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Arsenal – Aston Villa Preview: Sherwood out to upset holders in FA Cup final

The Villans boss insists all the pressure is on his opponents for the Wembley showpiece, while his counterpart is yet to decide on his starting line-up after recent performances


Tim Sherwood believes all the pressure will be on Arsenal when he leads his Aston Villa side out at Wembley in the FA Cup final.

Arsenal lifted the trophy last season with a 3-2 win over Hull City after extra time and will start Saturday’s game as favourites having finished third in the Premier League.

Villa, by contrast, finished one place above the relegation zone, with Sherwood’s appointment in February proving crucial to the club securing survival.

A rejuventated Villa upset the odds by beating Liverpool 2-1 in their semi-final last month, and the former Tottenham boss sees no reason why they cannot repeat the feat this weekend.

“To be part of an FA Cup final is a fantastic achievement for this football club. I’m very proud,” said Sherwood.

“The pressure is on Arsenal. It’s a one-off game and form goes out the window. They’ve been there and done it before. We’re not going there to make up the numbers.

“The boys performed in the semi-final. I hope we can do the same. I know what the boys are capable of in one-off games. On big occasions they’ve produced the goods and we need to do it one more time.

“I believe we’re going to get a performance like we put in against Liverpool. We intend to take the game to them.

“The boys know they can make history. Someone can be a hero in there. It’s an opportunity for everyone to write the history books again.”

Villa have gone 58 years without lifting the FA Cup, while their most recent final appearance in 2000 – the last final at the old Wembley – ended in a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea.

Arsenal, meanwhile, are bidding to become the most successful side in the competition’s history, with their 11 victories to date matched only by Manchester United.

Arsene Wenger has overseen five of those triumphs, and the Frenchman gave little away when discussing his likely team selection for Saturday’s meeting.

“It is important to focus as a whole squad on winning the trophy,” said Wenger. “Most of the time the heroes are the people who come on in an FA Cup final – they make the difference.

“That’s why it is important as a reward for the whole team who have fought very hard the whole season to get there. Let’s deal with it as a whole squad.

“I have some big selection decisions to make on Saturday. Even to leave some top internationals out of the squad shows that we have a very big squad.

“What is important is that we do not make too many individual cases before the cup final. It’s the whole team who can win it.

“I don’t know who will start yet and it’s not important because it’s just on the day in the FA Cup final. What is important is that you bring the trophy back. It’s always a concern for the whole squad.”

Wenger will be without striker Danny Welbeck, who is suffering with a knee injury, although Mathieu Debuchy (hamstring) and Mikel Arteta (ankle) are in contention.

For Villa, Shay Given and Kieran Richardson are back in training after respective groin and calf problems while Jores Okore (knee) and Libor Kozak (back) are doubtful.

 
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Verona – Juventus Preview: Ogbonna seeks strong Champions League warm-up

In their penultimate game of the season, the Bianconeri will hope to put in a good performance ahead of their Champions League final next week

Angelo Ogbonna has urged Juventus to finish their Serie A season in style as they play their final game before facing Barcelona in the Champions League final.

Juve have already clinched the league title and Coppa Italia and victory over Barca next week will see them lift a historic treble.

Before then, though, the Bianconeri have to complete their domestic campaign and centre-back Ogbonna is keen to put on a show.

“We are already preparing for June 6,” Ogbonna told Juve’s official website. “We want to have a good match against Verona to end our season in the best possible way before looking towards the Champions League final.”

Ogbonna pin-pointed two moments that have defined as Massimiliano Allegri’s men’s season, adding: “There’s the Coppa Italia, which we finally won after 20 years with a great final and a great semi-final against Fiorentina in Florence.

“Perhaps that was the real turning point of the season, along with the 3-1 away win in the league against Napoli in January.”

Few would back against Juve finishing off their season strongly, considering they have lost just three times in the league this season.

However, the Bentegodi has proved a difficult ground for Juve, with the club’s last two visits both finishing 2-2.

 
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Atalanta – AC Milan Preview: Inzaghi's last chance to prove worth

With rumours of a Carlo Ancelotti return building, Inzaghi could be taking charge of his last game on Saturday after an underwhelming campaign

There may be little riding on Saturday’s Serie A clash between Atalanta and AC Milan, but the fixture could provide Filippo Inzaghi with one final chance to save his job.

The Milan boss has been close to the San Siro exit door for months, but has stood firm in the face of speculation about his future.

