Premier League Preview: Tottenham v. Crystal Palace

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  • Tottenham have scored nine goals in four league games under Tim Sherwood; the same number that they scored in the last 10 games under Andre Villas-Boas.
  • Crystal Palace are unbeaten in four previous Barclays Premier League games at White Hart Lane (W1 D3).
  • Since Tony Pulis has taken over, Palace have conceded just eight goals in eight league games (three clean sheets). They conceded 21 in the first 12 of the season (two clean sheets).

Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood will have his four match unbeaten record tested when Crystal Palace visit White Hart Lane on Saturday (Watch live on NBCSN at 10am ET, online via NBC Sports Live Extra).

Spurs have looked a new club since the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas following the 0-5 home loss to Liverpool on December 15th. Chairman Daniel Levy is looking quite shrewd in his decision to hand the managerial reins to Sherwood, who has instilled his side with a new found sense of expression.

Under AVB, Tottenham was an overly-coached squad that was too preoccupied with complex tactics that the player’s lost their sense of freedom and creativity. Under the guise of Sherwood however, Spurs have adopted a laissez-faire attitude that’s bringing out the best in the players.

After going to Southampton and winning 3-2 on December 22nd, Spurs returned home to salvage a tough 1-1 draw with West Brom. They found their feet again in the 3-0 blitz of Stoke City before earning a profound 2-1 victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

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With all the talent in the world, Sherwood’s loose system was exactly the tonic Spurs needed to get back on track. In time, more purposeful play will need to be installed but for now Spurs are simply enjoying their football. Part of that enjoyment, of course, involves beating clubs who you should beat. Prime example – Crystal Palace.

The Eagles have improved dramatically under Tony Pulis and are no longer the Premier League’s whipping boys (that honor is firmly in West Ham’s hands). Sitting in 18th place one point shy of safety, a win on Saturday could see the South London club move out of the relegation zone and leapfrog Fulham and Cardiff.

One of Palace’s keys to success under Pulis has been their improved away form – they’ve now have won three in six on their travels after losing the previous six in a row. Adding to the uplift, of the Eagles’ three away losses in that run, two have been to Manchester City and Chelsea.

Injuries could play a role in Saturday’s outcome with Spurs having a laundry list of players on the trainer’s table. In the defense, Jan Vertonghen (ankle) and Younes Kaboul (thigh) are long term absentees while Kyle Naughton (hamstring) is also out. In the midfield, Sandro (calf), Lewis Holtby (knee), Andros Townsend (hamstring) are all possibilities to return while Gylfi Sigurdsson (calf) is doubtful. Up front, Jermain Defoe (hamstring) will be a late fitness test while Roberto Soldado (calf) is a doubt.

Palace enter the match in much better health with Jerome Thomas (groin), Jack Hunt (ankle), Adlene Guedioura (rib), Glenn Murray (knee) all deemed out.

What They’re Saying

Spurs midfielder Christian Eriksen: “We’ll probably have the ball more, but we just have to use the ball well against what could be a defensive team. Every game is difficult but I believe we can maintain our good run of form in the league and pick up another win.”

Palace manager Tony Pulis: “Watching the team win away from home gives you confidence because although you need to win your home games, we have the same amount of away games coming up. To be able to go into those games knowing that you can get points away from home is important.”

Prediction

With Tottenham’s rash of injuries, this is no lollypop match. I expect Spurs to win but think this will be a tight affair with only a goal separating the sides.

Pardew “furious” after 4 WBA players steal taxi in Spain

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At least when you’re bottom of the Premier League table and appear headed for relegation, as West Bromwich Albion now find themselves, you can take the positive approach that “the only way to go from here is up.”

[ FA CUP: Man United advance, drawn against PL opposition in QF ]

Alternatively, four of your most senior players — Jonny Evans, Gareth Barry, Jake Livermore and Boaz Myhill, in this case — might have other ideas and elect to steal a cab during a late-season training camp in Barcelona. That’s the current state of affairs for the Baggies and manager Alan Pardew, who openly admits he was “furious” and felt “let down” — quotes from the Guardian:

“This is obviously not ideal. They broke the curfew and that’s unacceptable and I feel a bit let down by that.”

“It’s difficult for managers. Obviously, I was furious with what happened but at the same time I’ve got to stay faithful to the players and give them a chance to remedy the situation.”

The night’s timeline reads something like this: the quartet wanted to go out in the city center, but everything was closed late at night; they got a taxi to a McDonald’s by the Barcelona port; the driver left the car, at which point the players decided to drive back to the team hotel around 5:30 a.m.; the care was returned to the cab driver around 8 a.m.

Evans was stripped of his captaincy for Saturday’s FA Cup fifth-round defeat to Southampton. The players have since released the following statement through the club’s website:

“We felt it important we identify ourselves as the players involved in an incident which occurred during the training camp in Spain this week out of respect for team-mates who otherwise could be implicated by association. We freely acknowledge and apologize for the break of curfew which we accept represented a breach of the standards of professionalism required of us as representatives of West Bromwich Albion.

“The club has informed us that it will now conduct its own inquiry into the incident and we will cooperate fully. In the meantime, we would like to assure our supporters that this incident does not reflect the determination and resolve we possess to do all we can to recover a difficult season.”

With 11 games left to play, West Brom currently sit seven points adrift of safety; Pardew’s position grows more and more tenuous with each point dropped; and three of their final 11 games are against Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.

Serie A: Turkish youngster Under fires Roma back into 3rd

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ROME (AP) The rapid development of 20-year-old Turkey winger Cengiz Under is playing a big role in Roma’s revival.

