A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Sunday:
Old rivals Liverpool and Manchester United meet in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Liverpool’s poor recent form gives United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer an excellent chance of his first win over Liverpool as a coach. Jürgen Klopp’s team has won just one of its last six games in all competitions and failed to score in four of those six matches. Liverpool and United drew 0-0 in the Premier League a week ago at Anfield. Chelsea has won just three of its last nine games as it faces second-tier Luton for a place in the fifth round and Leicester plays Brentford without injured forward Jamie Vardy. Fulham faces Burnley and Everton takes on Sheffield Wednesday.
Atlético Madrid hosts Valencia and is seeking a seventh straight win in the Spanish league to strengthen its hold at the top. Atlético midfielder Héctor Herrera is back from injury, but defender Kieran Trippier remains suspended for breaking betting rules in England and Mario Hermoso is injured. Diego Simeone’s side leads second-place Real Madrid by four points and has played two fewer games. Barcelona needs to win at Elche to reclaim third place from Sevilla. Lionel Messi will miss the match serving the second of a two-game suspension for hitting an Athletic Bilbao player in the Spanish Super Cup final. Barcelona will have United States defender Sergiño Dest back from injury for the game. Coach Ronald Koeman says his players must improve at penalties after missing seven of 12 spot kicks this campaign, including two against a third-tier team in the Copa del Rey midweek. Granada visits Osasuna, while Eibar is at Celta Vigo.
Sixth-place Juventus has the chance to gain some ground in the Serie A title race when it hosts Bologna. With a win, the nine-time defending champion can move within seven points of Italian league leader AC Milan, which was beaten 3-0 at home by Atalanta on Saturday. Second-place Inter Milan also dropped points with a 0-0 draw at Udinese. Even after playing Bologna, Juventus will still have a match in hand. Fifth-place Napoli faces a tricky visit to ninth-place Hellas Verona, and seventh-place Lazio hosts eighth-place Sassuolo. Genoa plays Cagliari in a matchup of two teams fighting to avoid the drop zone while relegation-threatened Parma hosts Sampdoria.
Bayern Munich can stretch its lead at the top of the Bundesliga with a win over Schalke after its main rivals — Leipzig, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund — all lost their games. Bayern hammered Schalke 8-0 on the opening day of the season and will be confident of another win against a team which is last in the league and in financial trouble. There are some bright spots for Schalke, with veteran striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar returning to the club and the 19-year-old Matthew Hoppe on a good run of scoring form. Hoffenheim hosts Cologne in the other game.
Second-place Lille needs to win at fifth-place Rennes to stay level on points with leader Paris Saint-Germain, which has a much better goal difference. It promises to be a tight game in chilly Brittany. Rennes has found its form again after being knocked out of the Champions League group stage and is unbeaten in seven games, winning five of those. If Lille loses, Lyon can move into second place with a win away to local rival Saint-Etienne, which has several players out with the coronavirus. Former France coach Raymond Domenech is unbeaten since taking charge of struggling Nantes, which is just above the relegation zone. But after three gritty draws Domenech will hope for a first win when his side goes to midtable Metz.
Last season’s FA Cup winner Arsenal was eliminated from the competition in the fourth round on Saturday thanks to Gabriel’s own-goal in a 1-0 loss to Southampton, while Manchester City survived a scare to beat fourth-tier Cheltenham 3-1.
In an otherwise close game, Gabriel's decision to try to block a shot from Kyle Walker-Peters proved decisive for Arsenal losing its hold on the cup.
Right-back Walker-Peters was allowed plenty of space to overlap the Arsenal defense, but his shot looked to be heading narrowly wide of the far post before Gabriel's failed attempt deflected the ball off the post and in. It was the first goal Arsenal had conceded since Dec. 26 after five consecutive shutouts.
"I’m very disappointed because we wanted to continue in the competition, we had a dream to do it again like last year and the dream today is over,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said.
“I am as well disappointed with the way we conceded the goal in an area where we know we shouldn’t be doing that," he added. "At the same time, I cannot fault the effort of the players, how they tried and how they went to get a goal in the second half.”
Arsenal has won the FA Cup a record 14 times and Arteta before kickoff called it “our favorite competition.” Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored both of the team's goals in the 2-1 win over Chelsea in last year's final, but he wasn't available Saturday due to what Arteta called “a personal matter.” Arteta said he couldn't yet predict when Aubameyang might return.
Southampton moves on to a fifth-round game away at Wolverhampton, which beat sixth-tier Chorley on Friday.
CITY UNDER PRESSURE
Cheltenham came close to one of the biggest shocks in the 150-year history of the FA Cup before Pep Guardiola's City team scored three late goals.
A long throw-in from Cheltenham captain Ben Tozer caused a mix-up in the City defense and Alfie May seized on a deflection to stab the ball into the net.
In the 81st minute City finally pulled level as Phil Foden met Joao Cancelo's cross at the far post and knocked the ball into the net. Gabriel Jesus scored City's second three minutes later to avoid extra time, though his goal may have been deemed offside if the video review system — not used in cup games at non-Premier League stadiums — had been in operation.
Ferran Torres added a third in stoppage time to ensure City moves on to play Swansea in the fifth round.
Guardiola tried to use the game to give his young players experience, but ended up bringing Cancelo, Ruben Dias and Ilkay Gundogan off the bench.
“The players they brought on from the bench probably tells you something, and the way they celebrated the goals probably tells you something as well," Cheltenham manager Michael Duff said. "I think they’ll know they’ve been in a game.”
