Thursday, March 08, 2007

FA Cup - and then there were 8

The final rounds of the FA Cup are upon us. I'd like to pay particular attention to the hard-fought win by the Blackburn Rovers over Arsenal and their whiny manager Arsene Wenger. At Emirates Stadium, Blackburn drew with the gunners and forced a replay match, which took place this Wednesday. The Rovers battled with a depleted Arsenal squad that took it on the chin when a melee with some Chelsea players occurred during the Carling Cup final match (which Chelsea took 2-1, by the way). South African international striker Benni McCarthy came off the bench in the second half to score a late goal, which was all Blackburn needed to advance to the next round. Blackburn face a very winnable match with Man City in the quarterfinals of the FA Cup.

However, the road gets harder from there as they will likely face Chelsea or ManU if they beat the Citizens. Blackburn's form of late has been quite good, and they are looking to extend it this Sunday as they take on Bolton in Reebok Stadium in Premiership action. I pick them as a dark horse to take the FA Cup, which will undoubtedly mean they will have to pull off an upset of ManU or Chelsea, neither of which would be easy tasks.

Furthermore, the Rovers face the second leg of the UEFA cup vs. Bayer Leverkusen at Ewood Park, and they are in good shape there, having scored two away goals in a 3-2 loss in Germany. Odds are good that they will advance there, too, especially given their recent form and the production of recent-signings Steven Warnock, Chris Samba, and David Dunn.

Another notable in the quarterfinal of the FA cup is the Plymouth Argyle, the Coca-cola Championship outfit from South England. The Argyle have been in good form, and appear to be making all the right moves to finish in the top of the table in the Championship. Most recent signing was the talented New Zealander Rory Fallon, who could easily provide some spark at Home Park.

If Plymouth keep improving like they have been, we could be seeing them jostling with the big clubs in the Premiership in a couple of years.

Plymouth will be taking on former Championship and relegation-battling club Watford in the quarterfinal. The Argyle will be looking for an upset on March 11th at Home Park.


West Ham 'till I Die?

Well, it looks like what was supposed to be a dream season for the Hammers is going to be a complete bust after fielding allegations that their two Argentinian loanees, Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez, may have been ineligible players, which could cost West Ham United some points and could bring lawsuits vs. former West Ham board members Paul Aldridge and Terence Brown. Supposedly, the loan was proffered by businessman Kia Joorabchian, who, at the time, was in the hunt for a takeover of the London club. This apparently violated some rules, even though the context of the deal was more-or-less known far and wide since it happened. I remember reading about it in August. I guess the wheels of justice turn slowly in Britain as well as here in the states. The Hammers are expected to argue that the players Mascherano and Tevez were not an influence on the club as manager Alan Pardew did not use them together very often, and in fac Mascherano is now at Liverpool. The bottom line is that West Ham, even with these signings, are a club that lacked direction and passion throughout most of the season and are fittingly in the drop zone to go back to the Coca-Cola Championship.

-Christopher J. Brigham

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