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McLeish, Coleman, O’Neill linked with Crystal Palace job

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Ian Holloway hadn’t finished talking about his grandchild before Tony Pulis was linked with the Crystal Palace job, making it a bit surprising the former Stoke City man hasn’t been appointed at Selhurst Park. But as is so often the case, the first hints weren’t the right ones. One week after Holloway’s resignation, “interim” remains attached to the Eagles’ managerial post.

That’s just enough time for a imaginations to start working, which may explain why new candidates for the Palace job are starting to surface. According to the latest reports, those candidates include three well-known coaches looking for Premier League returns.

But have pity for Palace supporters if Alex McLeish gets the job. The 54-year-old Scot is currently out of work after running Birmingham City and Aston Villa into the ground. The Blues remain in the Championship, McLeish having apparently purchased a one-way ticket to the second tier, while Aston Villa’s Premier League lives barely survived the former Rangers boss’s wrath. Since then, McLeish tried his dark arts at Nottingham Forest before leaving the club after 41 days.

It’s a track record of failure that extends back to 2007, when McLeish moved to arrived in the West Midlands after a short stint with the Scottish national team. To his credit, McLeish did lead Birmingham City to a League Cup in 2011 (thanks, Arsenal), but he also orchestrated some of the worst soccer in the Premier League. Pragmatic to the point of being scared, McLeish’s tactics make you hate soccer.

But don’t lose too much sleep yet, Palace fans. According to McLeish, he hasn’t been contacted about the job, even if it sounds like he’s waiting by the phone:

“There hasn’t been any contact yet but I am a free agent,” McLeish said. “Crystal Palace are in a position that’s precarious for them but there’s still a lot of points to play for. I’ve had those kind of challenges before and I’ve had some success and some failures but if you’ve got a fighting spirit and good players playing to their strengths, then why can’t Palace stay up?”

Hiring McLeish would answer that question, though South Norwood should take heart in the fact another man’s name’s being thrown around. Unlike McLeish, Chris Coleman’s Premier League track record’s a mixed one. His first full season in charge of Fulham (2003-04) saw the Cottagers finish ninth, though they were pulled into a relegation battle the following season. After a slow start in 2005-06, Colemen left Craven Cottage.

He went to Real Sociedad and generally succeed but failed with Coventry City on his return to England. In a brief spell in Greece, he also saw success, but financial issues at Larissa led the 43-year-old back home: to coach the Welsh national team. He’s approaching his two-year anniversary on the job.

Unfortunately, Coleman’s tactics aren’t that much more ambitious than McLeish’s. Wondering what he would do in McLeish’s place at Brum or Villa is the type of thought experiment that leads you to wonder why we bother with sports at all. Why, out of all the managers in the world, has Crystal Palace come up with a list of some of the most soul-crushing tacticians in Britain?

Martin O’Neill is also reportedly in the picture, but like McLeish, his last coaching experience was a failed one (not uncommon for managers looking for jobs). Like Pulis’s last years at Stoke, O’Neill’s time at Sunderland featured a lot of spending for few results. And to complete the theme, his Sunderland teams played horrible, horrible football.

Crystal Palace is already in bad enough shape without bringing in a man who will bring their fans to tears. At least find somebody who will try to play good soccer. If that leads them to the Championship, that’s find. The Eagles were always likely to go down. Don’t amplify the agony in the process.

Premier League Preview: Stoke City vs. Manchester United

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02:  Paul Pogba of Manchester United (L) shoots while Erik Pieters of Stoke City (R) attempts to block the shot during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford on October 2, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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  • Man Utd leads all-time 43W-34D-28L
  • Clubs even in last six (2-2-2)
  • Red Devils unbeaten in 16
  • Stoke winners of two-straight

After wins over Sunderland and Watford, Stoke City gets a higher class of opponent on Saturday at the Britannia Stadium (Watch live at 10 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Fortunately for Stoke, it’s had some success against Manchester United in recent years.

Stoke and United drew 1-1 at Old Trafford on Oct. 2, though Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils are flying now. United is hard to break down, and arguably deserved better than the 1-1 draw it earned versus Liverpool last weekend.

Stoke is now 11 points clear of the drop zone, and a win could raise its status to closer to the Top Five than Bottom Three. United, meanwhile, wants three points that would move it to precipice of the Top Four.