Under scored his fourth goal in three matches and Roma won at Udinese 2-0 for its third straight win in Serie A on Saturday.

Roma moved into third place, two points ahead of Inter Milan, which lost at Genoa 2-0.

It’s a drastic improvement from where Roma was a month ago, when the Giallorossi were mired in a five-match winless streak that risked dropping them out of contention for the Champions League places.

“We’re getting back on track to where we were in the first half of the season,” forward Diego Perotti said.

Roma went ahead when Under unleashed a powerful, rising shot from beyond the area in the 70th.

Perotti sealed the victory in the 90th with an angled effort after Udinese gave the ball away near midfield.

Under is having a breakout month.

First, he scored after 43 seconds when Roma ended a five-match winless streak by beating Hellas Verona 1-0. Then he had a brace and also delivered an assist in a 5-2 win over Benevento last weekend.

All this after not being involved in any goals in his first 14 matches with Roma.

“He plays far more for the team than himself,” Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco said of Under. “His greatest strength is being able to prepare his shot with great speed, making him difficult to close down.”

Added Perotti, “He’s very humble and he doesn’t speak Italian yet but he’s well behaved and is a great kid. He deserves all of this.”

On Wednesday, Roma visits Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of the Champions League last 16.

“We’ve got to make the most of the fact they’ve had a winter break and might not be match fit,” Di Francesco said of the Ukrainian side. “They have a lot of quality in attack and are dangerous, but we shouldn’t change our attitude.”


Inter’s defense was in shambles against Genoa.

The hosts took the lead before the break when a failed clearance attempt from Milan Skriniar ricocheted off of a stunned Andrea Ranocchia, who was charged with an own goal.

Then former Inter striker Goran Pandev was left unmarked to score from the center of the area midway through the second half.

Inter hasn’t won at regional rival Genoa in more than seven years.

Chievo Verona took a big step toward avoiding relegation with a 2-1 win over visiting Cagliari.

Emanuele Giaccherini and Roberto Inglese scored late for the hosts before Leonardo Pavoletti pulled one back for Cagliari.

Chievo moved up to 14th, level on points with Cagliari, eight points above the drop zone.

La Liga: Barca’s 31-game unbeaten run ties longest in club history

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ FA CUP: Man United advance, drawn against PL opposition in QF ]

Eibar 0-2 Barcelona

Barcelona, the last remaining unbeaten side from Europe’s five major domestic leagues, warmed up for Tuesday’s Champions League round-of-16 clash with Chelsea by dismantling seventh-place Eibar side away from home on Saturday and extending their unbeaten run to 31 games in the league, tying the club’s all-time record in the process.

The Blaugrana took the lead after 15 minutes, when Lionel Messi slotted an inch-perfect through ball for Luis Suarez who rounded the goalkeeper and slotted home (WATCH HERE) for his 17th league goal of the season (20 in all competitions).

Messi played his part in Barca’s second goal, which came three minutes before full-time. The Argentine’s shot was initially saved, but Jordi Alba arrived on the scene moments later to clean up and finish off the 10-man Basque minnows.

The victory sends Barca 10 points clear of second-place Atletico Madrid, who play on Sunday, and 20 points clear of fourth-place Real Madrid, who have played two fewer games thus far.

Malaga 1-2 Valencia

Valencia, who spent the majority of the season’s first half as Barca’s nearest title rivals (while never really challenging), fell to third when they recently lost three straight league games, but have since regained their footing with back-to-back wins, including Saturday’s come-from-behind triumph away to last-place Malaga.

Brown Ideye put Malaga ahead just before the half-hour mark, a lead which remained intact for more than 50 minutes. Alas, Francis Coquelin bagged his first goal for Valencia in the 80th minute to draw level, followed by a penalty kick converted by Dani Parejo five minutes later.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Las Palmas 1-2 Sevilla
Alaves 1-0 Deportivo La Coruña

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Real Sociedad vs. Levante — 6 a.m. ET
Atletico Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao — 10:15 a.m. ET
Espanyol vs. Villarreal — 12:30 p.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Real Madrid — 2:45 p.m. ET

Mourinho: VAR calls must be “perfect; Wagner wants quicker decisions

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HUDDERSFIELD, England (AP) Jose Mourinho called on the football authorities to start making video calls “perfect” after his Manchester United was denied a goal while beating Huddersfield 2-0 in the FA Cup on Saturday.

Juan Mata‘s effort late in the first half was disallowed by the video assistant referee for his knee being offside.

But it took the VAR, who is always based in an offsite studio for English soccer matches, several minutes to rule the goal out.

“It’s an experimental period,” Mourinho said. “They have to get rid of the bad and make it perfect.

“It should be the referee’s decision. Why? Because the referee wants to perform well. I don’t think they’re happy to make mistakes and if they have the VAR to help them make the right decision, I think the referees are probably happy with that.

“But if the VAR changes their good decisions for bad decisions, I think they’re not happy with that. It was a bit frustrating because the moment I saw (referee) Kevin Friend touch his earpiece, I knew something was going to happen.

“That doubt is not the best feeling. If the decision is right, I am super happy with that because I want the truth. Sometimes it goes against me and sometimes in my team’s favor. But I heard comments that maybe the linesman was right and not the studio.”

Huddersfield manager David Wagner said he was against the VAR.

“The decision went in our favor but this VAR for me kills the emotion of the game,” Wagner said. “This is why I don’t like it but I am not the person who makes the decision.”