Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace

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  • On average, Liverpool have scored their first goal in the 19th minute of games. The quickest in the PL.
  • Crystal Palace have made more tackles than any other side, 146.
  • Steven Gerrard has create more goalscoring chances from set pieces (8) than any other PL player

On Saturday at Anfield, Liverpool have the chance to go back to the top of the Premier League table when they host Crystal Palace (10am ET, watch live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports Live Extra).

The Reds comfortably beat Sunderland last weekend, and could momentarily jump one point ahead of Arsenal with a win.

Brendan Rodgers’ side will be favorites against the Eagles, and Palace’s season really has been a struggle so far. Ian Holloway’s men have lost five of their opening six games, with the lone victory coming at home against basement side Sunderland. Surely the South London outfit can’t go to Anfield and grab a win?

Liverpool have switched their tactics around slightly, and have been looking extremely solid in a 3-5-2 formation since Luis Suarez’ return from suspension. The Uruguayan scored twice against Sunderland on his PL return, and his partnership with Daniel Sturridge could prolong Liverpool’s challenge at the top of the table.

Lucas Leiva is missing for the Reds through suspension, while Glen Johnson, Aly Sissokho and Joe Allen are all out but should return after the international break. Palace could welcome back winger Yannick Bolasie and defenders Patrick McCarthy, Damien Delaney and Johnathan Parr.

What they’re saying

Brendan Rodgers on facing a defensive Palace side: “In the modern game, teams are set up defensively well. Tactically, there is limited space – especially at home. You have to be patient, teams aren’t going to just turn up and roll over. Especially if you don’t get an early goal – a goal in that first 20-25 minutes – then it can be difficult. However, we’re a team that’s evolving and starting to understand that side of football; with every attack, you can’t score.”

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard: “Managers are only ever eight to 10 games away from the sack, so to take risks on unknown young players is difficult. There’s no two ways about it, it’s a lot more difficult to break through nowadays because of the standard of players and because there is a lot more foreigners about.”

Crystal Palace midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi: “The confidence is still there. No-one is letting their heads drop – despite the last few results – and we know that one match and one good result can make all the difference. We always expected things to be tough in the Premier League because we are up against the best teams in the country – but we have time to turn things around. Our aim is to be out of the relegation zone before January because we have a run of matches coming up where we can definitely pick up points.”

Prediction

This result is not in question, at all. Sorry Palace fans, but this is a Liverpool home win all day long. The Reds are serious about keeping themselves at the top of the table, and they will have to ruthlessly dispatch sides like Palace to at least make the top four and qualify for the Champions League. I expect Suarez and Sturridge’s burgeoning partnership to create havoc for the newly-promoted side. A big win coming up for the Merseyside club.

Report: Man City, Guardiola to discuss new contract this summer

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Manchester City does not want to let Pep Guardiola start the third year with the club without signing on for longer term.

Guardiola enters the third and final year of his deal in August, and the BBC reports that Man City plans to negotiate a new deal with the Catalan wizard this summer.

[ MORE: Making sense of the PL table ]

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given City’s outstanding sophomore season under Guardiola.

Unbeaten City has an 11-point lead on the Premier League table after 18 weeks, with one draw and a PL record 16-straight wins. They have 56 goals scored, conceding just 12.

They’ve won five of six UEFA Champions League matches, only losing a match their opposition needed and they did not, 2-1 to Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine. City faces Basel next, and visits Leicester City in the League Cup quarterfinals Wednesday.

Lanzini charged by FA for fooling ref with dive

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Manuel Lanzini dove to earn a penalty in West Ham’s 3-0 win over Stoke City on Saturday at the bet365 Stadium, and he may pay for it.

Lanzini, who also posted an assist in an influential performance, drew the penalty converted by Mark Noble when he hit the deck under minimal contact from Erik Pieters.

[ MORE: Making sense of the PL table ]

He could miss two matches for “successful deception of a match official,” the same penalty given to Everton’s Oumar Niasse for a similar offense.

West Ham pulled out of the drop zone with the win, but has three bottom-half battles coming up over the festive fixtures: Saturday versus Newcastle, Dec. 26 at Bournemouth, and Jan. 2 versus West Brom.

Griezmann backtracks over ‘insensitive’ blackface tweet

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MADRID (AP) Soccer star Antoine Griezmann has apologized for any offense caused after posting an image of himself on social media in blackface as part of an NBA party costume on Sunday.

Griezmann, who is white, was also wearing a wig and holding a basketball in the photo which had “NBA 69 ALLSTARS” on the jersey.

[ MORE: Making sense of the PL table ]

The photo on his official Twitter account was accompanied by the message “80’s Party” followed by basketball and laughing emojis.

One response called the photo a “bad idea” with others urging the France forward to delete the tweet.

Griezmann at first reacted to the criticism by tweeting: “Calm down friends, I’m a fan of the Harlem Globetrotters and of this great era… It’s a tribute.”

He later tweeted an apology to those he had offended.

“I recognize that’s it’s insensitive on my part. If I offended some people I’m sorry,” he wrote.

The 26-year-old Griezmann plays for Spanish team Atletico Madrid but has been linked to a move to Barcelona.

Alex Morgan named CONCACAF Female POY, Navas wins Male POY

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CONCACAF awarded some of its finest players and coaches on Sunday night, and two familiar faces took home the evening’s most notable awards.

[ MORE: Making sense of table in Man City’s world ]

U.S. Women’s National Team forward Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride) and Keylor Navas of Costa Rica and Real Madrid each earned Female and Male Player of the Year honors, after boasting tremendous 2017 seasons.

Morgan who primarily plays for Orlando in the NWSL, was also a member of Lyon, who went on to win the Women’s Champions League this past season.

Navas, on the other hand, played a key role in Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League run, as well as Los Blancos’ La Liga title.

For Morgan, the award is her third since CONCACAF began handing out its annual awards in 2013. Meanwhile, Navas has now won Male Player of the Year on two occasions.