 

What they’re saying

Stoke City’s Glenn Whelan on facing United“There has been a wind of change there and the supporters seem a lot happier now and you get the sense that they are together as a group now. You only have to look at the players within the squad, and even the ones who are leaving, to see how much strength in depth they have there.”

Jose Mourinho praises newly-extended Antonio Valencia“I don’t think it is a reward, I don’t see it in this perspective. I just think he is the best right-back you can have. There is no better right-back in football. It is just for us to keep the best. I don’t think it is a reward. It is a privilege for us to have such a good player and such a good man.”

Prediction

United gets it done, only barely. Stoke will put up a brave battle for boss Mark Hughes, but there are too many weapons to suppress. United, 1-0.

AFCON wrap: Results keep Group C undecided

Ivory Coast's Wilfried Bony controls the ball on his head during their training session at the Stade Akoakam, Oyem, Gabon, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, ahead of their African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match against Congo. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Like Group A, Group C in the Africa Cup of Nations has very little decided ahead of the final group stage match.

[ MORE: Guardiola “said goodbye to title” ]

Ivory Coast 2-2 DR Congo

A thrilling first half had DR Congo leading 1-0 and 2-1, with only Wilfried Bony netting for the Ivory Coast. Les Elephants grabbed a draw through Serey Die’s 67th minute goal.

DR Congo now leads the group and is primed to advance with a result against Togo or a Morocco loss or draw against Ivory Coast.

Morocco 3-1 Togo

Mathieu Dossevi gave Togo a surprise fifth minute lead lead, but Aziz Bouhaddouz kickstarted the Moroccan attack to plug the victors into Group C’s second spot ahead of a Jan. 24 showdown with Ivory Coast.

Saturday’s matches

Ghana vs. Mali — 11 a.m. ET
Egypt vs. Uganda — 2 p.m. ET

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Swansea City

SWANSEA, WALES - MAY 01:  Jefferson Montero of Swansea City is challenged by Nathaniel Clyne of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at The Liberty Stadium on May 1, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)
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  • Liverpool leads all-time 22W-8D-10L
  • Swans lost five-straight at Anfield
  • Reds unbeaten in 7 PL matches

One of the Premier League’s top attacks hosts the division’s leakiest defense, as Liverpool may be licking its chops ahead of a visit from struggling Swansea City on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Liverpool has drawn at Sunderland and Manchester United in its last two Premier League outings, and sits seven points back of leaders Chelsea.

Swansea City has allowed multiple goals in five of six PL matches since beating Sunderland 3-0 on Dec. 10. It’s no surprise that they’ve lost those five (the sixth being a 2-1 win at struggling Crystal Palace).

What they’re saying

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp on the match“We’re really looking forward to this game. I don’t know when it happened but in England every game now is like a final. Swansea are trying to survive. I don’t know when the title run-in will start, maybe now and we’re in the race. I hope for a special atmosphere tomorrow.”

Swansea City back Federico Fernandez on Liverpool“They are a team that is very strong going forward and that is shown by the number of goals they have scored. If you lose a little bit of focus against these teams then they have the players that will punish you every time. But it’s not only defending strongly when they are attacking, it is also how we keep hold of the ball and how we use it when in possession.”

Prediction

Swansea boss Paul Clement has his hands full, and is grabbing reinforcements in the transfer window (Luciano Narsingh, Martin Olsson, Tom Carroll). That won’t be enough to handle what Liverpool will dish out Saturday, as the Reds break free with a 3-0 win.

Saints’ Fonte moves to West Ham for $10 million

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West Ham has been linked with big name strikers since the summer, but the Irons’ big January transfer to date is a center back.

EURO champion and Southampton mainstay Jose Fonte is moving to London.

[ MORE: West Brom finally sells Berahino ]

Fonte, 33, makes an approximately $10 million move from the South Coast, where the Portuguese back will better Slaven Bilic‘s back line while forcing Southampton to find an answer alongside Virgil Van Dijk.

It’s been a strange trip to London for Fonte and Southampton, detailed by our own Joe Prince-Wright here. Fonte joined Saints during the 2009-10 season, and became a cult hero at St. Mary’s in helping the club move from League One to the Europa League in just over a half-decade.

Something won’t feel right about seeing Fonte in claret and blue, and Saints host West Ham on Feb. 4. Should be quite interesting.