FA Cup Preview and Prediction: Aston Villa vs Leicester City

Aston Villa vs. Leicester City – FA Cup Fifth Round

Venue: Villa Park – Sunday, February 15th – 12:30PM

Match Odds: Aston Villa 7/5 – Draw 9/4 – Leicester City 19/10

Seven-time FA Cup winners Aston Villa entertain Leicester City at Villa Park in the early kick off on Sunday in what could be a fiercely contested game in the fifth round of the competition.

It will be Aston Villa’s first game since they parted company with manager Paul Lambert and they need to get back to winning ways, but most importantly start scoring goals.

Both sides are at difficult points in their season as both Villa and Leicester sit in the relegation zone in the Premier League and will definitely want to avoid a replay from this game as a result. Though a run in the cup will be good for lifting spirits.

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Aston Villa have scored just three times in their last ten games in all competitions, while the Foxes have scored ten in the same time.

This is the first Premier League side Aston Villa have faced in this year’s FA Cup after beating Championship outfits Blackpool and AFC Bournemouth at Villa Park in the third and fourth rounds respectively.

Aston Villa’s home record in all competitions: Played 15 – Won 4 – Drawn 5 – Lost – 6

Villa have really struggled this season, scoring just 12 league goals, but as we know, the FA Cup is a completely different competition and they could begin a strong finish to the season with a good result in this tie.

Leicester City’s away record in all competitions: Played 14 – Won 3 – Drawn 1 – Lost – 10 

Leicester have really struggled away from home this season, but can take positives from their 2-1 fourth round win against Tottenham and third round victory against Newcastle.

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The Foxes come into the game off the back of two defeats and managerial problems of their own after widespread reports suggested that Nigel Pearson had been sacked on Sunday night, though they ultimately proved to be incorrect.

 

Leicester can get themselves back on track with a win in this game and need to remove some of the media pressure they have been under.

A place in the quarter-final will be a major boost for either side and will help to improve what has been a tough season.

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It will be the fifth time these rivals have met in the FA Cup, with both sides having won two each in the previous four encounters. The most recent FA Cup meeting saw the Foxes win 2-1 at Villa Park in 2001.

Aston Villa’s last five in all competitions: L/W/L/L/L

Leicester City’s last five in all competitions: L/W/L/L/L

Key Stat: Aston Villa and Leicester have already faced each other twice in the league this season, with both games ending in victory for the home side by a single goal (2-1 to Villa and 1-0 to Leicester). Expect this to be just as close.

Key Player: Brad Guzan – The USMNT International goalkeeper has been consistently good for Aston Villa this season and if he is on song Villa will likely only need the one goal to progress.

Score Prediction: Aston Villa 1–0 Leicester City – Both sides are struggling and will want to avoid the replay. With Leicester so poor on the road Villa could just edge it.

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Is Brad Guzan an option for Manchester United if David de Gea departs?

Lewis Addley asks whether Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan could be a target for Manchester United if David De Gea moves on this summer.

Much has been made of the possibility that Manchester United goalkeeper, David de Gea could move to Real Madrid this summer and so Louis Van Gaal will be weighing up alternatives already in case his star stopper leaves.

The young Spaniard has been in fine form this season and has rescued several points for United alone, who without his top performances, could be a lot lower in the Premier League table.

US Men’s National Team ‘keeper, Brad Guzan has been one of the busiest in the Premier League so far this season. Aston Villa have struggled to find any form and he has been called into action countless times.

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Manchester United previously had USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard as their number one – another shot-stopper who has been impressive throughout his Premier League career and could turn to another American.

With Guzan only being 30, he could easily play another ten years of top flight football, just like counterpart Brad Friedel has done.

Villa are relegation candidates and if they do go down this season Guzan will more than likely need to move on to ensure his place in the USMNT isn’t jeopardised.

In comparison to sides directly around Villa in the table they have conceded fewer goals so we can see just how well Guzan has performed.

POS

TEAM

GOALS FOR

GOALS AGAINST

GOAL DIFFERENCE

17

QPR

26 43 -17

18

ASTON VILLA

12 34 -22

19

BURNLEY

23

40 -17

20

LEICESTER CITY

22 40

-18

If Villa’s strike force can start hitting the target they stand a good chance of avoiding relegation with Guzan standing strong in goal but they cannot keep replying on the American.

The former Chivas USA goalkeeper has kept as many clean-sheets as David de Gea in the league this season (7) and could thrive if given a better defence in front of him.

At this point of the season transfers are just a possibility but Guzan, with his key Premier League experience, is certainly an option for Louis Van Gaal.

