Premier League Preview: Crystal Palace v. Arsenal

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  • Crystal Palace have won just five points and scored five goals in their previous eight Premier League meetings with Arsenal.
  • Since their opening day defeat to Aston Villa, Arsenal have won 19 of a possible 21 points in the Premier League.
  • Crystal Palace have now lost five successive Premier League games. They haven’t lost six in a row in league competition since March 2001.

Crystal Palace welcome Arsenal to Selhurst Park this Saturday (7:45 am ET on NBCSN, watch live via NBC Sports Live Extra) for a clash of two clubs at opposite sides of the table with the Eagles in 19th place and the Gunners league leaders.

Saturday will mark Palace’s first top-fight match without Ian Holloway this season after the 50 year old manager left the club on mutual consent on Wednesday. Holloway’s assistant Keith Millen will deputize until co-chairman Steve Parish finds a suitable replacement. With just three points in the opening eight Premier League fixtures, avoiding relegation will be an uphill battle.

MORE: Crystal Palace eyeing Tony Pulis to replace Ian Holloway

Losers of their last five matches, Palace will be desperate for points on Saturday. After dropping three straight matches by a 2-0 margin (Manchester United, Southampton and Swansea City), the Eagles were stung by Liverpool 3-1 before being thrashed 4-1 by a stumbling Fulham side on Monday evening.

How, exactly, Millen plans on turning things around remains to be seen. Fortunately for the former Bristol City manager he will have a relatively healthy squad at his disposal with long-term absentees Glenn Murray, Jack Hunt and Jonathan Williams the only losses and center-back Patrick McCarthy set to return from groin injury.

Hoping for a miracle may by Millen’s best bet, especially when considering Palace have taken only five points from their previous eight Premier League matches against Arsenal. The Gunners are coming off fine form in the league, unbeaten in their last seven having only drawn once during that time. Last weekend Arsene Wenger’s side put on what was their best display of the season, slicing up the Norwich City defense for four goals.

The good times at the Emirates came to a brief pause on Tuesday when Robert Lewandowski scored a late goal to hand Borussia Dortmund a 2-1 victory in the Champions League. The Gunners were unlucky to escape that match without a point and will be looking forward to bouncing back with a solid hammering.

Wenger will continue to be without long term absentees Lukas Podolski, Yaya Sanogo, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby. Jack Wilshere may also be rested after taking a knock to his ankle against Dortmund while Mathieu Flamini should have a clear bill of health to return from concussion.

What They’re Saying

Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud (on the Dortmund result): “We lost but have won almost every game. Just Villa and West Brom [were not victories] so it’s not the time to be really worried, but we want to come back on Saturday and win the game.”

Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla: “Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky or myself are not sticking strictly to the touchline. Therefore we open up spaces so our full backs have a corridor where they can go up and down. Our ball possessions are long but they can break through by surprise. That’s why full backs are really important for our team. You can see that every game.”

Crystal Palace former manager Ian Holloway:  “I hold myself and Steve responsible. I didn’t value enough the spirit of the group that helped us get to the Premier League. I’ve lost the spirit of that group. I owe it to the lads to admit that. I could never work any harder than I have done. And this man (Parish) knows that.”

Prediction

It’s not a matter of who will win (Arsenal, obviously) but by how much. If it were any other top club facing Palace, I’d say we’re looking at a score of five or six nil. But knowing Wenger, this is a match where he’ll play a number of his youngsters and hand rests to veterans, meaning the score difference will only be a few goals.

Expect guys like Serge Gnabry and Carl Jenkinson to feature, as well as possible appearances by Ryo Miyaichi and Emmanuel Frimpong. My dark-horse call on this one, however, is that Gedion Zelalem (pictured) – the 16 year old phenom who spent time playing for the Washington, D.C. area based club Olney Rangers before being scooped up by Wenger – will get his first call in the league.

Juventus bumped by Atalanta at the death

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Juventus is still in firm control of the Serie A title race, but they were dealt a slight setback as Atalanta secured a 2-2 draw with a dramatic 89th minute equalizer in Bergamo.

