FA Cup Preview and Prediction: Liverpool vs West Ham

Competition: FA Cup Fourth Round – Liverpool vs. West Ham United

Venue: Anfield – Saturday, January 30 – 17:30 GMT (12:30 ET)

Match Odds Liverpool 29/10 – Draw 12/5 – West Ham 29/10

Match Preview

Liverpool play host to West Ham in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday evening in what is a repeat of the 2006 final that saw Liverpool fight back from 3-1 down to win on penalties.

Liverpool are facing their third match in seven days here. They booked a Wembley date with Manchester City for February 28th after their League Cup semifinal victory over Stoke City on penalties on Tuesday.

But with plenty of key players having played that match, Jurgen Klopp could rest some of those stars for the West Ham game, especially as they head to Leicester City on Tuesday night.

If the Reds do advance to the fifth round, it will mean they play at least seven matches next month as the fixtures just keep coming. So some big decisions lie at the German manager’s door on what to prioritise.

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Christian Benteke could lead the line for Liverpool after starting on the bench against Stoke. He started both games against Exeter City in the third round of this competition.

For West Ham, the 2006 FA Cup final has been the closest the club has come to winning silverware since 1980. With the Hammer’s league form so strong, and with the scalps they have been pulling off, they could well go deep into this year’s FA Cup.

This competition gives them their last chance of winning silverware before they leave Upton Park for their move to the Olympic Stadium next season.

West Ham can take huge confidence from completing a league double over their counterparts on Saturday, scoring five goals and conceding none in the two league matches against Liverpool.

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With longer rest time than their opponents too, they could inflict some serious damage on the Reds.

Dimitri Payet is a man that Liverpool will need to halt, as the Frenchman has been so impressive since joining from Marseille in the Summer. One defeat in eleven has seen the Hammers move up into sixth place in the league, one place above the Reds in seventh, so this should be a close battle.

Team News

The match comes too soon for the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho, Martin Skrtel and Divock Origi, while Danny Ings and Joe Gomez are long-term absentees.

West Ham recently lost Carl Jenkinson for the season. James Tomkins, Michail Antonio and Mark Noble are racing to bit fit, while Andy Carroll is expected to be back in training next week. Diafra Sakho is still missing through a knee injury.

Key Points

Liverpool’s last five in all competitions: D/L/W/W/L

West Ham’s last five in all competitions: W/W/W/L/D

Key Stat: Liverpool haven’t conceded a goal at Anfield in the FA Cup since 2012, which coincides with the last time they got to the final, when they played Chelsea in a 2-1 loss.

Key Player: Dimitri Payet – When Payet is on the pitch West Ham look a totally different side. He is West Ham’s top scorer and leader in assists and is a true fan favourite. He can cause problems for a Liverpool backline that has been decimated by injuries in recent weeks and he is more than capable of unlocking the door that can send West Ham to the next round.

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Score Prediction

Liverpool 0-2 West Ham – A first league double over Liverpool since 1952 will give the Hammers huge amounts of confidence going into this one. Injuries on both sets of teams deplete the matchup of key players. But West Ham are confident away from home as victories over Arsenal, Manchester City and their opponents Liverpool have already shown. Whoever wins will be feared in round five.

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MLS Preview and Prediction: Toronto vs Montreal Impact

Competition: Major League Soccer – Toronto vs. Montreal Impact

Venue: BMO Field – Wednesday, June 24 – 20:00 ET (01:00 BST – Thursday, June 25)

Match Odds: Toronto 5/6 – Draw 11/4 – Montreal Impact 3/1

Match Preview

Toronto FC and Montreal Impact clash in a crucial MLS Canadian derby at BMO Field on Wednesday night.

Toronto come into the 401 derby following an extremely disappointing 2-0 home defeat to New York City at the weekend, which marked their first loss in five games.

Greg Vanney’s side had previously won three on the bounce and they currently sit fourth in the Eastern Conference with 19 points from their opening 13 games.

The Reds also have numerous games in hand on the teams above them, so they’re in a good spot as it stands and a win over their Canadian rivals could lift them into third depending on other results.

