Championship Sunday focus: Crystal Palace

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Story so far…  A tale of two halves for Palace, who looked dead and buried heading into the last week of November when new manager Tony Pulis replaced Ian Holloway. What happened next has shocked everyone, as Pulis has transformed Palace into an incredibly strong defensive unit (they have only conceded 46 goals, seventh best in the league) and they finished the season in fine form. Many have stood out for the Eagles, but skipper Mile Jedinak has really led by example in midfield.

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Over this summer Pulis is expected to have in-depth talks with Palace’s board as the Eagles prepare for the first-ever two season stay in the top flight. Question marks over Pulis’s future are around but it seems as though he should be at Selhurst after a wonderful turnaround which has him as a Manger of the Year candidate.

Who do they play and where can I watch it: Palace head across to West London on the final day as they face already relegated Fulham at Craven Cottage. You can watch that game live on E! at 10 a.m. ET and stream it online via NBC Sports Live Extra.

Form guide: When these two sides met earlier in the season Fulham hammered Palace 4-1 in Ian Holloway’s last game in charge of the Eagles. How the tables have turned, as five-straight wins lifted Palace out of the drop zone and into midtable while Fulham are down.

April 5 – at Cardiff, W 3-0
April 12 – vs. Aston Villa, W 1-0
April 16 – at Everton, W 3-2
April 19 – at West Ham, W 1-0
April 27 – vs. Man City, L 0-2
May 5 – vs. Liverpool, D 3-3

What’s at stake:  The Eagles are enjoying their best-ever finish in the Premier League, as they’ve never previously stayed up in the top-flight on four separate occasions. If they beat Fulham on the final day the Eagles can finish in the top 10, but they’d need Stoke to get hammered and win big themselves. Seems like it will be top of the bottom half for the Eagles.

When the final whistle blows: Palace will likely stay in the bottom half of the standings, as they looks odds on to finish in 11th. Rock bottom for the opening half of the campaign, Pulis has worked wonders down at Selhurst Park. What an incredible atmosphere their fans create too down in South London. This summer all eyes will be on Pulis to see if he stays and then which new players he is allowed to bring in.

Mourinho “working like never before” to turn Chelsea around

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Jose Mourinho got the dreaded much-needed vote of confidence from Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich last weekend, seemingly giving the Portuguese manager a temporary stay of execution despite the Blues’ worst start to a season in 37 years.

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Speaking this week, Mourinho has revealed that while he’s thankful to have been kept on at the club for which he regularly professes his love, he still thinks it was no-brainer for Abramovich. In other words, Mourinho’s not backing down from his incredible, seven-minute rant to one question following Saturday’s defeat to Southampton.

Mourinho, on what he’s doing to turn Chelsea around — quotes from the Guardian:

“It shows the confidence of Abramovich in the manager who has won three Premier League titles with this club. I thank him and I keep working.

“What’s going on? I do not know. The results with Chelsea at the moment have been really bad. I cannot hide that reality, and I don’t want to. And I struggle to find an explanation. But I assure you: I’m working like never before and we will come out of this. And there is also the Champions League that we will not neglect, for certain.”

What did you expect from Mourinho? Well, you know, I should probably be fired, but thanks to Mr. Abramovich for not realizing this and keeping me employed? It’s simultaneously interesting and the least surprising thing ever, though, that Mourinho claims to not know what’s wrong with Chelsea at the moment. Of course he has a theory (or five), and of course he’s “working like never before” to correct it.

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The most fascinating thing about Chelsea’s sluggish start to the season is to see, hear and read Mourinho speaking from a position of powerlessness. Always the clever one, the one dictating where the discussion goes, the one in charge of every press interaction, Saturday’s rant felt like watching a desperate Mourinho grasping for anything by which to pull himself back up.

Reports link Guardiola with Manchester City summer move

Bayern Muenchen v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga
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There are claims out of Spain that Manchester City has a verbal agreement to bring Pep Guardiola to town when his Bayern Munich contract expires in June.

Don’t expect comment from Guardiola, who bristles when discussing his future. In the past he’s hinted he might not be the right man for the Bavarian side, but has lamented any questions about clubs other than Bayern.

Now Mundo Deportivo writer Francesc Aguilar says there’s a secret agreement between Guardiola and Manchester City director of football Txiki Begiristain to reunite at the Etihad Stadium this summer.

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Both Barcelona buffs and former Spanish internationals, Begiristain was Barca’s director of football when Guardiola took over for Frank Rjikaard in 2008.

Manuel Pellegrini signed a contract extension this summer and has led the club to a Premier League title, though the club has struggled in European competition. For what it’s worth, the Manchester Evening News got rumor reaction from Sergio Aguero:

On the latest Guardiola rumour, Kun said: “It has been talked about a lot. I don’t know him, but he’s a great manager and it’s wonderful to have the best managers train you.”

But he also added: “I’m very good with Manuel Pellegrini, we talk a lot. I’m happy in the team and with him, but the club will be the one who chooses who comes in.”

In other words, “I’m really good, and they pay me well enough that I’m prepared to play for any big name that arrives.”

It’s a story to keep up with, even as it intrudes on the seasons of two big, rich European clubs.