Dani Alves had given Juventus the lead in the 83rd minute on a header after a brilliant far-post cross by Miralem Pjanic, but Remo Freuler answered late as he grabbed a point.

The goal came on a fortunate bounce as Pjanic and substitute Stephen Lichtensteiner got tangled up on the ball and failed to clear, and the ball squirted to Freuler who suddenly found himself free in front of Gianluigi Buffon. The Juventus keeper came off his line to smother the chance, but he failed to completely collect, and the ball again popped free. Freuler followed up the loose ball, and with a trio of Juventus defenders flying in, the 25-year-old Swiss attacker knocked it in.

The draw was deserving for Atalanta, who had controlled the game for much of the first half, and went ahead just seconds before the break on a goal by Andrea Conti. Atalanta outshot Juventus 7-4 in the first half, 3-1 on shots on target. Juventus took over control in the second half, and got back on level terms just five minutes after the break as Juventus loanee Leonardo Spinazzola put one in his own net.

Alves’ goal put Juventus in front, but that lead only lasted six minutes. Juventus goes nine points clear at the top of the Serie A table with the draw, but Roma has the chance to cut that to six if they can beat Lazio at home on Sunday.

MLS Week 8: Litmus tests across the board

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Week 8 in MLS action could teach fans a lot about clubs with plenty to prove.

With questions still abound regarding teams like NYCFC, New England, Seattle, Portland, and New York Red Bulls, all those teams have a chance to make statements regarding their potential strength this season.

[ MORE: Week 8 MLS Power Rankings ]

In addition, struggling teams such as Los Angeles, Minnesota, and Montreal all have opportunities for much-needed points against arguably weaker opposition.

Let’s take a look at the weekend slate chronologically:

Toronto FC vs. Houston Dynamo
7:30 p.m. ET Friday

Toronto got a pair from Giovinco last time out, and sitting near the bottom of the crowded East mid-tier, they need points fast to avoid finding themselves in a hole behind the top of the table. There’s goals in this one, with Houston defensively challenged and Cubo Torres on fire to start the year.

Montreal Impact vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
3:00 p.m. ET Saturday

An all-Canadian clash actually serves as a vitally important match for both clubs. With each side near the bottom of their conference standings, they both need a result badly to jump-start the campaign. A draw does nobody any good here moving forward.

Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids
4:00 p.m. ET Saturday

The Lions are one of 2017’s surprises, and Cyle Larin is on an absolute tear. Unfortunately, so far, anyone who shuts down Larin shuts down Orlando City. That said, good luck to Colorado shutting down an early MLS Golden Boot challenger.

Cyle Larin has 6 goals in 6 games this season (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images).

NY Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire
7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

New York has seen bumps on the early-season road, but overall remains a strong Supporter’s Shield contender. They face a big test against another strong Eastern Conference side, and a win here would make it three straight, all over good competition. Chicago is reeling after its defeat to Toronto, out-shot 9-1, but has another chance to pick up a road win before heading back home.

Columbus Crew vs. NYCFC
7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Columbus has been poor on the road, but they return home to Mapfre Stadium to take on a strong NYCFC side. This game could potentially teach us a lot about whoever comes out on top, as both look to build separation from the rest of the pack in the East. Both have lost two of three, but both still appear strong up front, and three points in this game could prove to be a marquee win to point to later in the season.

Minnesota United vs. San Jose Earthquakes
8:00 p.m. ET Saturday

Minnesota United, owners of one of the worst starts to the season, has shown signs of life. Can they keep it going against another team struggling for points?

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers
8:00 p.m. ET Saturday

This is a marquee matchup, and with FC Dallas unbeaten so far, represents a huge test but also a huge opportunity for Portland to announce itself as a true top contender in the West. They’re top of the table, but have played at least one more game than most teams just below them. Can the Timbers find a way through the strong Dallas D?