Would Brad Guzan be a good signing for Manchester United if David De Gea leaves? Is a move for the US ‘keeper realistic?

5 Takeaways from the USA’s disappointing 4-1 loss to Ireland

The USMNT capped off the 2014 schedule in poor fashion, losing 4-1 to a weakened Republic of Ireland side in Dublin, making it four games without a win – the worst run of form in Jurgen Klinsmann‘s tenure.

Klinsmann has come under some pressure as a result, but the performances on the pitch are what’s costing the team at the moment, and the long rest before the next international game leaves much to work on.

Defensively, USA looked as vulnerable as they have ever been against Ireland, while they failed to capitalise on some good spells of possession at the other end.

One game (or run of games) cannot take away from what has been a remarkable year for US soccer. But the manner of the defeat tonight will leave a sour taste in fans’ mouths until the next time a ball is kicked.

Here are five takeaways from the game:

1. Concentration levels are a major concern

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The deeply concerning trend of conceding late goals continued against Ireland as the USA let in two in the final ten minutes to put the game out of reach. Those two goals mean that the team have now conceded 11 goals in the final ten minutes in their last 11 games. Whether it’s fitness or focus, Klinsmann must address this issue urgently to ensure things change in 2015.

2. Defensive frailties are being exposed too frequently

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Klinsmann shuffled his defence once again for the game against Ireland – a fair move in a friendly as that’s ultimately what they are for, but it backfired greatly. Fabian Johnson looked better and his place in the side is not under threat. Timothy Chandler failed to impress at left-back and his chances must be running out. The major problem was in the heart of defence as Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron looked vulnerable throughout.

Besler has looked exhausted since the World Cup and needs an extended break to recover, whereas Cameron is making too many mistakes in the centre of defence and should be deployed elsewhere. The Jermaine Jones-John Brooks partnership used against Colombia looked solid and needs to be used again come next year. But things are far from certain in defence.

3. Mix Diskerud missed his time to shine

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Diskerud had the chance to impress the nation in the two friendlies but failed in both. He grabbed the goal against Ireland but that was a tap in from close range and his inability to influence the game from midfield is a worry. He is a free agent in January and has been linked with moves to MLS among other leagues. There were believed to be up to 15 scouts watching him tonight but he didn’t exactly take his chance to shine against an average Irish side.

4. Bobby Wood a bright spark

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Bobby Wood gave at least one positive to take from the game as he looked lively and energetic when brought on at halftime. He made a great chance for himself in the second-half but saw his one-on-one agonisingly saved by Shay Given. Wood looks like a player with a bright future if he can work on his finishing, and his ability to bring others into play make him a valuable member of the team going forward.

5. Bill Hamid needs more time before being handed a starting role

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The DC United goalkeeper cannot be blamed in any way for the loss, but he didn’t look as convincing as Brad Guzan does between the sticks and needs to be introduced more gradually now if he is to eventually take the starting job between the sticks. There was little he could do about the deflected goal and the wonderful free-kick, but he could have been off his line quicker for the first goal, and will be disappointed with how easily the second was scored. Hamid is the man for the future, but that is not now, and he needs time to work with the national team.

What did you make of the USA’s display against Ireland?

Preview and Prediction: Republic of Ireland vs USA

USA will complete their 2014 schedule on Tuesday night when they travel to the Aviva Stadium to take on the Republic of Ireland in another international friendly.

They will be looking to bounce straight back from the defeat to Colombia on Friday night and a positive result will be essential, with a strong performance to match high on the agenda.

Ireland will be without their all-time leading goalscorer in Robbie Keane, as he was released on Saturday in order to prepare for his upcoming MLS playoff matches with the LA Galaxy.

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[Ireland and LA Galaxy star Robbie Keane will not feature against USA on Tuesday as he was released from the squad]

Furthermore, Jurgen Klinsmann has released four MLS-based players from duty in order to increase game time for those not involved in the playoffs.

Lee Nguyen, Jermaine Jones, DeAndre Yedlin and DaMarcus Beasley have all been sent home following the loss to Colombia. Nguyen and Jones need to prepare for New England Revolution’s push for the Eastern Conference title, while Yedlin will be with Supporters’ Shield winners Seattle Sounders as they look ahead to their clashes with the Galaxy.

Klinsmann has not called anyone else up so he will go into the Ireland game with a 21-man squad and several players will be hoping to impress.

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[Jurgen Klinsmann looks on from the dugout at Craven Cottage during the USA vs. Colombia game]

The last time the two sides met was in April 2002, just prior to the FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan. The game ended in a 2-1 win for the Republic of Ireland.

