FA Cup Preview and Prediction: MK Dons vs Chelsea

Competition: FA Cup Fourth Round – MK Dons vs. Chelsea 

Venue: Stadium MK – Sunday, January 31 – 16:00 GMT (11:00 ET) 

Match Odds: MK Dons 8/1 – Draw 4/1 – Chelsea 1/3

Match Preview

Championship side MK Dons welcome Premier League champions Chelsea to Stadium MK on Sunday afternoon in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

MK Dons are sitting dangerously close to the relegation zone in the Championship but have only lost twice in their last six outings.

They come into the tie off the back of a 3-1 away defeat to Bolton but will fancy their chances of causing Chelsea some problems this weekend.

Karl Robinson’s side overcame Northampton Town 3-0 in the last round but needed a replay to do so.

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Chelsea are now unbeaten in their last eight outings and come into this tie off the back of their 1-0 away win over Arsenal.

Interim boss Guus Hiddink seems to have steadied the ship at Chelsea and will be expecting nothing less than progression after this tie.

Chelsea overcame Scunthrope in the last round and will be looking to give a few first choice names a rest this weekend. Eden Hazard could start after he made an appearance off the bench last time out following his injury troubles.

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Score Prediction

MK Dons 1-3 Chelsea – Chelsea to advance in a game they really should win. The game should be straightforward enough but you never know with the magic of the cup.

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Liam Ridgewell leaves Portland for short-term Brighton loan move

Liam Ridgewell has left the Portland Timbers in order to return to English football for the second year running by moving to Brighton & Hove Albion on a short-term loan deal.

Ridgewell will be eligible to play for Brighton from January 1 and will spend time with the Championship club until February 13, when he will then return to Portland to prepare for the 2016 season.

Brighton had enjoyed a fine start to the 2015/16 Championship season and were unbeaten for 21 games, until Middlesbrough beat them 3-0 two weeks ago, and Chris Hughton’s men have now not won in five.

Hughton worked with Ridgewell during their time at Birmingham City and he hopes that the signing of the versatile 31-year-old defender can help get his side back on track over the next six weeks.

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“I know Liam very well from my time as manager at Birmingham City, and he is an excellent and important addition for us,” Hughton told the club’s official website.

“He will bring extra experience to our defence at a crucial time, and will give me an option both in the centre of defence and at left-back.”

Ridgewell will hope the loan move will keep his match fitness levels up before returning to Portland as the Timbers look to retain their MLS Cup title – an achievement that Ridgewell labelled as “the best feeling of my career”.

Will Liam Ridgewell help Brighton get back on track? Are Portland fans happy to see him move back to England in another loan move?

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Liverpool vs Bournemouth

Competition: Premier League – Liverpool vs. Bournemouth 

Venue: Anfield – Monday, August 17 – 20:00 BST (15:00 ET)

Match Odds: Liverpool 4/9 – Draw 100/30 – Bournemouth 6/1

Match Preview

Liverpool welcome Premier League newboys AFC Bournemouth to Anfield on Monday night as the Reds fans will get their first look at their side without Steven Gerrard leading the team out for the opening league game.

After a summer overhaul that saw Gerrard and Raheem Sterling leave the club, Brendan Rodgers has taken steps to refresh the squad with new talent. The likes of Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke have added threat to a new look Liverpool attack as they look to break back into the top four after a disappointing campaign.

It’s a case of trying to rebuild whilst still aiming high for Liverpool. And after losing your captain and club legend Gerrard, it will be extremely difficult to do so.

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They won 1-0 at Stoke last weekend, gaining revenge from that 6-1 thrashing at the end of last season, but they were far from convincing and need to use Monday night’s game as a platform to impress.

The same can be said for Bournemouth, who will want to prove they deserve to be in the top flight after an impressive display in the Championship last term.

They lost 1-0 at home to Aston Villa last week but created plenty of chances and will look to relish the occasion of playing at Anfield here.

Eddie Howe has certain philosophy he has imprinted on the south coast but their positive style football must also bring points as they look to extend their stay in the top flight past the end of the season.

