Preview: Crystal Palace vs. Fulham

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  • Palace have a poor record against the Cottagers at home in last 10 meetings (1-5-4)
  • Three of Fulham’s five league goals have been scored by subs this season, most in the PL
  • Crystal Palace have yet to keep a clean sheet this campaign

It is sure to be a real ding-dong battle down at Selhurst Park on Monday, as Crystal Palace take on Fulham (3pm ET, watch live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports Live Extra) in a London Derby under the lights.

Both teams are desperate for three points with the home side losing six of their seven Premier League games so far, following their promotion from the Championship. Palace sit second from bottom in the PL, with Fulham just two places ahead of them and also struggling for form.

Ian Holloway will be hoping his side can dazzle against the Cottagers, with a home much needed home win putting them within one point of Norwich and Fulham direct above them in the standings. Expect a fiercely contested affair, full of touch tackling and last-ditch defending, as both these teams know a draw isn’t really what they need right now.

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The ecstasy of Fulham’s late win over Stoke was almost too much for manager Martin jol to handle…

Martin Jol’s Fulham have been under intense pressure after a run of just one point from five games, but a vital 1-0 victory against Stoke City — courtesy of substitute Darren Bent’s late goal — made the international break seem much smoother for the Dutchman and his squad. That narrow victory could prove to be the turning point, as Fulham aim to edge back up the table by beating plucky Palace.

Fulham’s on-loan striker Bent, 31, has been prolific since 2008-09 despite being on the bench for Aston Villa for most of last season. Only Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard have scored more PL goals than his 67 in that time frame, and his knack for finding the back of the net could be vital for Fulham this season. Bent’s impact on Monday’s game will be watched even closer, as Palace thought they’d agreed a loan move for him on transfer deadline day in September, only for the England striker to choose Fulham instead which
caused a little unrest between Holloway and Jol.

Both teams are getting players back to full fitness, with Palace winger Yannick Bolasie ready for his first start, while Fulham have Scott Parker, Aaron Hughes and Adel Taarabt in contention.

What they’re saying

Steve Sidwell on Palace being tough opposition: “I’ve seen them a couple of times. I watched the first game on TV against Tottenham Hotspur and I thought they were very unlucky not to get a result. It’s one of those scenarios where they’re always going to be the underdogs going into every game just because they’ve come up and the pressure is off. When the pressure is off you can enjoy it more and be more relaxed in your individual play. It’s going to be a tough game, Selhurst Park is a tough place to go and hopefully we can go there and stick to a game plan that we’ve been working on and try to get the three points.”

Ian Holloway on Darren Bent signing for Fulham over Palace: “That was then. Fulham have done very well to get him, he’s a fantastic player and a very good person, so well done to Martin Jol. We had a couple of discussions about it, and I thought he was turning up at my training ground. But you’ve never got anything in the ‘keep net’ until you’ve actually got it there, have you? So I learned that perhaps I shouldn’t have even spoke about it, I do apologize. But at the time I got a camera shoved in my face, 30 seconds after I’d found out he signed for Fulham. I do apologize to Martin Jol if that upset him, I didn’t mean to. I didn’t realize Fulham hadn’t announced they signed Bent yet.

Prediction

This game will be an extremely tight affair, and I expect things to be level until late on. Fulham looked devoid of confidence on the ball against Stoke last time out, and probably should’ve lost the game. But their late win may have filled the Cottagers with belief. Saying that, Palace are struggling to get any belief going, but I fancy them to clinch a vital victory tonight with their raucous crowd roaring them on. Another celebratory jig from Holloway could happen, as Palace’s pacy attackers Bolasie, Jason Puncheon and Dwight Gayle will prove too much for Fulham.

Fabinho admits interest in Manchester United

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If even a fraction of this summer’s transfer interest is real, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has taken every precaution against his biggest 2017 enemy: scheduled congestion.

Mourinho was a regular critic of United’s schedule last season in the run-up to its UEFA Europa League title win over Ajax, and is building his roster up for the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Saief completes USMNT switch ]

The manager already had plenty of attacking options, and has added Victor Lindelof to his stable of defenders while reportedly flirting with PSG’s Marquinhos, too. Defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic is also a reported target (as are half of the world’s elite footballers).

And now, a wry smile from Monaco’s Fabinho hints that Mourinho may be making progress with another target.

‘‘It’s a tempting invitation. … I would first talk to my agent, Monaco too, to decide everything right. But it’s a great club, sure enough I would think well about it.”

Fabinho played mostly right back in 2014-15 before splitting time between that position and defensive midfielder the following year and seeing most of his time at CDM last season. Mourinho has lavished praise and given a contract extension to right back Antonio Valencia and has Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Paul Pogba at CDM (though the latter can certainly operate higher up the field).

Chinese clubs to pay 100% tax on foreign transfers

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The days of Chinese Super League sides spending eye-popping figures on a handful of international superstars are over — either that, or those figures are about to double — for now, at least.

[ MORE: Oscar given 8-game ban for petulant display in China ]

China’s Football Association announced Thursday that, effective immediately, any foreign player signed for a fee exceeding $6.63 million would be subject to a 100-percent tax on top of the fee paid to acquire the player. The tax will remain in effect until the end of China’s ongoing transfer window, July 14. The tax will also apply to Chinese players signed for a fee exceeding $3 million.

It’s Chinese authorities’ latest attempt to prevent big spending by CSL clubs, which has in every instance been detrimental to the development of young Chinese players making their way through the academy system. The taxed money will then be reinvested in “youth training, construction of public sporting facilities and scientific progress in football development,” according to a statement by the CFA.

Just last week, China was eliminated from contention to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia. The only time China has ever qualified for the World Cup was in 2002.

Young Englishman Oxford goes abroad, to Gladbach, on loan

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MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) Borussia Moenchengladbach has signed English central defender Reece Oxford on loan for the season from Premier League club West Ham.

Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl says “Oxford has gone through all the England youth teams and is one of the biggest defensive talents in Britain.”

The 18-year-old Oxford, who spent the second half of last season on loan at second-division club Reading, is Gladbach’s fifth arrival of the off-season.

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

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An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.