shearer. It’s a great club, a very famous club, renowned around the world. I’m happy to be here. “The big difference between Newcastle and Leicester is that Rafa Benítez trusts me and having the trust of your coach is very important. Before I joined, Rafa phoned me, we had a good chat and there was a good feeling between us. It’s important to get a call like this, to know you’re wanted by a big coach like him. We’ve spoken a lot about a lot of topics, many, many subjects. “I hope I can show what I’m capable of. At Leicester it was always about injuries but I’m here to give my best fight to the team. My aim is to give 100% every single match. I wanted to leave Leicester, I needed a fresh start, Newcastle’s a big club and it’s a good choice for me. A lot of clubs got in touch but I’m pretty sure I made the right choice.” 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.
  14. Kasper Schmeichel has claimed that he understands Riyad Mahrez's disappointment at his failed move to Manchester City, but insists that his focus should be on Leicester City's form. The Algerian's proposed move to the Premier League leaders on Deadline Day broke down and did not report to training from then until Friday. "Obviously any kind of issue like that is unwelcome, but it's an issue for Riyad to sort out, and when he decides what to do we'll have to adjust," Schmeichel told Sky Sports. "Anyone who knows Riyad will know the ability that he has got, and he'll be bitterly disappointed not to have been able to go to a club where he could potentially win four trophies this year, and I think everybody gets and respects that. "His reaction to that; that's on him, that's up to him what he chooses to do. For us, we've got a massive game to look forward to now, we have to get back on track, get a win soon, so for us that's got to be our focus. "I understand that you're disappointed, there's no question. I think everyone knows Riyad has the ability to play at the highest level, so I understand his disappointment, definitely." 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.
  15. Another weekend is upon us which means another Premier League matchday and another Football Manics preview! Let's begin with Saturday's games, featuring the North London derby plus the "Riyad Mahrez derby" as Manchester City face Leicester City. Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal The Premier League weekend action kicks off with a huge North London derby which sees Arsenal head to Wembley Stadium sixth in the table, four points and one place adrift of bitter rivals Spurs. Tottenham are unbeaten in eight league games, drawing three of the last five, and have gone 12 home matches without defeat in the Premier League, winning eight of the past 10. Also, talismanic striker Harry Kane has scored six goals in six league games against Arsenal. The Gunners, meanwhile, could suffer three straight away defeats in the Premier League for the first time since a run of four losses ended last April, and are winless in 15 top-flight away games against the current top five clubs since a 2-0 victory at Manchester City in January 2015. On the plus side for Arsenal, their record at Wembley is superb - winning each of their previous nine visits - and in derbies the form book always goes out the window, so I'm tipping this game to finish as a draw - let's call it a high-scoring one. Score prediction: 3-3 Everton vs. Crystal Palace Everton have won just one of their last eight league games, earning six points from a possible 24, and have conceded 15 goals in their last six league matches. Palace, meanwhile, have lost only twice in their last 15 league fixtures, both against Arsenal, and are also impressive on the road, but they have gone three games without a win - drawing 1-1 in each of their last two games. The Eagles' injury list continues to mount, however with Wilfried Zaha, Julian Speroni and Martin Kelly now sidelined, and I think this will have a big bearing in the game, not to mention Sam Allardyce wanting to bounce back from a "pathetic" defeat by Arsenal. Score prediction: 2-0 Stoke City vs. Brighton & Hove Albion Stoke have lost seven of their last 11 games and taken only eight points from a possible 33 during this period, which leaves them just inside the relegation zone, but they have been beaten in only one of their last four home games, winning twice and drawing the other match. As for Brighton, they are unbeaten in three games in all competitions, winning twice and drawing once, but are without an away league win in seven games since November's 1-0 victory at Swansea City, with a miserly tally of six away goals. Paul Lambert has overseen a slight upturn in form at Stoke, with two clean sheets in his first two home games, so I think they'll do well against a Brighton side which isn't too hot on the road. Score prediction: 3-1 Swansea City vs. Burnley Carlos Carvalhal has turned a Swansea side tumbling out of the league into one unbeaten in nine games in all competitions, including wins over Liverpool and Arsenal, plus an 8-1 destruction of Notts County in the FA Cup last time out. In contrast, Burnley are without a Premier League win in nine games, the longest current winless run in the division, and could remain winless in their opening six league matches of a calendar year for the first time since 2007. It's a stark contract from the Proudsville form in the first half of the season but they're still a strong side and I fancy them to get a draw at the Liberty Stadium against a side that was busy in midweek. Score prediction: 1-1 West Ham United vs. Watford West Ham's current form is lukewarm, with wins over struggling West Brom and Huddersfield plus a draw at Tottenham this calendar year, though defeats to Brighton and Bournemouth show there's still work to be done. Watford, meanwhile, are looking to win back-to-back league games for the first time since November, following their 4-1 win against Chelsea on Monday, although they were their first three points since December 26. The Hornets also boast a lengthy injury list and, taking on a side in good form at home, I see them slumping to defeat at the London Stadium. Score prediction: 2-0 Manchester City vs. Leicester City This season's champions-elect against the title winners from two years ago, the narrative around this game will revolve around Riyad Mahrez, who did not train since the end of January following interest from Man City but is expected to play for Leicester this weekend. The Citizens dropped two points against Burnley last time out but with the players rested following several days off, they should be well rested and fully focused once again - not to mention their home form is absolutely superb, unbeaten in 25 league games at the Etihad and gunning for a 13th straight league win there. As for the Foxes, they are much improved under Claude Puel but their last two league victories in nine attempts came at home to Huddersfield and Watford, and they have taken just one point from their last four league games on the road. Leicester are more than capable of springing a shock from time to time but with how superb Man City have been this season, I can see them back to form and claiming victory. Score prediction: 3-0 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.