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This will be the first ever league meeting between the two, though they have met twice in less than two years, with Liverpool winning a League Cup and an FA Cup game against the Cherries, both away from Anfield.

Team News

Liverpool will be without Jon Flanagan and Daniel Sturridge who remain long-term absentees. Joe Allen is a doubt after sustaining an injury in preseason. Roberto Firmino will hope to start behind Christian Benteke up top.

Bournemouth have Christian Atsu and Shaun MacDonald as doubts but Atsu should play some part. Harry Arter is expected to miss Monday’s game after missing most of preseason.

Key Points

Liverpool’s form: W

Bournemouth’s form: L

Key Stat: Monday night will be the first time the two sides have met in the Football League.

Key Player: Christian Benteke – New Liverpool striker Benteke will want to open his Reds account after drawing a blank against Stoke last weekend and will look to impress on his home debut.

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Score Prediction

Liverpool 2-0 Bournemouth – Liverpool looked average at best last weekend but should have enough to win comfortably at home in what could be a tight game. Bournemouth’s free-flowing style of play could cause the Reds problems but it may be too tough a test for Eddie Howe’s men to pass this early on in the season.

Arsenal legend thinks the club can win the league with French striker

Olivier Giroud has been the topic of public debate for little under a week now after it was suggested that Arsenal would fail to win the Premier League title with the French international as the lone striker.

Arsenal invincible Thierry Henry suggested that Arsenal need another forward after Chelsea clinched the title on Sunday against Crystal Palace, continuing Arsenal’s ten-year wait for another championship.

“I’m afraid, they need a top, top quality striker to win this league again,” Henry said.

However, Sky Sports pundit and former Arsenal star Charlie Nicholas has argued that Gunners boss Arsene Wenger doesn’t “particularly want or need a new striker”, going on to suggest that Arsenal “can win the league with Olivier Giroud”.

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The last time Arsenal won the coveted title was in the 2003-04 season when they unprecedentedly went unbeaten. During that season Thierry Henry scored an unbelievable 30 league goals.

Currently Giroud has an impressive 14 league goals in just 23 games, although his season has been hindered by injury.

Thierry Henry Appearances Goals Goals Per Game
2003-04 Season 37 30 0.81
Olivier Giroud Appearances Goals Goals Per Game
2014-15 Season 23 14 0.61

As you can see from the table above, Giroud falls short once again of the proficiency required to propel his club to the title and maybe with more consistent output, Arsenal can regain the Premier League.

Do you think Arsenal can win the Premier League with Olivier Giroud as their main striker?

Middlesbrough defender Seb Hines set to seal move to Orlando City

Orlando City are close to adding the final piece of their defensive jigsaw as the Lions are finalising a loan move for Middlesbrough centre-back Seb Hines, according to the Orlando Sentinel’s Paul Tenorio.

Hines has been with Middlesbrough for the past nine years and has made 87 appearances in that time, scoring five times with four assists, but his contract with the current Championship leaders is set to expire at the end of the current season.

Orlando are prepared to take the 26-year-old Englishman on loan for six months, with the option to sign him for free when his contract with Middlesbrough expires at the end of June.

Hines spent time on loan with League One outfit Coventry City earlier in the current campaign and has only made three league appearances with Boro in 2014/15.

Orlando City’s general manager Paul McDonough revealed earlier this week that the Lions were set to add another defender, with Irishman Sean St Ledger currently on trial with the expansion franchise too.

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“We will be bringing over another English player from the Championship and giving him a full trial as well [as St Ledger]. He can play both at centre-back or on the right, so it’s perfectly possible we could sign both of them.”

The additions of St Ledger and Hines would give Orlando five recognised centre-backs for their debut campaign with Aurelien Collin, Tommy Redding and Conor Donovan already with the team.

Former MLS Cup MVP Collin is the first-choice at the back but St Ledger and Hines will be confident that they have what it takes to partner the experienced Frenchman.

