Premier League Preview: Crystal Palace vs Chelsea

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  • Eden Hazard has 14 goals this Premier League season. Crystal Palace has scored 13 all year at Selhurst Park (19 overall).
  • Crystal Palace have four fixtures against top-five teams in their final eight matches.
  • Chelsea has not lost to Crystal Palace in 23 years.

With Manchester City in control of their Premier League destiny, Chelsea have to avoid dropping points against Crystal Palace during their trip to Selhurst Park at 11am ET tomorrow morning on NBCSN and live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.  Anything less than three points would be a disappointment after their 6-0 dismantling of the Gunners.

The Sky Blues have to make a trip to Arsenal this weekend, and that could provide an opening for Chelsea to regain control of the title race if they can hang on across London.

Crystal Palace has hardly proven a threat in front of goal this year, but their stout defense is what Tony Pulis has built his foundation for a battle against relegation on. They remain in 17th, just three points from the drop, and their schedule is daunting down the stretch.

But with the Eagles having registered one goal in their last five matches – a penalty – they face a Blues squad that hasn’t conceded a penalty in 48 matches and counting.

On top of things, Marouane Chamakh is doubtful for the match, meaning Glenn Murray or Camerone Jerome would deputize up front. Dwight Gayle is also out. On the other side, Samuel Eto’o is likely out with a hamstring problem, so Fernando Torres is likely to replace his injured teammate. Ashley Cole is also out injured.

What they’re saying:

Tony Pulis on Palace’s chances: “If you’re looking at the balance of the two clubs and what they have and haven’t got it is a very uneven contest. But football is a funny old game, if we set ourselves up well and give everything we possibly can…you never know. If you put our players up against their players individually I don’t think there are many of our players who would get into their team. But collectively, as a group and as a team, if you are working together and putting things in place you can make it difficult for them.”

Hazard on Eto’o influence: “Every day he tells me that I have to be among the best players in the world. In each game, he keeps telling me that I have to make the difference. He says: ‘You can’t leave the stadium without having scored a goal. Before, I said to myself that I was just going to play football. If we won and I didn’t score, never mind. Now, I say to myself that that is also football: always score, always show you can do things.”

Mourinho on difficulty losing: “One of the things I learn is that you can win, you can lose, and if you lose in the right way you have to move on and try not to lose again. Try to learn from the mistakes. But think about the next match. But I never learned or accept to lose that way [like we did against Aston Villa]. I learn how to lose with a bad performance, because the opponent were better and praise them.”

Prediction:

With all their goalscoring difficulties, it’s hard to see Crystal Palace managing a score without a flukey discombobulation in Chelsea’s defense. The only way Palace can pull spoils from this match would be in a 0-0 scoreline, and it’s difficult to see Chelsea not scoring in this one.  Mourinho’s men go up 2-0 comfortably in the first half before the manager brings on John Obi Mikel to shut up shop for the victory.  Hazard scores, much to Eto’o’s delight.

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

Photo credit: New England Revolution / Twitter: @NERevolution
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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

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New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”

USMNT: 4 players, including Brooks, Lletget, released; Arriola added

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Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

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John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

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Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”