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Montreal Impact will arrive in high spirits after an impressive 2-0 win against Orlando City last time out and have won five of their last seven games.

The Impact secured a first MLS away win since September 2013 when they beat the Columbus Crew 2-1 on June 6, so that’s a burden they will be happy to have off their back and should give them a real incentive to believe they can win the derby.

Frank Klopas’ side are fifth in the Eastern Conference with 17 points from 12 games and will leapfrog Toronto with a victory as their challenge for a playoff spot this season is in good shape.

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The last MLS meeting between the two sides was a 1-1 draw back in October 2014. They most recently met in the 2015 Canadian Championship with the Impact winning the first leg 1-0 and Toronto winning the second leg 3-2 as Montreal progressed on away goals.

Team News

Toronto’s Clement Simonin (knee), Steven Caldwell (achilles), Mark Bloom (leg) and Daniel Lovitz (knee) are all out injured.

Montreal Impact will be without the injured Adrian Lopez (knee), Justin Mapp (elbow), Cameron Porter (knee) and Kenny Cooper (knee). There’s also doubts over the fitness of Hassoun Camara (knee) and Eric Miller (hamstring).

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Key Points

Toronto’s last five in MLS: D/W/W/W/L

Montreal Impact’s last five in MLS: L/W/W/L/W

Key Stat: Montreal Impact have failed to win 27 of their last 28 away matches in MLS (D7, L20). The Impact have also never beaten Toronto away from home.

Key Player: Sebastian Giovinco – The Italian has been a revelation so far and if ever there is a game that the Toronto fans want see him provide the goods, then this is it. He could make the difference as he has done so many times this season already.

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Score Prediction

Toronto 2-2 Montreal Impact – This is a clash that has the potential to be a fascinating watch. And it’s likely it will be, as both sides will hopefully serve up an entertaining affair that should provide us with goals.

STATS: Could this young MLS star replace Raheem Sterling at Liverpool?

It’s looking increasingly likely that Raheem Sterling is heading for the Liverpool exit door this summer after turning down a £100,000-a-week deal and the transfer rumours are growing rapidly.

With that in mind, the Reds may already be eyeing up a potential replacement, and will probably be scouting the top European clubs to see who they can bring in to fill the void left by Sterling should he leave.

An alternative option to consider is looking outside of Europe and the possibility of making a move for a player in the mould of FC Dallas winger, and one of Major League Soccer‘s hottest prospects, Fabian Castillo.

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The 22-year-old Colombian has had an excellent start to the 2015 MLS season with Dallas and has continued from where he left off in 2014. But how does Castillo compare statistically to Sterling over the course of 2014 and 2015?

Apps

Mins

Goals

Assists

Total goals contributed

Total goals contributed-per-game

Successful take ons-per-game

Raheem Sterling

35

3,047

7

7

14

0.40

2.94

Fabian Castillo

39

3,355

14

9

23

0.59

4.49

The stats show that Castillo contributes more goals-per-game and has more successful take ons-per-game than Raheem Sterling has had this season.

While no-one is suggesting that the level of the Premier League and MLS is comparable, the numbers still show that Castillo is an exciting prospect and if he continues to grow at the rate he currently is, he will undoubtedly draw attention from top European clubs.

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The Colombian attacker has raw pace and at just 22-years-old, he is a long way from reaching his peak as he improves consistently each season.

Replacing Sterling is going to be a tough task for Liverpool and any potential new signing will have his work cut-out trying to live up to the Anfield faithful’s expectations, but Fabian Castillo could be a realistic option if he carries on performing.

Would you like to see Fabian Castillo in the Premier League? Or should he stay in MLS?

Steven Gerrard writes emotional farewell letter to fans ahead of LA Galaxy move

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has delivered one final message to the fans before he jets off for the USA in July to join up with his LA Galaxy teammates and prepares for life in MLS.

“Saying goodbye hasn’t been easy. Liverpool Football Club has been such a massive part of my life since I was eight years old and I know how much I’m going to miss it,” said Gerrard in an open letter.

“It’s been an emotional time for my family and I with my final game at Anfield against Crystal Palace and then my last appearance away to Stoke City. But I’ve been blown away by the send-off I’ve been given by the supporters and I’d like to thank every one of you.

