Tottenham Hotspur's Soldado celebrates after scoring a penalty against Crystal Palace during their English Premier League soccer match at Selhurst Park in London

Crystal Palace – 0 Tottenham – 1: Soldado scores on debut as Spurs dictate opener (Video)

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A stubborn Crystal Palace side, backed by a rocking home crowd, performed valiantly against Tottenham Hotspur at Selhurst Park, but had little possession and their counter-attack wasn’t enough as a Soldado penalty proved the difference.

The scoreless first half – while the build-ups were quality for both sides – offered little as far as solid chances on goal go.

The Palace midfield exerted everything they had to maintain possession, but often had to spend long spells trying to quell Spurs buildup play flowing through Mousa Dembele and new signing Paulinho.

However, the visitors found it difficult to get the ball into the box as the Eagles defenders marked the Spurs frontmen solidly, and Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni positioned himself well all match.

The 35th minute saw the opening half’s best chance when a spinning Gylfi Sigurdsson fired a knuckling shot from the top of the box which Speroni brilliantly parried over the bar while leaping high into the air. Mousa Dembele also whipped in a laser beam earlier on in the 12th minute that fizzed just over.

Spurs finally broke through in the 51st minute as Aaron Lennon broke down the right side of the box and sent in a cross, which found the outstretched arm of Eagles defender Dean Moxey, and referee Mark Clattenburg – who had a fantastic match – gave the penalty.  New Spurs striker Roberto Soldado stepped up immediately to take, and he wrong-footed Speroni to net the opener on his debut.

Palace had a counter-attack opportunity 15 minutes later when Palace captain Mile Jedinak dispossessed Paulinho and the loose ball fell to Dwight Gayle, who flashed up the left side, cut back in, and fired a laser just over the bar.

Sigurddson, who had a tough year last season, had a beautiful chance to seal the deal just after when Soldado found him all alone in the middle of the box but he slid and touched it just wide of the left post. The game began to open up as Palace boss Ian Holloway threw on all three substitutes at once. Substitute Marouane Chamakh, recently acquired on loan, nearly released Gayle but the ball was just long.  Lloris was then forced to come out of his box as sub Kevin Phillips latched onto a long ball but Lloris came out to make the tackle.

The home side pushed forward towards the end but couldn’t find the final ball.  Spurs sub Jermain Defoe had the goal gaping with a chance to put it away, but inexplicably went near post when the other side was completely open, and he dragged it wide. Lloris had to make two more last-ditch saves off the feet of former Fulham man Kagisho Dikgaccoi at the death to preserve the lead.

It’s a great start for Spurs as they look to overtake rivals Arsenal this season, after two seasons of falling agonizingly short of Arsenal for the final Champions League spot.

Lineups

Tottenham: Hugo Lloris; Kyle Walker, Michael Dawson, Jan Vertonghen, Danny Rose (Younis Kaboul, 86′); Aaron Lennon, Mousa Dembele (Etienne Capoue, 57′), Nacer Chadli, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Paulinho; Roberto Soldado (Defoe 83′).

Crystal Palace: Julian Speroni, Joel Ward, Daniel Gabbidon, Damien Delaney, Dean Moxey, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Mile Jedinak, Owen Garvan (Marouane Chamakh, 66′), Stephen Dobbie (Jonathan Williams, 66′), Dwight Gayle, Aaron Wilbraham (Kevin Phillips, 66′).

Watch Live: Sunderland vs. Manchester United (Lineups, Stream)

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26:  Anthony Martial of Manchester United and John O'Shea of Sunderland compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford on September 26, 2015 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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Struggling Sunderland host top-four chasing Manchester United on Saturday (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online goal Live Extra) at the Stadium of Light.

The Black Cats haven’t won in their last four games and are four points of safety. Desperation sums up the mood for Sam Allardyce‘s side.

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The same could be said for United as Louis Van Gaal‘s side continue to leak goals and they’re now six points off the top four with just 13 games to go. Speculation linking Jose Mourinho with a summer arrival at Old Trafford continues with LVG’s job seemingly on the line.

Sunderland’s survival hopes took an unexpected hit this week, as winger Adam Johnson had his contract terminated after he surprisingly pleading guilty to a child sex charge in court.

In team news Sunderland bring in DeAndre Yedlin for Billy Jones, while United bring in Morgan Schneiderlin for Marouane Fellaini.  

LINEUPS

Sunderland: Mannone, Yedlin, O’Shea, Kone, van Aanholt, Kirchhoff, Cattermole, M’Vila, Khazri, N’Doye, Defoe. Subs: Brown, Rodwell, Borini, Matthews, Pickford, Toivonen, Honeyman

Manchester United: De Gea, Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Borthwick-Jackson, Schneiderlin, Carrick, Lingard, Mata, Martial, Rooney. Subs: Romero, Love, Weir, Pereira, Herrera, Memphis, Keane.

