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.

Transfer Rumor Wrap: Tottenham set to make Ajax’s Sanchez its record signing

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Tottenham look set to break the bank on one of the world’s most exciting defensive prospects.

According to a report in the Guardian, Tottenham and Ajax have agreed on a $54.1 million transfer fee for centerback Davinson Sanchez. The Colombian international only joined Ajax a year ago but led the backline to the Europa League final, where Ajax fell to Manchester United.

Spurs officials reportedly traveled to Amsterdam earlier this week to sort out a deal to bring Sanchez back to London. It’s believed to be a $36 million transfer with add-on clauses worth around $18 million.

Sanchez will add more speed and strength to one of the Premier League’s best backlines, giving Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen a partner to play with in a back three.

Here’s some more news from around the Premier League:

(more…)

Costa: Chelsea “won’t decide my fate”

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As each day passes, the impasse between Chelsea manager Antonio Conte and Diego Costa grows.

Costa is continuing to holdout from Chelsea after being asked to train with the reserves and has made clear his preference to transfer back to his former club, Atletico Madrid. But in his latest comments to ESPN Brazil, Costa said that Chelsea are asking for a transfer fee that’s well above what Atletico can afford.

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“Chelsea offered me to several clubs,” Costa said. “But I was very clear with them. They said that since I’m not part of the coach’s plans, I want to choose my destiny. For them they have made more money, I will not let them decide my destiny. Even because when I came to Chelsea they paid well below the proposal that is coming now. I think they have to be aware and see everything I’ve done.”

It’s easy to feel sympathetic for Costa and his situation. He said in the interview that he’s struggled with English and as such, has had to rely on people at the club to take care of a lot of tasks. In Madrid, a country he’s received citizenship from and a city and language he’s comfortable with, he doesn’t have these worries.

But for all the good will he earned, Costa also painted himself in a bad light later in that response to a question about what the deadlock was about with Chelsea.

“It’s not my fault I’m not there,” Costa said. “If it was up to me, I’d be playing. There’s already (been) a month. Holiday is good, but it gets boring. I did not cause this situation. Since this is where the club has to think in two ways. Of course they have to have a payback, as I have given sportily and financially as well. After three years you will receive an amount above what you paid.”

Costa though did provide some insight. It had been believed over the past week or so that Costa would only move to Atletico Madrid, but the Brazilian-born Spanish international forward clarified that statement, saying he’d prefer to go to Atletico but if Atletico can’t afford him or can’t figure out a deal to sign him and get around the club’s transfer ban, he’d be open to going to another European club.

“I have already shown my affection and my interest in playing for Atletico,” Costa said. “But if they, Athletic and Chelsea did not reach an agreement and they [Athletic] do not force a move, I can not be wanting to play in a club that does not want to make a greater effort. I know that this will happen. If it is to pay as much as Chelsea want [the transfer], it is not possible. You must see this. What I know is that the proposal to come will exceed that Chelsea paid when he brought me. And I gave back in every way.”

West Bromwich rejects latest bid from Man City for Evans

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Manchester City’s latest transfer target is a Premier League veteran, but he’s not going without a fight.

West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis confirmed that the club had rejected a transfer bid for former Manchester United centerback Jonny Evans from Manchester City. It’s reported that the transfer bid was worth $23.2 million and that Man City are willing to up it to around $28.3 million, though Pulis isn’t budging.

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“We have turned down an offer for Jonny,” Pulis said. “We do not want to sell Jonny and we do not need to sell him. It would have to be a very, very good offer.

“Jonny understands the situation and where everything is. Jonny is happy here and wants to get on with his football. He is one of our best players. We all understand where we are.”

Evans has made 61 starts over the past two seasons for West Bromwich but it’s a question as to whether he’d be first choice at Manchester City, with Vincent Kompany, John Stones and even Nicolas Otamendi ahead of Evans in the pecking order.

Meanwhile, it doesn’t make sense for West Bromwich to sign one of its top players at this point in the transfer window, with less than a month to find a replacement in both the dressing room and on the field.

For all the talk about needing to improve defensively over the offseason, Man City manager Pep Guardiola has so far only been able to bring in new fullbacks, but perhaps his 3-5-2 formation displayed in the opening match of the season can provide more defensive stability for the team, even if Kompany misses extensive time with injury like in the past.

Pique: For first time in career, Barca star feels “inferior to Madrid”

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Gerard Pique does not have the sort of personality that makes admitting defeat an easy proposition.

The longtime Barcelona center back is raging after his side was beaten 5-1 over two legs by rivals Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup.

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And for the first time in his life, he thinks Barca is a step behind its El Clasico enemies. From The Telegraph:

“This is a long process and there is room for improvement but in the nine years that I have been here, it is the first time that I feel inferior to Madrid,” Piqué said. “We are not in the best moment, either as a team or as a club. We must stay as close as possible and keep moving forwards.”

Barcelona looked very poor in the second leg of the Super Cup, though the club did hammer the woodwork on multiple occasions. Real is the best team in the world, which makes being its rival a real hassle.

In fact, both clubs have been 1-2 in the world for some time, which has to make it extra perplexing when you’re No. 2 to only the club you despise more than any other.