Premier League Preview: Crystal Palace

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Each day from now until the beginning of the Premier League season, we will preview two teams from England’s top flight. You can view them all here at PST Preview central. Don’t forget, the 2013-14 PL season begins on August 17th, and for the first-time ever you can watch every game live on NBC Sports.

After eight seasons in the second division, Crystal Palace reclaimed a spot in England’s top flight, the Eagles recovering from the early-season departure of manager Dougie Freedman to earn a place in the Premier League. Ian Holloway, who oversaw Blackpool F.C.’s improbable promotion in 2011, finds his challenge no easier this season, again given the daunting task of keeping a seemingly relegation-destined club from the Football League.

Transfers In: M José Campaña (Sevilla, Spain); W Jerome Thomas (West Bromwich Albion); F Dwight Gayle (Peterborough United); F Marouane Chamakh (impeding, Arsenal, loan); W Elliot Grandin (Blackpool)

Transfer Out:  D Jazz Richards (Swansea City); Jacob Butterfield (Norwich City); W Wilfried Zaha (Manchester United); F Jermaine Easter (Millwall); M André Moritz (Bolton); Lewis Price

Key Player: Australian international Mile Jedinak was the club’s Player of the Year, but it’s difficult to overlook Glenn Murray’s importance to the Eagles’ fight for survival. The 29-year-old striker (pictured), who moved to Selhurst Park from Brighton & Hove Albion two years ago, bagged 31 goals in 45 games for Palace last season, and while the departed Wilfried Zaha’s contribution undoubtedly aided that break-out campaign, Murray can’t completely regress if Crystal Palace has a chance of sustaining in the top flight.

source:  Unfortunately, Murray is going to miss the first part of the season. Current recovery timeline for his spring injury extends into December. That’s led to the likely loan acquisition of Arsenal’s Marouane Chamakh (pictured, from his loan to West Ham) and the permanent capture of the evergreen Kevin Phillips- two Plan Bs for Murray.

It places a lot on Chamakh’s shoulders. Phillips is capable of coming in an poaching a few goals, but at 40 years old, he won’t take much of the load off the Arsenal loanee’s shoulders. Irrelevant during his last two-and-a-half years at The Emirates, Chamakh’s going to have to find some semblance of his 2010 self if Palace is going to manage their Murray-less spell.

And if they don’t get Chamakh? Palace will be in pure survival mode until winter.

Manager: Holloway was a favorite when the Seasiders improbably climbed through the Championship to claim a spot in the 2010-11 Premier League. When Blackpool were eventually relegated, the league not only missed the club’s progressive style but also the forthright entertainment the Tangerines’ manager provided post-match.

After one more year with the `Pool, Holloway made his way to South London after the start of the 2012-13 season, replacing Freedman after the Palace boss moved to Bolton. Eventually Holloway guided his second team in three seasons through the Championship playoffs, leading the Eagles to the promised land while Bolton stayed in the second division.

Outlook: Crystal Palace will fight relegation, though it’s too early to bank on the Eagles’ return to the Championship. Holloway’s experience could buy them enough time to assess their weaknesses, while a reliable if limited double pivot of Jedinak and Kagisho Dikgacoi could also obscure a number of faults. Ultimately, 2013-14 success will be defined by weather they’re in the Premier League come in this time next year.

MORE: Read all the Premier League previews for each team here

Referee leaders want on-field official to see video replays

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LONDON (AP) Antoine Griezmann headed the ball into the net and was in full celebration mode with his France teammates when referee Felix Swayer pinned a finger into his left ear to block out the stadium noise.

[ VIDEO: VAR system used correctly

An assistant in front of a bank of monitors was assessing replays and had some bad news for Griezmann. Swayer was told through his earpiece that a player was offside in the buildup.

The goal was then ruled out, without Swayer seeing a replay. But that won’t necessarily be the case by the time video replays are fully approved to be rolled out across soccer.

For now, the experimental phase is still in full flow but if refereeing leaders get their way officials should always have access to the footage themselves around the field.

“The subjective decisions should be made by the on-field referee because they have got the feel for the game,” Mike Riley, general manager of English refereeing organization, told The Associated Press. “They can put it in the context of everything else. So as part of the process we have got to work out how we can do that as effectively as possible … without interrupting the flow of the game.”

The International Football Association Board, the game’s lawmaking body, is in its second year of trials with various versions of video assistant referees (VAR). Some games, like the France-Spain friendly, do not allow the referee to evaluate incidents and instead by rely on the VAR.