“It’s been very humbling and it’s something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. It’s been an absolute privilege to represent this football club for so long.”

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The 34-year-old points to the dramatic Champions League final turnaround against AC Milan in 2005 as the highlight of his time at Anfield and is thankful for the support the fans have given him.

“Of course the pinnacle of my career arrived in Istanbul 10 years ago. That was the best night of my life. When I lifted the European Cup, there was no prouder man on the planet.”

“It meant so much to me to deliver that trophy for you. The supporters played such a big part in helping to inspire that famous comeback against AC Milan. I’ll never forget how they helped to lift our chins off the floor after that nightmare first half.”

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The ex-England skipper hasn’t bemoaned the extra responsibility that came with being the main man at such a big club but says it was something he enjoyed.

“People have often asked me about the pressure on my shoulders to deliver for Liverpool but I’ve never seen that as a burden. There’s been huge responsibility on me but I’ve always loved and embraced that. It’s been a massive honour to be captain of this club for so long.”

Gerrard rounded off his goodbye with a short and simple message that most Liverpool fans would agree is a fair reflection on the efforts he’s put in for the club.

“I’ve always given my best and tried to lead by example.”

Will Liverpool cope with life after Steven Gerrard? And will he enjoy his MLS experience with LA Galaxy?

Atletico Madrid star aspires to be like Liverpool legend and LA Galaxy DP

Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke has revealed that he would like to replicate the legacy of departing Liverpool legend and new LA Galaxy Designated Player Steven Gerrard.

“I have a contract with Atletico, I want to accomplish things and I am happy here. Of course I’d like to be Atleti’s Gerrard,” Koke told FourFourTwo magazine.

The 23-year-old has scored two goals and made ten assists in La Liga this season and although he has been linked with moves to Manchester United and Chelsea in the last few months, it looks like he is keen to stay at the Vicente Calderon for as long as possible.

Koke began his youth career with Atletico back in 2000 at the age of eight and has been in the Spanish capital ever since. He broke into the first-team in 2009 when he was 17-years-old and has been a regular in midfield for the last six years.

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The Spaniard’s career so far follows a similar pattern to that of Gerrard’s – the Englishman began his youth career with Liverpool in 1987 at the age of seven before bursting on to the first-team scene in 1998 as an 18-year-old.

Gerrard will arrive at LA Galaxy at some point in July and will look to improve the performances of his new side who are currently struggling with just three wins (D5, L4) from their opening 12 gamesand are seventh out of ten in the Western Conference.

The 34-year-old will play his last Premier League game for Liverpool on Sunday away at Stoke City before he prepares for his MLS adventure with a short summer break.

Can Koke replicate Steven Gerrard’s Liverpool achievements at Atletico Madrid? And will Gerrard be a success at LA Galaxy?

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Arsenal vs Liverpool

Competition: Premier League – Arsenal vs Liverpool

Venue: Emirates Stadium – Saturday, April 4 – 12:45 BST (07:45 EDT)

Match Odds: Arsenal 4/5 – Draw 13/5 – Liverpool 100/30

Match Preview

Arsenal and Liverpool clash at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday lunchtime in the Premier League‘s stand-out fixture of the weekend.

These two sides have been the best Premier League teams in 2015 so far and this game represents another huge moment in the race for Champions League qualification, with Liverpool five points adrift of fourth and six points behind third-placed Arsenal.

Defeat for Liverpool in this game will leave them desperately playing catch-up and they arguably need to go all out for the win to stand any chance of making the top four.

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Meanwhile, Arsenal can heap the pressure on Manchester City as a win would see them leapfrog City into second, even if only for a few hours.

The Gunners are on an impressive run of six straight wins in the league and have lost just twice in their last 15 games, winning 12 and drawing one.

Liverpool have also been in great form and their 2-1 defeat at home to Manchester United last time out was their first Premier League loss in 14 matches after they’d been on a 13-game unbeaten run, consisting of ten wins and three draws.

Arsenal’s main man in recent weeks has been the in-form striker Olivier Giroud – the Frenchman has scored nine goals in his last nine games in all competitions as well as six in his last five Premier League matches.