Carlo Ancelotti’s sacking as Real Madrid head coach has only served to turn up the heat on Inzaghi, with the club openly revealing their desire to bring him back.

Inzaghi will be one of few people at San Siro hoping not to see Ancelotti at the helm next term, but he will have to prove his worth at Atalanta, who are already assured of safety in 17th place.

Midfielder Andrea Poli acknowledged the difficulties the side have faced over the past 12 months but said it was important they ended the campaign on the right note.

“It has been difficult, but we want to end it with a win to then start off again with the right momentum next year,” he told the club’s official website. 

“The next season has to start off in the best of ways, we have to develop a mentality out on the pitch to always win and to achieve something important, because everyone at the club deserves it.

“I am always committed to playing and giving my very best and it will be exactly the same next season.”

Milan have lost their last two meetings with Atalanta – beaten 2-1 on the road last season before succumbing to a solitary German Denis strike at home in January.

Inzaghi’s men have not registered back-to-back victories since early April, so the former striker will be looking to build on a 3-0 win over Torino last time out.

The Rossoneri have close to a full squad to choose from, however, although Stephan El Shaarawy, Giampaolo Pazzini and Mattia De Sciglio have trained separately from the rest of the team this week.

 
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Hodgson wary of outstaying England welcome

The 67-year-old is not ready to rule out extending his current contract, which expires after Euro 2016, but notes the downturn in popularly suffered by the likes of Fabio Capello


Roy Hodgson is open to extending his stay as England manager beyond Euro 2016, but is wary of overstaying his welcome.

The 67-year-old currently has a contact which expires following the tournament in France in a year’s time and is enjoying his time in charge, with England recording a 100 per cent record from their first five qualifiers.

Hodgson, though, has acknowledged the downturn in popularity both Sven-Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello suffered after disappointing tournaments and is not willing to stay where he is not welcome.

“If you could promise me my life would be as great as it is at the moment for the next three years, of course I would be delighted to carry on,” he told reporters.

“But I am a football realist. I know what football does and can do. And I also know what overstaying your welcome can do and I would really not want to do that.

“Of course it’s tempting to think that one could stay longer … but it has got to be wanted, first by the FA, and it has to be wanted by the English people because you see so many examples.

“[Sven-Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello] were not that unpopular going into the tournament, they come out and everyone is saying ‘oh God, we don’t want the next two years’. I would not want that to happen.

“I don’t want that at 68 coming on 69 years of age, I don’t want that. But I also don’t want to say that I would definitely stop football after 2016 at the age of 69 because I don’t think I can do a job in football.

“I have no idea what the FA are thinking in that respect. I am very, very comfortable enjoying the moment. If Euro 2016 is to be my last tournament, that is fine. I won’t be bitterly disappointed.”

Next up for Hodgson and England is a friendly clash with Republic of Ireland on June 7 before travelling to Slovenia a week later as their European Championship qualifiers resume.

 
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Sherwood urges Benteke to ignore Liverpool for bigger and better

The striker is in demand this summer after a return to form in the second half of the season, but his manager insists he is good enough to earn a move to Europe’s elite


Tim Sherwood has told Christian Benteke to ignore interest from Liverpool in favour of staying at Aston Villa and earning a move to a bigger club.

Goal

exclusively revealed in April that Villa will demand €42 million for their in-form striker, with Sherwood keen to deter bids for the Belgian, who has nine goals in his last eight games, with a hefty price tag.

Sherwood accepts that a buyout clause in Benteke’s contract means the striker’s future is potentially out of the club’s hands but feels an extra year at Villa Park, leading up to Euro 2016, would serve him better.

“There’s a buyout clause in his contract so it will be impossible for us to stop him if he wants to go,” Sherwood told reporters. “Someone’s got to meet that buyout clause and if they don’t it won’t be considered because we don’t want to lose him.

“We’re building up to a European Championship, which is a huge stage for Christian, and a tournament where you feel that Belgium will be one of the favourites to win it. By playing for Aston Villa it hasn’t hindered him being the first choice for Belgium up to now.

“If he were to stay here and score at the ratio that he has since I took over, and ends up with 20 or 30 goals next season and then has a good Euros, he is probably playing for Real Madrid [in 2016]. Christian could go to the best club in the world if he scores 30 goals next season. He could be that good.”

When pressed on why a prized asset has such a clause, Sherwood added: “Everyone has it,” he said. “Most players would have one when they sign new contracts.” He then joked: “Am I surprised? No – £100m.”

 
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