As much as this is billed as a friendly, both teams will want a result, as Ireland will be looking to regain a bit of form following their loss to Scotland, and the USA will be hoping to build towards the 2015 Gold Cup – which they are hosting.

This should be a good game, possibly open and end-to-end, but we expect that the USA will come out on top.

They played well against Colombia on Friday, and have enough quality to end 2014 on a high – something Klinsmann will be desperate to do.

Predicted USMNT lineup: Brad Guzan, Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Greg Garza, Alejandro Bedoya, Mix Diskerud, Kyle Beckerman, Julian Green, Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood.

Key Player: Kyle Beckerman – Was influential on Friday night and provided cover for the USMNT when they were going forward. Expect him to anchor the US midfield once again.

Key Stat: USMNT forward Rubio Rubin would have been only three months old (18 years ago), the last time the USA beat Republic of Ireland.

Score Prediction: Republic of Ireland 0 – 2 USA

USA can take positives despite Colombia defeat

Jurgen Klinsmann watched his USA side lose 2-1 late on against a talented Colombian side at Craven Cottage last night, but there were positives to be taken despite the defeat.

The first of the USMNT‘s final two games of 2014 ended with a loss. A late Teofilo Gutierrez header sent a Colombia-filled Craven Cottage into raptures as they finally broke the spirited USA resistance.

Jozy Altidore had given Klinsmann’s side an early lead from the penalty spot after Pablo Armero handled in the box, and they took their 1-0 lead into halftime.

However, the yellow surge of Colombian talent kept driving in the second-half and Carlos Bacca’s goal in the 60th minute turned the game on its head.

Colombia were lifted by the goal and their relentless pressure eventually paid off as Gutierrez guided his header past Brad Guzan in the 87th minute to seal the victory.

Klinsmann will be unhappy with the result, but the performance his players gave will leave him with plenty of positives to take:

Panoramic view of Craven Cottage ahead of kickoff between USA and Colombia on Friday.

Panoramic view of Craven Cottage ahead of kickoff between USA and Colombia on Friday.

1. Jermaine Jones was immense in the centre of defence

Jones was once again started at centre-back despite failing to convince in the previous friendlies against Ecuador and Honduras. But the New England Revolution powerhouse put in a dominant display against the no.3 ranked team in the World and was at the centre of everything the USA did defensively. Klinsmann’s experiment looks to have paid off and Jones could be given more and more time at the back as a result.

2. Jozy Altidore led by example with another goal

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Altidore took the captains armband for the game on Friday night and impressed as he led the line well and got on the scoresheet yet again. His goal came from the penalty spot but take nothing away from his performance as he worked tirelessly up top and proved once again that he should be getting opportunities at club level with Sunderland.

3. Kyle Beckerman bossed the midfield again

Playing against a player of the calibre of James Rodriguez would test even the best holding midfielder in the world, but Beckerman wasn’t phased and looked calm in the middle of the pitch. The Real Salt Lake veteran broke the play up on several occasions and his ability to remain calm at all times helped the team to escape pressure throughout. Another excellent display by the 32-year-old.

4. Rubio Rubin makes good start to life with USMNT

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The 18-year-old forward was handed a starting role against Colombia and didn’t look out of his depth on his international debut. He worked hard and looked more than capable of holding his own against experienced defenders. He had a great chance to make it 2-0 after the break but his header just flew past the right-hand post. His positioning to get the chance was encouraging though and Rubin looks set for a bright future.

5. Lee Nguyen can cut it at the top

Nguyen was brought on late in the second-half for his first USMNT appearance for seven years and he didn’t look out of his depth one bit. The New England Revolution playmaker found space in the final third when he came on and nearly set up a wonder goal with a lovely back-heel flick in a promising move late on. The MLS MVP candidate looks set for an increased number of minutes for Klinsmann’s side in upcoming games.

What did you make of the USA’s performance against Colombia on Friday?

Breaking down the USMNT 25-man squad for upcoming friendlies

Jurgen Klinsmann named his 25-man squad for the upcoming USMNT friendlies against Colombia and Republic of Ireland today and there were a mixture of familiar faces as well as new ones in the roster.

The two friendlies may not be competitive games, but Klinsmann will want to end an excellent 2014 on a high and the first game against a no.3 ranked Colombia side on Friday will be a real test that many players will relish playing in.

“We want to finish 2014 on a high note and continue to try to meet the top teams eye to eye,” said Klinsmann.

“In these last two games we want our veterans to really become mentors both on and off the field, and we want to see our youngsters take advantage of the opportunity to make their case and grow from the experience. These performances will set the tone for 2015.”