But VAR could end up only ruling on what Riley describes as “decisions of fact,” such as whether a ball was inside or outside the penalty area.

Ultimately, if you are appointing one of the top referees to preside over a major game, that person is seen as ideal for making the big calls, according to IFAB.

“Fundamentally we are told very much by players and coaches they want the referee to be making the most important decisions,” IFAB technical director David Elleray said, referencing England’s top referee. “They don’t know who is in a van out in the car park or 300 miles away in a match center.”

Soccer’s lawmakers only envisage video replays being used to correct game-changing decisions involving four situations: penalties being awarded, red cards, cases of mistaken identity and goals being scored.

That situation arose twice in the Stade de France on Tuesday as France lost 2-0 to Spain. After Griezmann’s goal was disallowed, video replays worked against France again but in Spain’s favor when an incorrect offside call against Gerard Deulofeu was overturned and his goal stood.

Swayer again relied on the information from a colleague benefiting from replays.

“Nicola Rizzoli was appointed to referee the last World Cup final because he is the best referee,” Elleray said. “But if actually the two most important decisions in the match are made by somebody watching a TV screen … the most important person is the man you put behind the TV screen not the man on the field.”

The challenges are how referees are able to view replays without lengthening the delay. For now the technology isn’t satisfactory for officials to use wearable devices and receive footage in real time. That means going to the side of the field to watch incidents with the eyes of thousands of fans in the stands on them. The screens are likely to be on the opposite side to the technical area to avoid coaches being able to surround and harangue the referee.

“Some of our stadiums don’t lend themselves to monitors by the side of the pitch because they are really tight,” said Riley, a former Premier League referee who is now in charge of appointments for games in the world’s richest soccer competition. “Is it right for referees to have to run 30 yards to go and look? Can you get the footage to the referee on the field somehow? All these things have to be explored through the experiment and come out with a solution that works for football.”

Live experiments are taking place in about 20 competitions this year, including the Confederations Cup in Russia in June and July that will serves as a World Cup test event.

Once IFAB adds video replays to the laws of the game, any competition meeting the requirements will be able to use them.

For Riley, permitting replays is “the most significant change in refereeing in the game for generations,” far more significant than the 2012 decision to allow technology that simply determines whether the ball crossed the goal line.

“If you are making such a significant change,” Riley said, “you need to really explore and understand all the potential implications.”

Rob Harris can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

Amid fanfare, Bastian Schweinsteiger arrives in Chicago

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Arriving at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, it is clear Bastian Schweinsteiger is kind of a big deal…

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Posing for photos with fans as he stepped off the flight with his wife, former Serbian tennis star Ana Ivanovic, the former Bayern Munich midfielder was mobbed by Chicago Fire fans who are delighted he has arrived in Major League Soccer as the newest Designated Player.

The German legend has completed his move from Manchester United to the Fire and will be officially unveiled to the media on Wednesday after signing a one-year deal.

[ MORE: Latest MLS news ]

Schweinsteiger, 32, has already had a training session in the books and the World Cup winner is expected to make his debut in Chicago’s home clash with the Montreal Impact on Saturday at Toyota Park.

Below is a video of Schweinsteiger’s arrival in Chicago, his first training session and a collection of photos he took with ecstatic Fire fans.


Liverpool’s Emre Can scores stunning goal in training

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Emre Can, take a bow.

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Alongside Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum, the German international stole the show as BT Sport rocked up for an episode of “Goals Recreated” at Melwood.

The premise is simple: can current day PL players recreate sensational goals of the past?

On this occasion each player had four attempts to mirror Papiss Cisse‘s stunning goal for Newcastle United against Chelsea, and although Mane came close Can was the man of the moment.

Click play on the video below to see the stunning effort.


Barcelona defends Messi over “unfair” suspension

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi’s four-match international suspension for insulting a linesman was “unfair and totally disproportionate.”

[ MORE: Messi handed ban by FIFA ]

Barcelona released a statement Wednesday expressing “its surprise and indignation” with FIFA’s decision to sideline the playmaker for so long following the incident in Argentina’s win over Chile in World Cup qualifying last week.

The punishment was announced before Argentina lost at Bolivia 2-0 Tuesday, a result that left the two-time champions at risk of not qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Russia.

Barcelona says it “wishes to reiterate its support for Leo Messi, an exemplary player in terms of conduct both on and off the field.”

Pending an appeal, Messi will only be available to play in Argentina’s final qualifier, on Oct. 10 against Ecuador.