  16. Riyad Mahrez has stated that assumptions made about his recent absence from Leicester City training were "completely untrue". The former PFA Player of the Year returned to training on Friday for the first time since the January transfer window closed and has reportedly travelled for Saturday's Premier League meeting with Manchester City. Tabletoppers City had a bid for Mahrez turned down on deadline day and it had been suggested that was a factor in his recent absence, the forward having put in a transfer request at around the same time. Mahrez released a statement on Friday which read: "Over the past 10 days, many people claiming to be my friend have spoken about me and things they know nothing about. "Off the back of that, many people and journalists have made assumptions without properly checking the story, so I would like to clarify that all those so-called assumptions of why I was absent are completely untrue. "Myself nor my advisers have ever made any statements about that, so all presumptions made are totally without foundation. "Leicester City were always aware of my whereabouts and had knowledge of my thinking either directly or via my advisers. "I have been a part of the Leicester City team that has achieved much success including promotion to the Premier League and being champions of the League. "My goals have always been the same and I have always given my full 100 per cent when I play for the club, the fans, and my team-mates. "Those goals remain the same today and in the future and, when I am asked to be a part of the Leicester team, rest assured I will continue to give my all." 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.
  17. The Premier League returns to action for the second time this week following the Tuesday and Wednesday games. So without further ado, let Football Manics guide you through Saturday's fixtures. Burnley vs. Manchester City First up in the league this weekend is the surprise package of the first half of the season against the all-conquering runaway leaders - and Burnley, who are winless in eight league games, have a difficult task ahead to avoid losing a fourth consecutive home match. Man City have stuttered away from home in the league, however, dropping points in their last two away games when they won their previous 10 this season. In reality though, that will just make them even more determined to come away with all three points now, so I'm expecting Pep Guardiola to stamp out all complacency and guide them to victory at Turf Moor. Score prediction: 0-3 Bournemouth vs. Stoke City Bournemouth will go into this game buzzing with confidence after a superb 3-0 win away at reigning champions Chelsea in midweek, and are seeking a seventh game without defeat. Stoke appear to have turned a corner too, picking up another point against Watford in midweek, making it four points in two games for new manager Paul Lambert. With both sides on good form but at the same time looking over their shoulders given this season's Royal Rumble of a relegation battle, I expect a conservative game and a share of the spoils. Score prediction: 1-1 Brighton & Hove Albion vs. West Ham United This is an absolute must-win game for Brighton, who have won only one of their last 14 league fixtures, but with captain Bruno back from a back injury and on-loan Leonardo Ulloa ready to be slotted back in, there is cause for optimism. West Ham, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their last six Premier League matches and could remain unbeaten in their opening six top-flight games of the calendar year for the first time since 1974. Hard to call, this one, but I think it'll be more of the same - Brighton winless, West Ham unbeaten - at full time. Score prediction: 1-1 Leicester City vs. Swansea City A fleeting glance at the table would suggest an easy win for the Foxes but their camp is unsettled at present, with Riyad Mahrez - who did not report for training on Thursday and Friday - not available for the game, and Wes Morgan is also still recovering from a thigh injury. That said, they are unbeaten at the King Power Stadium since mid-December and could win their opening three top-flight home fixtures of a calendar year for the first time since 1977. But Swansea have been on the up since Carlos Carvalhal took charge, picking up 10 from a possible 15 points and beating both Arsenal and Liverpool, so I fancy them to continue this form and beat a Leicester missing one of their star men. Score prediction: 1-2 Manchester United vs. Huddersfield Town The Red Devils' title race is now surely all but over, given their loss at Tottenham in midweek, so Jose Mourinho will likely be refocusing his attentions simply on keeping the chasing pack of Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs at bay. The midweek defeat at Wembley ended United's eight-game unbeaten league run and also brought to an end a sequence of four successive league clean sheets, while the matchday opponent has already beaten them once in the top flight this season, winning 2-1 at the John Smith's Stadium. Huddersfield were a different beast earlier in the season though, with the wear and tear of the campaign now starting to show on the promoted side, who have lost their last four league matches and conceded 12 goals in the process - so it's an easy United win for me. Score prediction: 0-4 West Bromwich Albion vs. Southampton With just eight points separating 10th from 20th, it seems like every gameweek will have two or three "relegation six-pointers", but the Hawthorns sees two of the bottom three face off this weekend. The Baggies have lost just one of their last six Premier League home games, but four of those have ended in a draws, and a tally of eight points in 11 league matches since Alan Pardew took the reins points to a side unlikely to survive this season. Southampton, meanwhile, are without a win in 12 Premier League games since beating Everton in November, but have made a name for themselves as draw merchants, which is how I see this game ending. Score prediction: 0-0 Arsenal vs. Everton