The game was briefly interrupted in the first half with the score at 0-0 because of a nearby fireworks display in Cheltenham's red and white colors. Even in defeat, Cheltenham's battling performance against one of the world's biggest clubs will likely become part of local folklore.
SHEFFIELD WINS AGAIN
Premier League clubs Brighton, West Ham and Sheffield United all won their fourth-round games against lower-league teams. Brighton edged out third-tier Blackpool 2-1, while West Ham cruised to a 4-0 win over Doncaster. Sheffield didn't win a game in any competition this season until Jan. 9 but has now won three of its last four following Saturday's 2-1 win over Plymouth.
There is also a rescheduled Premier League game between Aston Villa and Newcastle.
South African cricketer Faf du Plessis believes spending months in a bio-secure bubble could soon become a major challenge for players.
“We understand that this is a very tough season and a tough challenge for a lot of people out there, but if it’s back-to-back-to back bubble life, things would become a big challenge,” du Plessis said during a virtual news conference on Saturday.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, cricketers have to adhere to strict procedures for an international series. In countries like Pakistan, international games are being played in empty stadiums and players' movement confined to just their hotel and stadiums.
Du Plessis is one of those South African cricketers, along with captain Quinton de Kock, to have experienced life in a bubble over the last few months. He played in the Indian Premier League in the United Arab Emirates and home series against Sri Lanka. Now he has a two-test series in Pakistan, starting Tuesday in Karachi, followed by the second test at Rawalpindi.
“The main priority is to play cricket, to be out there doing what we love instead of being at home … so I think that still remains the most important thing. But I think there would definitely come a point where players would struggle with this (bubble)," du Plessis said.
“If you look at a calendar of the last eight months, you’re looking at about four or five months in a bubble, which is a lot. For some of us (being) without family, it can get challenging. Right now, I’m still in a good place. I’m still feeling really motivated and driven, but I can only speak for myself.
“I don’t think it’s possible to continue from bubble to bubble to bubble, I’ve seen and heard a lot of players talk about it. I don’t think it’s sustainable.”
The South African team practiced at the National Stadium -- the venue for the test opener -- for the first time on Saturday. Before that, the visitors had been practicing at a stadium close to the team hotel for the last four days where they played intra-squad matches.
“For now, (I'm) enjoying the four walls of my room and then the pitch outside where we can get to do what we love,” du Plessis said.
The 36-year-old du Plessis, who has appeared in 67 test matches for South Africa with a batting average topping 40, will be playing his first test in Pakistan since making his debut against Australia in 2012. Pakistan last hosted South Africa in 2007. In 2009 international cricket’s doors were shut on Pakistan after an attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team bus at Lahore.
Du Plessis has played seven test matches against Pakistan that included two in the UAE and five in South Africa.
Du Plessis is South Africa’s most experienced player touring Pakistan, but wasn’t sure what type of wickets will be prepared for the two tests.
“I think that’s possibly the biggest thing that we are unsure about,” he said.
“As a team we try to prepare for everything and anything, overprepare, spin conditions, reverse swinging ball … if I have to call it, I probably said I think that wickets will be a bit more subcontinent like than it used to be back then (in 2007), so spinners would probably be more a little bit more in the game.”
Du Plessis has picked fit-again Pakistan all-format captain Babar Azam and fast bowler Shaheen Afridi as the two players who could pose problems for the tourists. Babar has regained fitness from a fractured thumb — in his absence Pakistan lost both the Twenty20 and test series in New Zealand.
“Obviously, having Babar back is massive for them,” du Plessis said.
“Afridi has been getting a lot of wickets, so probably someone like him would be pretty dangerous.”
Bangladesh Police tasted victory for the first time in their 3rd outing of the 13-team Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) Football, beating Uttar Baridhara Club 1-0 at the floodlit Bangabandhu National Stadium here Saturday evening.
With the day's victory, Police FC opened their account in the league with full three points after their two consecutive defeats against joint league leaders Bashundhara Kings (1-2) and Dhaka Abahani Limited (0-1).
Ivorian booter Frederic Pooda scored the all-important goal for the Policemen in the 81st minute of the match.
Three matches will be held on Sunday.
Arambagh KS will play Muktijoddha SKC at 3 pm in Cumilla, Sheikh Russel KC will face Dhaka Mohammedan SC at 3:30 pm while Saif SC will meet Chittagong Abahani at 6 pm, both at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka.
Federation Cup champions Bashundhara Kings and former league champions Dhaka Abahani Limited maintained their winning streak in the 13-team Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) Football beating their rivals at different venues on Saturday.
With the day's feat, star-studded Bashundhara and six times league champions Abahani shared the top slot jointly in the league table securing nine points from straight three matches.
At the Shaheed Dhirendranath Dutta Stadium in Cumilla, Bashundhara Kings earned a narrow 1-0 victory over all-losers Brothers Union Club despite dominating the match all through at their home venue.
BFF president Kazi Mohammad Salahuddin and Vice President Ataur Rahman Bhuiyan Manik witnessed the day's match in Cumilla and were introduced to players of both teams before the match.
Brazilian winger Robson Da Silva Robinho, who scored twice in Kings’ 2-1 victory over Police FC in the last match, again came to the rescue scoring the winning goal in the 63rd minute with a powerful right footer, off a Ibrahim cross.
In the day's other match, Dhaka Abahani Ltd also managed a face-saving 1-0 victory over Rahmatganj MFS at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka.
After a barren first half, local forward Jewel Rana scored the match-decider for popular sky-blue Dhanmondi outfit in the 79th minute, utilising a pass of Afghan medio Masih Saighani.