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Bill Hamid (DC United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

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No real surprises here. Tim Howard is taking a year off international duty so Brad Guzan will expect to continue as first-choice. Though the fact that these are friendly games should see rotation between the sticks. Sean Johnson will be delighted with his call-up but he is unlikely to feature. Bill Hamid is certainly looking like the future no.1 ‘keeper and he deserves more and more responsibility from now on.

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Greg Garza (Club Tijuana), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)

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Mostly usual names in here but some surprise inclusions nonetheless. Firstly, Matt Besler looked extremely tired at the end of Sporting Kansas City’s season and needs a long rest during the offseason. A long trip to Europe is not what he needs.

John Brooks is also a surprise inclusion as he has fallen down the pecking order at Hertha Berlin while Geoff Cameron and Jermaine Jones have been called up in defence to presumably play centre-back but neither are naturals in the position. Jones is a far better midfielder and the experiment at centre-back against Honduras didn’t exactly flourish. Facing a pacey Colombian attack will be a major test.

DeAndre Yedlin is one of three players called up who are still likely to be involved in the MLS Playoffs and so his game time may be limited. And any action he does see could be in midfield once again.

It’s a shame not to see Bolton Wanderer’s Tim Ream called up as he has been in good form this season.

Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Julian Green (Hamburg), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution)

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Michael Bradley misses out as he recovers from a foot injury so some new faces are involved. Lee Nguyen has been rewarded for an incredible year though New England’s participation in the playoffs could limit his game time. Alfredo Morales in involved once again but it would have been nice to see a couple of MLS players called up considering the games are non-competitive.

The likes of Luis Gil, Will Trapp and Perry Kitchen could have all been given the nod by Klinsmann but he has overlooked all three on this occasion.

Kyle Beckerman will hope to forget about Real Salt Lake’s humiliating MLS playoff loss to LA Galaxy by ending what has been a great year for him on a high, while Julian Green could impress again.

Graham Zusi has been overlooked but he looked just as tired as teammate Besler and will likely be pleased that he can recover.

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Miguel Ibarra (Minnesota United FC), Jordan Morris (Stanford), Rubio Rubin (Utrecht), Bobby Wood (1860 Munich), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

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The major surprises in the roster are in the attack. Clint Dempsey misses out playing at his former ground Craven Cottage as some new faces are set to see some action. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, Miguel Ibarra and Rubio Rubin have all made the squad and will be desperate to impress.

Miguel Ibarra plays in NASL and Bobby Wood is struggling to make any kind of impact for an 1860 Munich side that is near the bottom of the 2.Bundesliga.

While Jordan Morris has yet to leave College and is still a student at Stanford. All three will hope to see some minutes but Rubio Rubin is the most exciting to watch.

The 18-year-old has been called up for the second successive time and will expect to win his first cap this time around. He has four assists in nine games for Utrecht in the Eredivisie and is a versatile attacker with a bright future ahead of him.

Jozy Altidore continues to earn call-ups despite failing to get in the Sunderland team while Aaron Johansson and Terrance Boyd are not deemed fit enough having recently recovered from injuries.

Eddie Johnson has been overlooked once again and his USMNT career looks to be over as long as Klinsmann is in charge.

What do you make of the latest USMNT squad?

Stats: Howard vs Guzan – Who has been better this season?

The USA’s top two goalkeeper’s are set to go head-to-head when Everton welcome Aston Villa to Goodison Park as the Premier League returns following the international break this weekend.

The Toffees come into the game in poor form, having failed to win in their last five in all competitions, but they will be confident of getting a result against a Villa side that has lost its last three league games without scoring a goal.

Tim Howard will hope to earn his first home clean sheet of the campaign against his fellow USMNT goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who has taken the number one spot in Klinsmann’s team while Howard has a break from international football.

Statistic Tim Howard Brad Guzan
Appearances 7 7
Clean sheets 1 3
Goals conceded 16 9
Saves/game 2.43 2.71
Punches/game 0.29 0.57
Successful catches/game 2.29 1.00
Accurate goal kicks/game 5.43 3.86

Howard has endured a tough start to the new season, and has conceded 16 times in his first seven matches, a significantly worse record than Guzan so far.

The Villa ‘keeper has conceded nine in the same number of games, but Everton’s defence is considerably stronger on paper, and Howard is maybe struggling with a ‘World Cup hangover’ after such excellent displays in Brazil.

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Guzan has made more saves per game this season, and tends to punch the ball away from danger more often that Howard too, but the Everton shot-stopper is much better at catching the ball, and is also more accurate with his feet.

The game at Goodison Park this weekend looks set to be a good one as both sides are desperate to find some form after the break, and whichever US goalkeeper performs best will likely see his team succeed.

Who has been more impressive this season – Guzan or Howard?