Arsenal have had an impressive January transfer window and will be up against a side who purchased one of their previous stalwarts, who in turn has been sensational so far for his new side. The Gunners are in desperate need of a return to form, having won only three of their last 11 league matches and losing at Swansea last time out, but may not even be able to call on record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as he is a doubt with illness. Everton's topsy-turvy season is currently on the up again as victory over Leicester in midweek ended a seven-match winless run, and former Gunner Theo Walcott was instrumental with his brace. It's on the cards isn't it? Arsenal to take the lead, Everton to draw level and Walcott to score an injury-time winner which will not be celebrated by the player who spent over a decade at the Emirates Stadium. Score prediction: 1-2 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. It’s been a crazy January transfer window, deadline day threw up a lot of genuine surprises – however, some deals always seemed unlikely. The price of players continues to be insane but upon reflection some of the deals could have been a lot worse. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could have gone for a fee much higher than £60m, yet since he was a star player for Borussia Dortmund I can understand the fee. This said, I felt the Riyad Mahrez alleged deal to Manchester City seemed crazy and bound not to happen. I mean, he’s never worth £60m and a player also in exchange just seems very greedy – he’s not Alexis Sanchez. In the past I have written about how the Leicester City board shot themselves in the foot and I feel the clubs just very desperate to retain Mahrez’s services. It’s quite clear that he wants to leave the club, so I feel if they’re to continue to improve, they should find a way to get the most cash in return but at a price likely for it to happen. Since Leicester City won the Premier League, several players have become greedy and almost blinded by the success – or what actually aided them on their fairy tale season. Foxes boss Claude Puel has spoken about ‘controlling’ Mahrez’s emotions, which is never a successful thing to do in football – especially when a player seems hell bent on leaving a club where he’s experienced success. "For some days it will be tough but it's important he stays with us and I hope he can come back with all his quality and the fantastic player he is" Puel also added in a recent interview for the BBC. This type of statement is natural in this circumstance whereby a player wants to build on their success and continue adding trophies and awards to their career. Insisting that the club can put a ‘smile’ back on the player's face is nice, especially from a fan point of view, but usually unhappiness causes disruption to form and I personally feel the large increase in the Leicester players after winning the Premier League should have been enough. When a player's quality dips, so does their stock and the £60m price tag just seems very awkward as no club would take the gamble on an unsettled player – unless the quality was assured as such as the players in good form. Mahrez continues to shoot himself in the foot and, personally, I feel he’s very disrespectful towards a club that has made him a household name. He may have contributed to 24 goals via assists, along with 35 goals in 127 Premier League appearances but his attitude doesn’t come across as very professional – I mean instantly after winning the Premier League he wanted out. The Foxes offered many of their title winning stars new deals, which quietened down the transfer speculation but here we are again. I would hope for Leicester fans that Mahrez focuses more his job and, ability that he brings to their squad – whilst earning any future move but certainly not at the cost to a club whereby they gave him success. He needs to focus on being more than a one-hit wonder, plus playing well successfully through a period of season would only naturally help in navigating a move away from Leicester – but I feel he’s part of the downward fall of fortunes and as a football natural I am not impressed. 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.
  19. The January 2018 transfer window is now officially shut, and what a frantic, breathless affair it's been at times. From the striker merry-go-round involving Chelsea, Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund to the swap deal involving Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Philippe Coutinho's departure to Barcelona, it's really been a whirlwind month. In fact, the whole Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool story, making the Dutchman the most expensive defender in history, feels like ancient news, so manic has the window been. Indeed, from a Premier League perspective it's been not only the January window with the highest outlay, but transfer deadline day also saw the most money spent, both trumping the records set by the 2011 window. So, where does each Premier League team stand in terms of incomings and outgoings? Here is a comprehensive list. ARSENAL In Konstantinos Mavropanos - PAS Giannina, £1.8m Henrikh Mkhitaryan - Manchester United, swap deal Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - Borussia Dortmund, £60m Out Olivier Giroud - Chelsea, £15.3m plus £2.2m add-ons Alexis Sanchez - Manchester United, swap deal Theo Walcott - Everton, £20m Francis Coquelin - Valencia, undisclosed Tafari Moore - Wycombe Wanderers, loan Ben Sheaf - Stevenage, loan Jeff Reine-Adelaide - Angers, loan Mathieu Debuchy - St Etienne, undisclosed Stephy Mavididi - Charlton, loan Marcus McGuane - Barcelona, undisclosed Chuba Akpom - Sint-Truidense, loan Krystian Bielik - Walsall, loan Julio Pleguezuelo - Gimnastic, loan BOURNEMOUTH In None Out Connor Mahoney - Barnsley, loan Mihai Dobre - Rochdale, loan Lewis Grabban - Aston Villa, loan Benik Afobe - Wolves, loan Aaron Ramsdale - Chesterfield, loan Shaun Hobson - Chester, loan Ryan Allsop - Lincoln, loan BRIGHTON In Leonardo