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Arsene Wenger will certainly be hoping that Giroud and his Arsenal teammates can continue from where they left off following the international break.

Brendan Rodgers will be urging his players to call upon the performance that famously ripped Arsenal apart at Anfield in that 5-1 win back in February 2014.

The reverse fixture between these two sides this season ended as a 2-2 draw in dramatic fashion as a 97th minute header from Martin Skrtel rescued a point for the Reds after goals from Mathieu Debuchy and Olivier Giroud had given Arsenal the lead following Philippe Coutinho‘s opener.

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Team News

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring) remains out for Arsenal, while Danny Welbeck suffered a knee injury on international duty but could still make the squad. Mathieu Debuchy, Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby all featured in a friendly against Brentford on Tuesday but it is unlikely any of them will play due to lack of match sharpness. Tomas Rosicky could also return to the squad following illness.

Liverpool will be without skipper Steven Gerrard as he begins a three-match ban following his red card against Manchester United. Martin Skrtel is also unavailable after he was suspended retrospectively for a stamp on David De Gea. Jon Flanagan remains out with injury, while Adam Lallana (groin), Dejan Lovren (abdominal) and Daniel Sturridge (groin) are all trying to recover and could be doubtful. Youngster Jordan Ibe is also out injured.

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Key Points

Arsenal’s last five in the Premier League: W/W/W/W/W

Liverpool’s last five in the Premier League: W/W/W/W/L

Key Stat: Arsenal have only lost one out of their last 14 games at home to Liverpool in the Premier League (W7, D6).

Key Player: Aaron Ramsey – The Welshman is starting to show glimpses of the incredible performances we saw last season and his goals from midfield between now and the end of the season will be crucial – his battle with Jordan Henderson will be one to watch.

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Score Prediction

Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool – Arsenal are on a great run of form and Liverpool are missing a few key players. This will be a tight but very entertaining game and the Gunners should just edge it with the home advantage.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Columbus Crew vs Toronto FC

Competition: Major League Soccer – Columbus Crew vs Toronto FC

Venue: Mapfre Stadium – Saturday, March 14 – 19:30 ET (23:30 GMT )

Match Odds: Columbus Crew 13/10 – Draw 9/4 – Toronto FC 15/8

Match Preview

Columbus Crew host Toronto FC at the Mapfre Stadium on Saturday evening for the second game of the 2015 MLS season in a key Eastern Conference clash.

Columbus Crew didn’t get off to the best start after suffering a narrow 1-0 defeat away at Houston Dynamo last weekend, although they may count themselves unlucky as they dominated possession and managed to get 18 shots away but just couldn’t find the net.

Toronto FC couldn’t have asked for a much better result in their opening game as they won 3-1 away at Canadian rivals Vancouver Whitecaps thanks to goals from Jozy Altidore and Robbie Findley.

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Columbus enjoyed six consecutive wins on home soil at the end of the 2014 regular season, so they will be hoping to continue where they left off at the Mapfre Stadium against a Toronto side who recorded their first away win for seven games in MLS last time out.

Head Coach Gregg Berhalter led The Crew to the playoffs for the first time in three years last season and he will certainly be confident that he can replicate that achievement, but with such a competitive Eastern Conference, Columbus will be desperate to get early points on the board.

Greg Vanney‘s Toronto have been the subject of attention throughout the preseason due to the resources they’ve invested in the squad as they’ve brought in key players in the shape of Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco and Benoit Cheyrou.

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Although it’s very early days, they look to have hit the ground running and their quality was immediately evident in the first game last weekend. The club will be hoping that they continue to justify the expenditure their arrivals demanded.

As well as a significantly improved squad, recent history is also on Toronto’s side when it comes to fixtures against Columbus. The Reds won all three of the games between these two sides last season, with the most recent meeting providing an entertaining 3-2 win for Toronto back in August 2014.

Having said that, in the games before the 2014 season, Toronto had managed just two wins from 19 attempts against Columbus with The Crew coming out on top on ten occasions and drawing seven.

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It’s tightly poised and with two teams that like to get the ball down and play in an entertaining way, we could be in for a real treat.