Sporting KC vs. Real Salt Lake
8:30 p.m. ET Saturday

A big rivalry game with big table implications, Sporting KC has the unfortunate luck of catching RSL after hiring Mike Petke and not before. This should be a fun one.

Seattle Sounders vs. New England Revolution
10:00 p.m. ET Saturday

We still don’t know exactly what New England is. For every step forward they’ve taken one back, and for every setback they’ve had they’ve found a way through. This is a fantastic test. There are plenty of excuses for a potential loss with the team going cross-country to face one of the league’s best attacks, but a result could be a true statement.

LA Galaxy vs. Philadelphia Union
10:30 p.m. ET Saturday

With Philadelphia struggling and now traveling a long way, this should be a chance for the Galaxy to turn things around. Should be.

Atlanta United vs. D.C. United
3:00 p.m. ET Sunday

Atlanta is back home for the first time in over a month. They have slipped a bit since the torrid start, but still appear a dangerous club. D.C. will have its work cut out.

Asian FIFA executive pleads guilty to bribery charges

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A guilty plea was entered early Friday by senior Asian Federation (AFC) official Richard Lai to bribery charges, leading FIFA to suspend the 55-year-old indefinitely.

Lai has served as the head of the Guam FA since 2001, and is a member of the FIFA audit and compliance committee. He was also formerly a member of the AFC executive committee, and currently sits on the AFC marketing committee. Lai is a United States citizen.

The guilty plea confirms more than $1 million in bribes accepted by Lai, including those from Kuwaiti officials looking to increase their influence over FIFA voters in the confederation. Two unnamed AFC executives, including one Kuwaiti, were also named as co-conspirators.

“One of the functions the defendant Richard Lai performed for Co-Conspirator #2 and Co-Conspirator #3 in exchange for the funds they sent him was to advise them on who was supporting which candidates in AFC and FIFA matters, including elections, and who Co-Conspirator #2 and Co-Conspirator #3 should recruit to support their chosen candidates,” a Department of Justice document published on Friday said.

That wording seems to indirectly implicate Qatari executive Mohamed bin Hammam, who was banned for life by FIFA in 2011 for bribery.

“I would like to thank the American authorities for their continued efforts to stamp out corruption from football,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a statement following the plea. “I am happy to confirm once again, that FIFA will provide whatever assistance is needed by the U.S. and any other authorities around the world.”

Lai has also been provisionally suspended by the AFC.

Argentina closes in on Sampaoli, according to FA boss

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The Argentinian FA is hoping to convince Jorge Sampaoli to abandon Sevilla and take the opening in his home nation.

President Claudio Tapia confirmed that Sampaoli is their top target, calling the 57-year-old their “chosen one” in an interview with ESPN.

“We have chosen a coach that has a contract,” Tapia told ESPN. “We want to be respectful and wait because he has a release clause which is once the tournament ends. We will communicate it to the club and we will sit down and negotiate his departure and release clause. We want things to go well in the final games he has left.”

Argentina dismissed coach Edgardo Bauza after the country fell to fifth in CONMEBOL World Cup qualification following defeats to Paraguay, Brazil, and Chile over the past six months.

Sampaoli is under contract with Sevilla until the summer of 2018, but has a $1.6 million release clause, to which Tapia was referring. Sevilla sits in fourth position in the La Liga table, level on points with Atletico Madrid but behind significantly on goal differential. The club finishes its league season on May 21st against Osasuna, and Argentina’s next game is a friendly on June 9th at home against Brazil. The next World Cup qualifier is in August against Uruguay.

Samapoli has been with Sevilla since since last summer in his first European club job, but the Argentinian has ample experience to take over for his home country. He managed Chile for four years, winning the 2015 Copa America in Chile. He resigned in early 2016 due to a contract dispute, paying a heavy price to do so as he gave up bonuses to wriggle free of his contract.

Argentina’s desire to secure Sampaoli as coach is nothing new, as the man himself confirmed an offer for the job a week ago, but said he would not consider it until the end of the season. It appears now that a deal is likely, and he will have a very short turnaround to get his first look at the team against a fierce continental rival.