Ulloa - Leicester, loan Warren O'Hara - Bohemians, undisclosed fee Jurgen Locadia - PSV, £14.1m Viktor Gyokeres - Brommapojkarna, undisclosed Out Jamie Murphy - Rangers, loan Kazenga LuaLua - Sunderland, free Ben Hall - Notts County, loan Jordan Maguire-Drew - Coventry, loan BURNLEY In Georges-Kevin N'Koudou - Tottenham, loan Aaron Lennon - Everton, undisclosed Out Dan Agyei - Blackpool, loan Alex Whitmore - Chesterfield, free Tom Anderson - Doncaster, loan Jimmy Dunne - Accrington, loan Luke Hendrie - Shrewsbury, undisclosed CHELSEA In Olivier Giroud - Arsenal, £15.3m plus £2.2m add-ons Ross Barkley - Everton, £15m plus add-ons Emerson Palmieri - Roma, £17.6m Out Michy Batshuayi - Dortmund, loan Jake Clarke-Salter - Sunderland, loan Kenedy - Newcastle, loan Baba Rahman - Schalke, loan Charly Musonda - Celtic, loan Todd Kane - Oxford, loan Kasey Palmer - Derby, loan Ike Ugbo - MK Dons, loan CRYSTAL PALACE In Alexander Sorloth - FC Midtjylland, undisclosed Jaroslaw Jach - Zagłebie Lubin, undisclosed Erdal Rakip - Benfica, loan Out Noor Husin - Notts County, undisclosed fee Keshi Anderson - Swindon, undisclosed Sully Kaikai - Charlton, loan Freddie Ladapo - Southend, undisclosed Andre Coker - Maidstone, loan EVERTON In Cenk Tosun - Besiktas, £27m Theo Walcott - Everton, £20m Eliaquim Mangala - Manchester City, loan Out Ross Barkley - Chelsea, £15m plus add-ons Liam Walsh - Bristol City, undisclosed Kevin Mirallas - Olympiakos, loan Harry Charsley - Bolton, loan Aaron Lennon - Burnley, undisclosed Sandro Ramirez - Sevilla, loan Ademola Lookman - RB Leipzig, loan Mo Besic - Middlesbrough, loan Gethin Jones - Fleetwood, free Boris Mathis - Northampton, loan Louis Gray - Carlisle, loan HUDDERSFIELD In Terence Kongolo - Monaco, loan Alex Pritchard - Norwich, £11m Out Jack Payne - Blackburn, loan Joe Lolley - Nottingham Forest, undisclosed Martin Crainie - Middlesbrough, undisclosed Jack Boyle - Clyde, loan Dylan Cogill - Clyde, loan Cedwyn Scott - Dundee, undisclosed LEICESTER CITY In Adrien Silva - Sporting Lisbon, £22m Fousseni Diabate - Gazelec Ajaccio, undisclosed Callum Wright - Blackburn, undisclosed Out Raul Uche - Real Betis, loan Leonardo Ulloa - Brighton, loan Ahmed Musa - CSKA Moscow, loan Islam Slimani - Newcastle, loan Andy King - Swansea, loan LIVERPOOL In Virgil van Dijk - Southampton, £75m Tony Gallagher - Falkirk, £200,000 Out Philippe Coutinho - Barcelona, £146m Daniel Sturridge - West Brom, loan Cameron Brannagan - Oxford United, undisclosed Ryan Kent - Bristol City, loan Marko Grujic - Cardiff, loan Lloyd Jones - Luton, undisclosed Ovie Ejaria - Sunderland, loan Harry Wilson - Hull, loan Lazar Markovic - Anderlecht, loan Jon Flanagan - Bolton, loan Corey Whelan - Yeovil, loan Matty Virtue - Notts County, loan MANCHESTER CITY In Aymeric Laporte - Athletic Bilbao, £57m Jack Harrison - New York City, undisclosed Out Eliaquim Mangala - Everton, loan Isaac Buckley-Ricketts - Oxford United, loan Kean Bryan - Oldham, loan Marlos Moreno - Flamengo, loan Ashley Smith-Brown - Oxford, loan Jack Harrison - Middlesbrough, loan Jacob Davenport - Burton, loan Charlie Oliver - Fleetwood, loan Shay Facey - Northampton, undisclosed Chidi Nwakali - Aberdeen, loan MANCHESTER UNITED In Alexis Sanchez - Arsenal, swap deal Matej Kovar - FC Slovacko, undisclosed Out Henrikh Mkhitaryan - Arsenal, swap deal James Wilson - Sheffield United, loan Demetri Mitchell - Hearts, loan Axel Tuanzebe - Aston Villa, loan Charlie Scott- Hamilton, loan Matty Willock - St Johnstone, loan NEWCASTLE UNITED In Kenedy - Chelsea, loan Islam Slimani - Leicester, loan Martin Dubravka - Sparta Prague, loan Out Adam Armstrong - Blackburn, loan Dan Barlaser - Crewe, loan Jamie Sterry - Crewe, loan Henri Saviet - Sivasspor, loan Rolando Aarons - Hellas Verona, loan Freddie Woodman - Aberdeen, loan Jack Colback - Nottingham Forest, loan Aleksandar Mitrovic - Fulham, loan Ivan Toney - Scunthorpe, loan SOUTHAMPTON In Guido Carrillo - Monaco, £19.1m Out Virgil van Dijk - Liverpool, £75m Marcus Barnes - Yeovil, loan Ryan Seager - Yeovil, loan Matt Targett - Fulham, loan STOKE CITY In Badou Ndiaye - Galatasaray, undisclosed Moussa Niakete - Paris FC, free Moritz Bauer - Rubin Kazan, undisclosed fee Kostas Stafylidis - Augsburg, loan Out Harry Souttar - Ross County, loan Josh Tymon - MK Dons, loan Julien Ngoy - Walsall, loan SWANSEA CITY In Andre Ayew - West Ham, £18m Andy King - Leicester, loan Jack Withers - Boston United, undisclosed Out Adam King - Mansfield, loan Jay Fulton, Wigan, loan Joe Rodon - Cheltenham, loan Oli McBurnie - Barnsley, loan Josh Sheehan - Newport, free Roque Mesa - Sevilla, loan TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR In Lucas Moura - PSG, £25m Out Georges-Kevin N'Koudou - Burnley, loan Marcus Edwards - Norwich, loan Anton Walkes - Portsmouth, loan Luke Amos - Stevenage, loan Ryan Loft - Exeter, loan Cameron Carter-Vickers - Ipswich, loan Shayon Harrison - Southend, loan WATFORD In Pontus Dahlberg - IFK Gothenburg, undisclosed Gerard Deulofeu - Barcelona, loan Dodi Lukebakio - Anderlecht, undisclosed Didier Ndong - Sunderland, loan Out Alex Jakubiak - Falkirk, loan Michael Folivi - Boreham Wood, loan Charlie Rowan - Accrington Stanley, loan Brice Dja Djedje - Lens, loan Randell Williams - Wycombe, loan Isaac Success - Malaga, loan Costel Pantilimon - Nottingham Forest, loan Pontus Dahlberg - IFK Gothenburg, loan WEST BROMWICH ALBION In Ahmed Hegazi - Al Ahly, undisclosed Ali Gabr - Zamalek FC, loan Daniel Sturridge - Liverpool, loan Out Kane Wilson - Exeter, loan Shaun Donnellan - Yeovil, freee Tahvon Campbell - Forest Green, loan Kyle Edwards - Exeter, loan Tyler Roberts - Leeds United, £2.5m Kyle Howkins - Port Vale, loan Max Melbourne - Ross County, loan WEST HAM UNITED In Jordan Hugill - Preston, undisclosed Joao Mario - Inter Milan, loan Out Andre Ayew - Swansea, £18m Martin Samuelsen - Burton, loan Diafra Sakho - Rennes, undisclosed Reece Burke - Bolton, loan Reece Oxford - Borussia Monchengladbach, loan Moses Makasi - Plymouth, loan 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.