Team News

Columbus Crew midfielder Romain Gall may not be fit for action after he missed the last game with a knee injury while Tony Tchani will miss the game after being issued with a one-match suspension for endangering the safety of an opponent in last week’s 1-0 loss to Houston. Toronto FC have no injuries or suspensions to take into consideration and are likely to field an unchanged side.

Key Points

Columbus Crew’s form: L

Toronto FC’s form: W

Key Stat: The last five meetings between Columbus and Toronto have produced 17 goals, so we can hope for more of the same.

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Key Player: Jozy Altidore – The USMNT striker marked his return to Major League Soccer with two goals and looks full of confidence once again. With Giovinco, Bradley and Cheyrou orchestrating the midfield behind him, chances will inevitably come his way.

Score Prediction

Columbus Crew 1-2 Toronto FC – Columbus were unlucky to lose last week against Houston. Toronto certainly weren’t lucky to win at Vancouver and they looked very strong. The Reds should have too much firepower for Columbus to handle.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Liverpool vs Manchester City

Competition: Premier League – Liverpool vs Manchester City

Venue: Anfield – Sunday, March 1st – 12:00 GMT (07:00 ET)

Match Odds: Liverpool 15/8 – Draw 5/2 – Man City 11/8

Match Preview

Liverpool and Manchester City clash at Anfield on Sunday lunchtime in what is undoubtedly one of the biggest games of the Premier League season so far.

Liverpool come in to this game as the form side in the Premier League and they have managed to propel themselves to within just two points of the all important top-four places as they continue their fight to qualify for Champions league football.

Man City are desperate for points as they look to close the gap on league leaders Chelsea in an attempt to retain their Premier League title. A win for City would leave them just two points off the top with Chelsea in League Cup final action against Tottenham this weekend.

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Brendan Rodgers saw his Liverpool side suffer defeat over the course of 90 minutes for the first time in 18 games in all competitions when they lost 1-0 to Turkish side Besiktas before being knocked out on penalties in their Europa League last-32 second-leg tie in Istanbul on Thursday night.

However, the Reds are on a 10-game unbeaten run in the Premier League (W7, D3), they’re the only team that haven’t lost in 2015 and they’ve kept five clean sheets in their last six games.

Visitors Manchester City also suffered a midweek defeat as Barcelona beat them 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium in the first-leg of their Champions League last-16 knockout round on Tuesday.

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Although Manuel Pellegrini and his players look to have come out the other side of a sticky spell in the Premier League after comprehensive 4-1 and 5-0 wins over Stoke and Newcastle respectively. Before those two victories, City had recorded just one win in six games (D4, L1).

Goals from Stevan Jovetic and Sergio Aguero helped Manchester City beat Liverpool 3-1 in the reverse fixture back in August but memories of Liverpool’s 3-2 win over City at Anfield last year will still be fresh in the mind of both sides.

It’s a crucial fixture for each of these teams and they will both be absolutely desperate to pick up all three points, which could make for a potential Premier League classic.

Team News

Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho is expected to return to the starting line-up after being rested against Besiktas. Glen Johnson (illness), Mamadou Sakho (injury) and Lazar Markovic (suspension) are all available once again. Jordan Henderson will face a late decision over an ankle injury and skipper Steven Gerrard could return to the squad. Lucas Leiva, Jon Flanagan and Brad Jones are all still out injured.

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Manchester City face no injury or suspension problems, but they will be delighted to welcome Yaya Toure back to the side after he missed the midweek defeat to Barcelona through suspension.

Key Points

Liverpool’s last five in the Premier League: W/W/D/W/W

Manchester City’s last five in the Premier League: L/D/D/W/W

Key Stat: Manchester City haven’t won at Anfield on their last 12 visits. They have also recorded just one win on Merseyside against Liverpool in their previous 26 attempts.

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Key Player: Yaya Toure – It’s hard to look past Toure as the key player. He’s so influential to this City side and it’s no coincidence that they seem to have found their form now he’s returned from the African Cup of Nations.

Score Prediction

Liverpool 2-2 Manchester City – This is a battle of two excellent sides and we can expect an entertaining affair. We should see goals at both ends and a draw seems the most likely result with so much at stake.