Hines was born in England and has represented the national team at youth levels all the way up to the Under-19’s. Though he is also eligible to play for the US Men’s National Team as he father is an American citizen.

The deal for Hines has not been confirmed by Orlando City yet but an official announcement is expected to be made in the next 24 hours.

Will Seb Hines be a good signing for Orlando City?

Cardiff City’s Danny Gabbidon plays for Chicago Fire in preseason win

Cardiff City defender and defensive coach Danny Gabbidon played for the Chicago Fire in today’s 1-0 preseason win against Queens Park Rangers in London.

Gabbidon is currently under contract with Cardiff until the end of the season in a player/coach role but that didn’t stop him from getting some first-team action under his belt with the Chicago squad in their second preseason outing in England.

Head coach Frank Yallop watched his squad draw 0-0 with Norwich City last week and today’s 1-0 victory against QPR is another positive step as the Eastern Conference side prepare for the new MLS campaign that gets underway in less than a month.

Gabbidon played the entire second-half against QPR at the Premier League club’s training ground and the experienced Welsh centre-back helped the Fire to a valuable clean-sheet.

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“I’ve known Danny and been in contact with him for a long time,” Frank Yallop told MLSGB after today’s game. “He’s a nice kid. He’s toward the end of his career but he’s very fit and very experienced.

“I thought it would be nice to get a look at him here and see how he gets on. It’s just an option for having him back. He’s still under contract but Cardiff allowed him to come down and train.”

Gabbidon has only seen one minute of league action for Cardiff in the Championship this season after returning to the club he played for from 2000-2005.

With his current deal set to expire in the summer he could be an option for the Chicago Fire at the midpoint of the 2015 season but that remains to be seen.

Orlando City to bring in English and Irish defenders this week

Orlando City SC are looking set to bolster their backline with the addition of Republic of Ireland international Sean St Ledger and another unnamed defender from England.

The Lions are preparing for their debut campaign in Major League Soccer and have started their first ever MLS preseason in solid form, with two draws and a 4-0 win against FC Dallas so far.

Sean St Ledger played 45 minutes in a goalless draw with Toronto FC yesterday and the Irishman will be hoping to secure a contract with Orlando after failing to impress DC United enough during a short trial with the Eastern Conference champions.

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Orlando City general manager Paul McDonough revealed that St Ledger is likely to be signed in time for the start of the new season, which gets underway in less than a month, while another defender from England could also be brought in this week.

“Sean is very much first choice at the moment,” McDonough said. “He has the experience and the kind of ability we’re looking for in the middle of the back four.

“But we will also be bringing over another English player from the Championship on Monday or Tuesday and giving him a full trial as well. He can play both at centre-back or on the right, so it’s perfectly possible we could sign both of them.”

St Ledger has been without a club since being released by Ipswich Town at the end of December but he will be hoping to find himself playing regular first-team football again if he can earn a deal with Orlando.

The 30-year-old defender looks like he’s enjoying his trial with Orlando so far as he posted a picture on Twitter with Brazilian superstar Kaka on Sunday.

He could form a solid partnership with Aurelien Collin if signed, while it will be interesting to see who the other unnamed defender will be.

Orlando City already have four English-born players on their roster as English coach Adrian Heath is more than happy to bring players in from across the Atlantic.

How will Orlando City do in their first ever MLS season in 2014?

Liam Ridgewell “dying to get back on the field” after completing loan switch to Wigan

Portland Timbers defender Liam Ridgewell has completed a short-term loan move to English Championship side Wigan Athletic and will train and play with the team for about six weeks.

The 30-year-old moved to MLS with Portland last summer as a Designated Player and made 15 appearances, scoring twice with one assist in his debut campaign as the Timbers narrowly missed out on the playoffs.

He is looking forward to playing in England once again but is fully focused on getting fit in time for the start of the new MLS season in March.

“I have loved my time out in Portland and I can’t wait to get back,” he said after completing the switch to Wigan earlier today.

“But I have had a lot of time off over Christmas and I’m dying to get back on the football field and start training and I’m very glad I’ll be able to do that with Wigan.”