  20. Seven Premier League fixtures AND transfer deadline day - who says a popular Danish beer company doesn't do football days? Here is Football Manics' preview of Wednesday's top-flight games - see how they will pan out. Chelsea vs. Bournemouth Chelsea, who will be boosted by the return of Thibaut Courtois in goal, will be hoping to keep up the pressure on second-placed Manchester United and, given their good form and clean sheet streak at home, will fancy their chances against Bournemouth. The Cherries, however, are also boasting good form, with three draws and two wins in their last five league games, and Ryan Fraser has scored three goals in his last three league appearances. Bournemouth are also more than capable of beating the reigning champions on their own turf, having done so against Chelsea in 2015-16 and Leicester in 16-17, but on this occasion I think Antonio Conte's side will be fully focused and capable of victory. Score prediction: 3-1 Everton vs. Leicester City Everton have been boosted by Seamus Coleman's inclusion in the squad after recovering from a broken leg, but the truth is that the Toffees are in poor form once again, with four defeats in the last five. They'll be up against a side which, if not back to their 2015-16 best, are certainly the closest thing to it in the wobbly days since then, with Claude Puel - they are unbeaten in six league and cup games since the turn of the year and have only conceded one goal during that period. That said, Everton are more than capable of getting a result on their day, while Leicester are being distracted by the future of Riyad Mahrez, so I think this will end as a draw. Score prediction: 1-1 Newcastle United vs. Burnley Newcastle are winless in seven Premier League home games, losing five of them, have scored just three times during this run, and failed to score on five occasions. Needless to say, it's not going well on Tyneside. Burnley's early-season heroics have been tempered by a meek second-half of the campaign - indeed, they could lose their opening five competitive matches of a calendar year for the first time since 1932 and equal their Premier League club record of four consecutive defeats should they fail to prevail at St James' Park. With both sides down in the dumps, I would say that this has draw written all over it, but I have a sneaking feeling that the hosts, boasting Chelsea star Kenedy on loan, might just edge it. Score prediction: 1-0 Southampton vs. Brighton & Hove Albion Another game between two out-of-form teams, Southampton and Brighton both need an improvement in their Premier League form to move away from the danger zone. Mauricio Pellegrino's charges are without a league victory since the end of November, whilst the Seagulls have won only one league game since they took three points at Swansea in early November. That said, both teams won their respective FA Cup ties at the weekend, providing a little bit of a psychological boost, but I think this one will end as a draw. Score prediction: 0-0 Manchester City vs. West Bromwich Albion Sitting pretty 12 points clear at the top of the table and reinforced by the £57m signing of Aymeric Laporte, this would seem like a routine victory type of fixture for Man City. At the same time, West Brom not only beat the team that last beat the Citizens - Liverpool - in the FA Cup at the weekend, but they have also pulled off a coup with the loan signing of Daniel Sturridge, one of the best English strikers out there when fit. Top versus bottom, a seemingly foregone conclusion as a result, but how often have we seen David topple Goliath? I'll probably regret this come 10pm when City have won 5-0, but I'm going to call this a draw. Score prediction: 2-2 Stoke City vs. Watford It's a funny old Premier League season, this - more than half of the teams are either in the drop zone or nervously looking over their shoulder. You'd think the league's 11th-placed side would be fairly safe against 18th, but Watford are just three points off the bottom three. The Hornets have been in freefall for a while now and were not able to follow up their win over Leicester with a good run of form - indeed, they have lost three and drawn one in the league since. Despite sitting in the relegation zone, Stoke won their last league game, against Huddersfield, and have won a league-high 74% of their points in home games this season, so I think they'll come up trumps in this clash. Score prediction: 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United A side desperate to climb back into the top four against the last hope of catching up to Man City, this is the standout fixture of the matchday. Spurs are on an eight-match unbeaten run in all competitions, but the Red Devils have kept six successive clean sheets and five wins on the spin. On the flipside for the hosts, they have earned just three points in five games this season against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United, which is fewer than any other current top-six side in these fixtures. Jose Mourinho has a great record against Tottenham, having won 12 matches against them in all competitions, and I have the sneaking feeling that the Special One will make it 13. Score prediction: 0-2 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.
