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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.

Klopp hopes for speedy solution in club, fans’ ticket-price dispute

Liverpool's fans wave flags during the English League Cup semifinal second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Stoke City at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
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From his time at Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp is used to a much more positive, family-like, everyone-pulling-in-the-same-direction atmosphere at his club of employment, so the present goings-on at Liverpool understandably have the Reds’ first-year manager feeling more than a little uneasy.

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Saturday’s late 2-2 draw with Sunderland wasn’t the first time Liverpool fans have headed for the exit before the final whistle, leaving Klopp feeling all alone, but it was the first time the fans have departed from Anfield early in a pre-planned, organized manner (Klopp missed the game himself with appendicitis). The Anfield faithful didn’t walk out on 77 minutes due to their team’s poor performance — Liverpool were 2-0 ahead at the time — but in protest of steadily rising ticket prices, which were unveiled at $111 per game to sit in the 132-year-old stadium’s new main stand next season.

Klopp, coming from the Bundesliga, where a season ticket at clubs the size of Bayern Munich and Dortmund doesn’t cost much more than a single-game ticket at many Premier League grounds, understands the fans’ frustration. At the end of the day, though, he works for the club, which is why he just wants the whole thing settled quickly, for the sake of his squad — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s not what we want. What I know is everyone in the club has a big interest in finding a solution for this. We don’t want people to leave the stadium before the game is finished.”

An LFC TV appearance by Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre, in which he was expected to answer fan-submitted questions, was consequently canceled on Monday due to the ongoing dispute.

West Ham want Payet to sign new contract for fear of losing him this summer

Dimitri Payet, West Ham United FC (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Dimitri Payet is going to be a red-hot commodity during this summer’s transfer window, there’s no doubt about it.

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Given he’s currently contracted to one of the Premier League’s “smaller” clubs — in comparison to some of the giants which are bound to be interested — West Ham United, there’s a decent-to-good chance he could be wearing a different club’s shirt come August. Especially if the 28-year-old attacker shows up and shows out at this summer’s European Championship in his native France.

If I can foresee the interest in Payet, then so too can the executives at West Ham, which is why manager Slaven Bilic took to the press on Monday to convey his desire for Payet to consider signing a new, increased contract at his earliest convenience — quotes from the Guardian:

“We are moving, the club is moving, with the new stadium, with the revenue and everything. We have to move and the most important move is to keep your best players and to add some new players who are needed and Dimitri Payet is our best player — I have no problem whatsoever to say that. Of course, I would love to have him happy, long term, at the club.”

Of course West Ham want Payet to sign a new deal immediately — doing so would accomplish two things in the club’s eyes: 1) increase the likelihood he remains at the club next season, or 2) insure the club receives a higher transfer fee for the player if he leaves in the summer anyway. The more total money remaining on his West Ham contract, the more they can demand of a prospective buyer.

[ MORE: Ronaldo commits himself to Real Madrid through 2018 ]

From Payet’s side — unless he has absolutely zero desire to move to a club like Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United, where he’d likely be paid close to $200,000 per week — he’d be crazy to sign a new contract at this point. Not only would it make a move this summer more difficult, but a strong showing at EURO 2016 could be worth another $15,000 or $20,000 per week on a new contract with West Ham (his current contract is rumored to be close to $100,000 per week).

With as many as five seasons still remaining on his current contract (a one-year club option can be exercised at any point), and his stock perhaps at an all-time high, the next six months could hold Payet’s last chance to get really, really paid before he hits the downside of his career.

USWNT players’ union responds in USSF lawsuit

FILE - In this Sunday, July 5, 2015 file photo, the United States Women's National Team celebrates with the trophy after they beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The U.S. Soccer Federation’s original lawsuit against the union for its champion women’s national team has been sealed after the governing body realized it had disclosed the home addresses and email accounts of many players, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
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(AP) — The union that represents the Women’s World Cup-winning American national team opposed an expedited schedule in the lawsuit filed against it by the U.S. Soccer Federation last week, insisting no collective bargaining agreement exists.

The federation sued in an attempt to establish it has a contract with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association that runs through this year’s Olympics until Dec. 31. The union maintains the memorandum of understanding agreed to in March 2013 can be terminated at any time.

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The USSF filed a motion Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago asking for an expedited schedule, and the submitted opposition papers Monday that claim “facts asserted in the motion are nowhere near accurate and are hotly disputed.”

The union also maintains the USSF knew about the disagreement since July but did nothing about it.

An initial status conference is set for April 4.

Lionel Messi to undergo tests for lingering kidney problems

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi holds the ball during a quarterfinal, second leg, Copa del Rey soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi is to undergo medical tests to assess a recurrence of kidney problems.

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup | Barca win on Sunday

Messi missed the Club World Cup semifinal in December due to a renal colic, an abdominal ailment often related to the presence of kidney stones within renal ducts.

Barcelona says in a statement Monday that the tests to be conducted by Tuesday at the latest, are “to assess the evolution of the kidney problem he suffered last December.”

[ MORE: Champions League returns next week — KO round matchups ]

The statement says Messi will resume training with the squad on Wednesday, when Barcelona travels to Valencia for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals in which it carries a 7-0 lead.