Liam Ridgewell on loan move to Wigan (via Wigan Athletic on YouTube):

The Latics sit second from bottom in the Championship and have only won one of their last ten league games so Ridgewell will hope to help turn things around for the 2013 FA Cup winners.

They have kept just one clean sheet in their last 11 league matches so the Timbers centre-back will need to come in and shore up the backline as he did when moving to MLS last summer.

Gavin Wilkinson, Timbers general manager, revealed they had plenty of interest in the English defender but said the move to Wigan suited the Timbers best as he will back in time for the 2015 Simple Invitational on February 22.

Liam Ridgewell Portland Timbers Thumbs Up

“Liam expressed an interest in staying in the UK on a short-term loan as this offseason is longer than any he has encountered in his professional career,” Wilkinson said.

“He wants to start the 2015 MLS season on the right foot. Several clubs had contacted us in regards to taking him on loan, however with us dictating the terms and timing of this deal it was not viable for all concerned.

“We feel that this deal works well for both the player and the club. Liam will return to Portland in time to prepare for the season with the Timbers and be match fit and sharp.”

Is a short-term loan move to Wigan a good thing for Liam Ridgewell and the Portland Timbers?

Vancouver Whitecaps striker Darren Mattocks joins Bournemouth for training stint

Vancouver Whitecaps forward, Darren Mattocks, has joined high-flying English Championship side AFC Bournemouth in a weeklong training stint.

A week in England with Bournemouth will allow Mattocks to compare his ability to those in the squad of the Championship leaders, and the pacey forward will hope to impress as the Cherries are well on their way to the Premier League at the midpoint of the season, having not lost in 14 league games now.

The Jamaican striker was drafted second overall by the Whitecaps in 2012 and has made over 70 appearances for the club, scoring 16 times. A goal return that could be significantly better and there have been rumours that Mattocks could be traded away this offseason.

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Six goals and three assists in 30 appearances last season is not a bad return, but Mattocks and the Whitecaps know he is capable of more.

“I always think I could be better, regardless of what [I do],” Mattocks said at the end of last season.

“I always can work on stuff. Movement, finishing, everything. Even if I scored a bunch of goals this season, scoring, movement, all the stuff a player needs to work on to get better over time.

“I’m adapting, it’s good. I’m always going to be adapting, and next season’s going to be the same thing: keep getting better and try my best to help the team move forward.”

What do you make of Darren Mattocks’ move to Bournemouth for a weeklong training spell?

Should LA Galaxy consider taking Darren Bent to MLS?

Aston Villa forward Darren Bent has a wealth of talent in front of goal and will always find the net, but with a lack of playing time in the Premier League could he be tempted by a move to Major League Soccer?

He has found himself a little out of favour with the Midlands side and is currently spending time with Championship side Brighton & Hove Albion on a short-term loan spell.

It could be the right time for Bent to take on a new challenge and MLS could be a great destination for him.

As we know LA Galaxy are still on the hunt for a replacement for Landon Donovan and it could be a great move for both sides if the Galaxy took a gamble on the 30-year-old.

Galaxy star Robbie Keane has played with Bent at both Tottenham and Aston Villa and so the pair could form a solid partnership in MLS if the Englishman were targeted.

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Bent is at a good age for a move stateside and can take many positives from other former Premier League strikers who are now thriving in Major League Soccer.

The likes of Keane and Jermain Defoe have set the league alight and are idolised by their club’s supporters as a result. For any striker this is a perfect scenario, as it boosts confidence to the maximum.

Bent has scored wherever he has played and he netted for current side Brighton just three days after joining on loan.

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MLS would offer him a great opportunity to enjoy his football and find consistent playing time, where he would probably play 90 minutes every game.

He has an impressive strike rate of almost one in two and with an outlet like him, LA Galaxy would find themselves in an even stronger position to challenge on all fronts once again this season.

The experience he can bring to any squad is worthwhile and he could also set a great example to up-and-coming young players.

Would Darren Bent be an MLS success if he were to move stateside?