  21. The FA Cup returns this weekend as the fourth round gets underway. How will tonight's games and Saturday's fixtures pan out? Here is Football Manics with a dedicated preview. Sheffield Wednesday vs. Reading Both sides have been in poor form in the Championship and sit 17th and 18th respectively, and both needed a replay to get past League Two opposition in the third round. But with Reading captain and centre-back Paul McShane, defender Omar Richards and midfielder John Swift all out with hamstring injuries, I fancy Wednesday to win this tie at home. Score prediction: 2-0 Yeovil Town vs. Manchester United The archetypal FA Cup tie which sees a glamorous top-flight giant slumming it at a lower-league ground on a cold January night, I can see Yeovil putting in a plucky performance but a much-changed United side doing just enough to come through the tie unscathed with two second-half goals, cue criticims which Jose Mourinho will not care about one bit. Score prediction: 0-2 Peterborough United vs. Leicester City A tricky proposition for Leicester, the Posh are chasing the League One playoffs and boast the division's top scorer in Jack Marriott. Will Claude Puel opt for a stronger side following the Fleetwood replay? I imagine he will make changes and the Foxes will be punished once again. I see either a replay or a Peterborough win - let's go for the latter because romance. Score prediction: 2-1 Southampton vs. Watford Two out-of-form Premier League sides face off, with Saints boasting just one win from 15 in the Premier League and two clean sheets in their last 20 matches too, while the visitors are on a five-match losing streak away from home, netting just two goals in the process. Hard to call but I'll say Southampton will just edge it given they're at home. Score prediction: 1-0 MK Dons vs. Coventry City MK Dons are in the League One drop zone, in poor form, have Chuks Aneke suspended and have just brought in an inexperienced new manager in Dan Micchiche, and this will prove a baptism of fire against a promotion-chasing Coventry side. I'll go for a "giant-killing", if you can call it that, and back the Sky Blues to get the win. Score prediction: 1-2 Hull City vs. Nottingham Forest Hull have won just two of their past 16 competitive matches, although one of these came in the FA Cup third round - they have lost eight and drawn six in this run. Forest, meanwhile, have claimed the scalps of Arsenal and Wolves in recent weeks, so their morale will be high, but I can see the Reds coming unstuck in this tricky game away from home. Score prediction: 2-0 Millwall vs. Rochdale Rochdale have won one and lost five of their last six games in all competitions, as well as not having played since January 13 after last week's game against Southend was postponed, while Millwall have had an upturn in form in recent weeks and can breathe easier, so I fancy them to record a routine win at the Den. Score prediction: 3-1 Sheffield United vs. Preston North End United have won only three of their last 12 competitive games, while Preston have suffered just one defeat in their last 13 games in all competitions. Neither side has too many injury concerns, but despite the contrasting forms, I think this will be a fairly even game and harder to call that at first glance. This is just a stab in the dark but I'll go with the Blades. Score prediction: 2-0 Middlesbrough vs. Brighton & Hove Albion Boro's form is incredibly hot and cold at present - in the last 10 Champ games, they've won 5 and drawn 5. In fact, none of their last 18 games have ended in a draw, winning 10 and losing eight in this run. Brighton have failed to score in nine of their last 13 competitive matches and will probably field a weakened side though, so I tip Boro to claim victory at the Riverside. Score prediction: 2-0 Huddersfield Town vs. Birmingham City Huddersfield have won just one of their last seven competitive matches, but this was in the FA Cup, while Birmingham have been eliminated in each of their last four FA Cup ties against Premier League opponents but have seen an upturn in form - that said, I think the Terriers are not only stronger, but will be more focused as they're not in as much danger as Brum. Score prediction: 3-1 Notts County vs. Swansea City County's form has slipped in recent weeks, with their unbeaten League Two home run coming to an end in defeats to Exeter City and Crawley Town, and also have a goalkeeping crisis with Adam Collin not match fit and Ross Fitzsimons suspended. Swansea gained morale-boosting wins over Wolves and Liverpool in recent weeks and I expect them to get the better of the Magpies. Score prediction: 1-3 Wigan Athletic vs. West Ham United Both sides playing at the DW Stadium are very much on form, with Wigan top of League One and having won 23 competitive games this season, while West Ham are now unbeaten in seven successive games in all competitions. However I expect the Hammers to field a weakened squad, so I reckon this will go to a replay, which David Moyes's side will then win. Score prediction: 1-1 Newport County vs. Tottenham Hotspur The League Two side caused one of the shocks of the third round when they knocked out Leeds United to reach this stage for the first time in 41 years and are certainly punching above their weight in their division, but even with a rotated starting XI, I still think a Spurs side back on top form will have too much for their opponents. Score prediction: 2-4 Liverpool vs. West Bromwich Albion Liverpool were in top form until they came unstuck last weekend and had their 18-match unbeaten run ended by Swansea, while West Brom are no longer winless after beating Brighton the other week and then drawing against Everton, but I can't see them becoming the first team to win at Anfield this season. Score prediction: 3-0 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.
