Crystal Palace v. Liverpool: Reds can go top of the league with win

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  • Had the Premier League started on January 1st, Crystal Palace would be seventh in the table on 27 points.
  • Liverpool have scored in 17 of their 18 away league games this season, failing to score only at Arsenal.
  • Three of Liverpool’s last five Premier League defeats have been to London clubs.

Liverpool look to boost their title-hopes with a victory over Crystal Palace today at Selhurst Park (3:00pm ET on NBCSN and streaming on Live Extra).

Brendan Rodgers’ side enters the match on the heels of a devastating 2-0 home loss to Chelsea last Sunday, which ended Liverpool’s 11 match league unbeaten streak.

A victory on Monday will see Liverpool reclaim top spot in the league from Manchester City, who can then come level on Wednesday when they host Aston Villa. Such a scenario would set up a final weekend where both Liverpool and City would be on 83 points, meaning Chelsea (79 points) would be eliminated from contention.

Tony Pulis’ side enter the match 11th in the Premier League table on 43 points, assuring them another season of Premier League football. Before last week’s 2-0 loss to Manchester City, Palace was on a tear having won five straight matches. The sensational run of form earned Pulis the manager of the month award and relaxed all relegation-related tensions.

Last time these two sides met Liverpool beat Crystal Palace 3-1 on October 5th behind goals from Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard before Dwight Gayle got one back late for the Eagles. Both clubs enter the match with a clean bill of health with Sturridge poised to start after overcoming a hamstring injury and Kagisho Dikgacoi returning to health from a knock that kept him out against City.

Also of note is the possibility that Suarez could enter the Premier League record books for goals in a 38-match season. One goal will tie the mark, currently held by Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo, while a brace will hand the Uruguayan the record.

What They’re Saying

Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis: “[Liverpool’s] forward line is exceptional, you only have to look at the two centre forwards and the number of goals they’ve scored between them to know they’ll be a threat. The two of them have formed a great partnership so it will be tough on Monday but it will great for the supporters to see top, top players like that as well.”

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: “All we can control is our remaining two matches. We need to win those and then see where it takes us. We can’t worry about anyone else, we just need to focus on our job. We will keep fighting right to the end.”

Predictions

It will be tight with Palace bringing it early and possibly even opening the scoring, but things will loosen up once Liverpool find the net and eventually open up Palace’s defense. Suarez nets a brace, gets the 38-game record and the Reds win by a two to three goal margin.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

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The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

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The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

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On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.