Xavi backs Dybala, Verratti to succeed at Barcelona over Pogba

TURIN, ITALY - JANUARY 24:  Paulo Dybala (R) of Juventus FC celebrates after scoring the opening goal with team mate Paul Pogba during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and AS Roma at Juventus Arena on January 24, 2016 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
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With Paul Pogba linked with a possible summer move to Barcelona worth more than $100 million, one legend at Camp Nou believes Pogba may not be the right signing.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines ]

After making more than 700 appearances for Barcelona, Xavi knows the club as well as anyone, and he prefers Pogba’s Juventus teammate Paulo Dybala for a move to the Catalan giants.

Xavi also praised the play of Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti, saying that while Pogba is a star player, Dybala and Verratti have “Barca DNA.”

There’s two players I really like, both of whom I think have Barca’s DNA. They are Marco Verratti and Paulo Dybala.

They are amazing and, thanks to their quality and style of play, would easily integrate into the [Barca] machine. I see them as future stars at the club.

[Pogba] is a great player. He’ll be a star for France as he is for Juve, but I see him with a different game to ours.

Both Pogba and Dybala are 22-years-old, while Verratti is 23. All three players have been among the elite young talents in the world, with Pogba earning the most praise of the group and always linked with a big-money move to Europe’s top clubs.

[ RELATED: Messi named La Liga Player of the Month for first time in career ]

Dybala is enjoying a breakout season at Juventus, currently with 13 goals and eight assists in Serie A play. In Paris, Verratti is part of a PSG side that hasn’t lost in 25 matches and holds a 24-point lead at the top of the table.

Vincent Kompany set to make Manchester City return this weekend

during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at Etihad Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Manchester, England.
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Vincent Kompany is set to make his first appearance for Manchester City since Boxing Day as the defender has returned from injury.

City’s captain and center-back missed more than six weeks with a calf injury before Christmas, and then reaggravated the injury just minutes into his return at the end of December.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

However, Kompany has been back in training and manager Manuel Pellegrini said he is fit to play this weekend when City host Tottenham in a huge top-four matchup.

We’ll see what the starting XI is tomorrow – we’re not just thinking about one player and one game, we’re involved in a lot of competitions. Maybe we have a lot of criticism when we don’t play well but I’m happy with the squad over the whole season.

Every player must play a game when they’re 100%. Vincent has worked for three weeks with no problems. He played 45 minutes in a friendly game against the under-21s and I think he’s ready to play.

Kompany’s presence in the City back-line has been pivotal this season. In the eight Premier League games Kompany has started, City have kept seven clean sheets. In the 18 matches without the big Belgian in the starting lineup, City have kept just five.

[ RELATED: Diego Costa suffers broken nose in Chelsea training ]

With City just a point behind Tottenham, Kompany returns from injury just in time for one of the biggest matches of the season. Tasked with slowing down Harry Kane and Spurs’ high-flying attack, Kompany’s play could prove crucial to the Citizens getting a result.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Newcastle United

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  • CFC unbeaten under Hiddink (W5, D6)
  • Newcastle have just 6 away goals all season
  • Diego Costa: 6 goals in his last 7 PL matches

Chelsea look to extend their unbeaten streak under Guus Hiddink to 12 matches on Saturday when the Blues host relegation-threatened Newcastle (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

The Blues’ last loss came under Jose Mourinho in December.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

Chelsea are up to 13th on the table, currently riding a run of 11 matches unbeaten in all competitions. Guus Hiddink is yet to suffer a loss after taking over for his second stint at Stamford Bridge in December, although draws have kept Chelsea from climbing further up the table. Diego Costa has had the hot-hand with six goals in his last seven appearances, but the Spanish striker will be forced to play with a mask after suffering a broken nose in training.

[ MORE: Hiddink has “no fear” of playing youngsters in Zouma’s absence ]

For Newcastle, the Magpies sit 17th on the table just one point above the drop. Their away form has hurt the club all season, as Steve McClaren‘s men have scored a league-low six goals on the road this year. The Magpies are coming off of a win over West Brom, and supporters will be hoping the club’s new January signings continue to produce. Seydou Doumbia could make his Premier League debut on Saturday, which would be a massive boost to the attack.

What they’re saying

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink: “The status of being unbeaten sounds good but realistically we would have wished to have more victories, especially at home. And we have an opportunity to do so against Newcastle. They improved their squad with substance, some good signings, and they are more competitive now.”

Newcastle boss Steve McClaren: “In our home games we are starting to get a consistency in our performance and the way we play. We need to start transferring that to our away games and picking up points away from home – we owe it to the fans.”

Prediction

Newcastle have just two wins in their last 18 league matches away from home, and I don’t see that trend changing this weekend. Chelsea have looked a new team with Guus Hiddink in charge, and they stay unbeaten under the Dutchman. Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle United.