  22. Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy has rubbished reports linking him with a departure from the King Power Stadium. The 31-year-old, who in the summer of 2016 turned down the chance to join Arsenal, has this month been linked with Everton and reigning Premier League champions Chelsea. Chelsea are known to be looking for another striker as Blues boss Antonio Conte wants to ease the burden on Alvaro Morata and have been linked with a number of surprising players including Peter Crouch. When asked about the speculation, Vardy told Sky Sports: "Who have I been linked with today? Chelsea, they've been linked with everybody haven't they? "You just have to take things like this with a pinch of salt, it's just rumours. Usually, it all gets started by someone throwing a few quid on it at the bookies. "I'm a Leicester player and I'm just concentrating on Leicester until the club tell me otherwise and we will be looking to progress to the next round of the cup." 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. We're back in action this weekend and the bulk of the Premier League action takes place on Saturday, with eight games for us all to enjoy. How will these fixtures pan out? Football Manics takes a look with our dedicated preview. Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Chelsea Brighton are in a poor vein of form at the minute, having won just one of their last 10 league games, and boast a poor record against Chelsea, losing their last seven in all competitions and failing to score in six of those. Chelsea have drawn three of their last five and could go three league away games without a win - and winless in the league this calendar year - should they fail to win at the Amex. That said, I reckon the Blues will have too much quality for the Seagulls and make relatively light work of the hosts. Score prediction: 0-2 West Ham United vs. Bournemouth The reverse fixture took place just a few weeks ago, a 3-3 draw which proved controversial due to Callum Wilson's contentious 'handball' goal in injury time. Since then, both sides have given themselves a little breathing room from the drop zone, with West Ham unbeaten in their last six in all competitions and Bournemouth unbeaten in four league games since Christmas. This fixture has brought goals aplenty - 23 in the last five meetings - and I expect to see a high-scoring game, with the goals evenly shared between these two fairly evenly matches sides. Score prediction: 2-2 Everton vs. West Bromwich Albion A special occasion for Sam Allardyce, who takes care of the 1,000th match of his career, but despite Everton being in the top half and West Brom near the bottom, it's important to consider their respective form. The Toffees have picked up no points, scored no goals and not managed a single shot on target in their two league games so far this year, plus they were knocked out to Merseyside rivals Liverpool in the FA Cup. West Brom, meanwhile, finally ended their club record winless run of 20 league matches by beating Brighton last time out, a big weight off their shoulders, and I fancy them to get another positive result at Goodison Park, albeit not a win. Score prediction: 0-0 Burnley vs. Manchester United The first half of Burnley's season has been nothing short of sensational but the wear and tear on the small squad is now starting to show, with the Lancastrians winless in their last seven fixtures in all competitions, including six in the league. United, meanwhile, are on a seven-game unbeaten run, winning four and drawing three, and have claimed 13 points from five away matches and scored 13 goals in the process. With Jose Mourinho's side also firing on all cylinders in terms of goals scored and David de Gea keeping clean sheets on a regular basis, I can't see Sean Dyche's side getting anything from this game. Score prediction: 0-3 Leicester City vs. Watford Leicester have won only once in six Premier League outings, but their home record against sides outside the top four is good - just one defeat, against Palace in December - plus they come into this game on the back of consecutive clean sheets in the league. In comparison, Watford have won just once in their last 10 league games - although this was against Leicester - and have failed to keep a clean sheet in 11 league fixtures since beating Newcastle 3-0 in November. Claude Puel will be very mindful of ensuring his side don't succumb to the same outcome as last time out against the Hornets and I tip them to put in a much better performance at the King Power and with a better result for then. Score prediction: 3-1 Stoke City vs. Huddersfield Town Paul Lambert takes charge of his first game as Stoke boss and as opponents go, he's got a relatively soft start against a Huddersfield side slipping down the table. Admittedly, Stoke have been poor this season and as such they are 18th in the table, winless in four, having lost their last three and conceded nine goals in the process - and 50 league goals conceded is the worst record in any of Europe's big five premier leagues. However, Huddersfield are winless in five league games, losing each of the last two, and have won just one and lost seven of their last 10 away games, while their defence has also been poor in recent weeks. With two out-of-form sides coming up, the more conservative would probably opt for a goalless draw, but I reckon there will be a winner - and I fancy David Wagner to be that. Score prediction: 1-2 Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace Arsenal have dominated the transfer news over the last few days but in terms of the actual football, things aren't going so great - they are winless in five games in all competitions since they beat Palace in December's reverse fixture, and have taken only 11 points from the last 27 available to them. Palace, meanwhile, have only lost once in their last 12 league games (the aforementioned loss against Arsenal) and could win their opening three league fixtures of a calendar year for the first time since 2002, as well as equalling their top-flight club record of six successive away games without defeat. Arsenal's scalp is there for the taking and I believe Palace can do a job on their opponents in front of an Emirates Stadium crowd that could very quickly turn on their side. Score prediction: 0-1 Manchester City vs. Newcastle United So then, Man City have finally succumbed to defeat in the league this season, losing at Liverpool last weekend. But beware - this can often reinvigorate a team, making them go back to the drawing board, stamping out complacency, and lifting the statistical burden off their shoulders. Let's not forget, the Citizens have done superbly well to reach 30 games unbeaten, not to mention their winning run earlier in the campaign, and of course, they're still unbeaten at home in 23 league games. Newcastle have enjoyed a decent run of form, taking eight points from their last six games, and are unbeaten in their first three games of the calendar year - but I expect a rejuvenated, refocused Man City to see off the Magpies. Score prediction: 3-1 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.
  24. Rodney Fern was 31 years of age when he joined Rotherham United from neighbours Chesterfield in the summer of 1979. I was quite cynical even in those days as a wide eyed 17-year-old Millers fan. Rod looked 20 years older than his actual age and I remember thinking "what the **** have we bought here". I watched him pre season and he looked OK, but not so good that Spirites fans were so angry at his departure that they took to local radio phone ins (no social media then) to vent their anger. The 1979/80 season started with a two legged League Cup tie with one of Rodney's former clubs Leicester City (who he played for in the 1969 FA Cup Final). Fern scored in both legs as the Millers won both ties and went through 5-1 on aggregate. Fern was a sporadic goalscorer in a mediocre season that saw the Millers finish 13th with 46 points from the same number of games. Towards the end of the 79/80 season flamboyant new Millers owner Anton Johnson brought 1973 Sunderland Cup final hero Ian Porterfield to the club as manager and the busiest summer in post war Millers history ensued as the squad was completely overhauled. Expensive new signings such as Tony Towner, Ronnie Moore, John Seasman and others were brought in to replace the majority of the previous squad in which only a few were kept on - Rodney stayed and little did we know how grateful we Millers fans would be. The 1980/81 season was, to put it bluntly, a magical season, with Rodney forming a formidable striking partnership with Ronnie Moore. The title was won at a canter with Rodney scoring the goal that clinched promotion in a 1-0 win at Carlisle in April 81 and the winning goal in the title winning 2-1 win at Millmoor v Plymouth the following month to secure second tier football for the first time in 13 years. In the summer of 1981 whilst preparing for the second division campaign, Porterfield was lured away from Millmoor to take over as manager of near neighbours Sheffield United. Chairman Johnson acted quickly though, bringing in ex England captain and Liverpool FC legend Emlyn Hughes as Player Manager (anyone remember those?). Fern scored a couple in a 4-1 win over Norwich in the season's curtain raiser and his partnership with Moore was still working well despite the team suffering an early season dip in form. The team were perilously close to the relegation places before Chelsea's visit in late October 1981. This game was Rodney's finest hour in a Rotherham shirt as he netted a superb hat trick in a 6-0 SIX NIL win that included two goals for Moore and one from long serving full back John Breckin later to become Ronnie Moore's assistant manager in the Millers successful team of the early 2000's. The team were battling bravely in the lower half of the table before a remarkable February 1982 saw a then EFL record of nine successive league wins in a calendar month saw the Millers up to 4th in the table and well placed for a push towards the top flight. Rod was a regular scorer in this magnificent Millers team although his partner Moore got most of the plaudits. Rotherham fell away a little bit towards the end of 81/82 but finished a very creditable seventh, a season that also included a 4-1 win at Stamford Bridge (10-1 on aggregate eh?} 1982/83 was a disappointing season for Fern and the Millers when their two year tenure in England's second tier ended in relegation, the sack for Emlyn and the break up of a fine team. Rodney was still there however, his appearances curtailed somewhat because of an injury he eventually succumbed to in late 1983 when he retired from the game. According to reports Rodney became a publican in his native Leicestershire before running a business as a coal merchant. His later years were blighted by dementia and he sadly passed on the 16th January 2018. Rotherham United FC will be holding a minutes applause for Rodney and fellow Millers 1980's stalwart John McGlashan who also sadly died this week and I know I won't be the only 50 something Millers fan struggling to hold his emotions in during the tribute. Thank you Rodney and thank you for the unforgettable memories. 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.
  25. Tonight sees the first set of FA Cup third-round replays take place to determine who will advance just a step further in pursuit of the world's oldest cup trophy. How could these fixtures pan out? Football Manics takes a look with our exclusive preview. West Ham United vs. Shrewsbury Town The Hammers drew 0-0 with League Two high-flyers Shrewsbury Town in the first game at the New Meadow, with the winners facing a trip to either Bournemouth or Wigan in round four. David Moyes's side have only lost once in their last eight Premier League games and are in a much better place in terms of league standings, five clear of the bottom three, so may feel they can dedicate more resources to this game. Shrewsbury's 10-game unbeaten run was ended at Blackburn on Saturday but Paul Hurst has no new injury problems, compared to West Ham potentially missing Javier Hernandez and Andy Carroll. However, I still fancy the hosts having ironed out the creases from the stalemate in Shropshire and emerge through this game comfortably. Score prediction: 2-0 Leicester City vs. Fleetwood Town Jamie Vardy missed the original encounter against his former side with a groin problem but is expected to start in the replay at the King Power Stadium. Leicester, eighth in the Premier League table, have stumbled in recent weeks under Claude Puel, with just one win from their last six, but they are safe enough from danger to feel they can commit significant resources to this game. League One Fleetwood, doing well in 11th place, enjoyed a morale-boosting 2-1 win over Southend at the weekend but I can't see them getting past a much more focused Foxes side. Score prediction: 4-1 Mansfield Town vs. Cardiff City These two fought out a goalless draw in the first meeting at the Cardiff City Stadium 10 days ago and there is a bumper tie at home against Manchester City awaiting the winners. Mansfield, one of the favourites for promotion from League Two at the start of the season, have taken a while to truly get going but have recently edged into the playoffs. Cardiff, meanwhile, head into the clash on the back of a 4-0 victory at home to struggling Sunderland in the Championship, a result that leaves Neil Warnock's team third in the table. With so much at stake, it'll be interesting to see the touchline reactions from typically fiery managers Steve Evans and Neil Warnock, and I can see this going through to extra time, but I expect Cardiff to prevail in the end. Score prediction: 1-2 Sheffield Wednesday vs. Carlisle United The winner of this tie - which finished goalless on January 6 - will face the winner of another replay, between Stevenage or Reading. Wednesday currently sit 17th in the Championship table, with their poor recent form having cost Carlos Carvalhal his job, but new manager Jos Luhukay did debut with a morale-boosting shutout against Steel City rivals Sheffield United at the weekend. Carlisle, meanwhile, are 13th in League Two and head into this game on the back of a 1-0 home with against Crewe. It's a fairly tricky game to call, so I'm going to stick my neck out and tip Carlisle for a giant-killing, with Luhukay still needing to get to grips with his team. Score prediction: 0-1 Reading vs. Stevenage Jaap Stam is expected to once again rotate his Reading squad for this replay, having made seven changes for the goalless draw at the Lamex Stadium, with goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola and full-back Omar Richards potentially featuring again. The Royals are not having the best time of it at present, just five points clear of the Championship's bottom three and winless in seven league games, so they may see this game as little more than a distraction. Stevenage, while not setting League Two alight, are much more comfortable in 15th place - 11 points above the bottom two - and boasting decent enough form, with two wins and a draw from their last six. With morale low at the Madejski Stadium, I wouldn't be surprised if the visitors win and book a fourth-round meeting with either Carlisle or Sheff Weds. Score prediction: 1-2 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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