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Premier League 2014-15 preview: Crystal Palace

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Many people expected Crystal Palace to be playing in England’s second-tier this season but thanks to a heroic turnaround and the genius of manager Tony Pulis, the Eagles are soaring into their second-straight Premier League season for the first-time in club history. By December last year they looked dead and buried, in the end Palace finished in 11th and put in some wonderful displays. This season Pulis will be hoping to build off the feel-good factor fostered by exceeding expectations last year, as the South Londoners hope to carry on their surprising spell in the top-flight. Selhurst Park has become a fortress and no team will be relishing a trip to play a physical, committed ‘Pulian’ team in front of the boisterous Ultras in 2014-15.

[RELATED: Full PL season preview]

Transfers In: Chris Kettings (Blackpool, Free), Fraizer Campbell (Cardiff City, $1.6 million), Brede Hangeland (Fulham, Free)

Transfers Out: Kagisho Dikgacoi (Cardiff City, Free), Danny Gabbidon (Released), Dean Moxey (Bolton Wanderers, Free), Jonathan Parr (Ipswich, Free), Jose Campana (Sampdoria, Undisclosed), Aaron Wilbraham (Bristol City, Free)

Full PL schedule | Watch Palace live via Live Extra | BPL on NBC schedule |

Last season: As we mentioned, Palace defied the odds to beat the drop last season. Pulis arrived to take over from Ian Holloway with the Eagles in the drop zone and looking doomed. However just as he did at Stoke the Welsh manager made them hard to beat and with some shrewd additions in the January transfer window, Palace’s fans began to believe the great escape was on. After beating the likes of Chelsea and stunning Liverpool with a remarkable comeback from 3-0 down late in the season, Palace were well clear of the relegation drama in the final weeks. It was a herculean effort from all involved in their first season back in the big time. Can they replicate it? Here is a recap of their 2013-14 season.

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Can Jedinak lead the Eagles to yet another surprise season in the PL?

Star player: Mile Jedinak

Palace’s skipper is the heartbeat of the team and an absolute machine in the engine room. The Aussie destroyer ploughed his way through plenty of PL midfields last season and after some great displays for the Socceroos at the World Cup, expect Jedinak to drive his team on once again. Palace’s incredible work ethic feeds off this guy and he epitomizes their blue-collar approach. The fans love him and he’s a true leader who slots perfectly into the way Pulis sets his teams up.

Coaches’ Corner: Tony Pulis

The reigning Premier League coach of the year agonized over taking the Palace job last season, but when he finally did the entire club got a lift and his PL experience with Stoke shone through. Even Pulis probably didn’t envisage the dramatic turnaround he conducted, as his team went from relegation certs to mid-table obscurity (not a bad thing) in the space of six months. His baseball caps, screaming and no-nonsense approach go hand-in-hand with Palace’s passionate supporters. Expect Pulis’ men to be direct, fast-paced and punch above their weight once again.

PST predicts: Will it be a case of second-season syndrome for Palace as teams figure out how to counteract their direct style? There haven’t been many new faces arriving at Selhurst this summer but Pulis is the king of deals late in the transfer window. Expect big moves. If the team spirit is retained then Palace’s home form will be key as they aim to try and finish in the PL’s top 10 for the first time in club history. If you love an underdog story, keep an eye on Palace.

Lionel Messi picks up hamstring injury, will travel with Argentina anyways

BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 20: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Betis Balompie at Camp Nou on August 20, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
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Lionel Messi’s “return” to the Argentinian national team may have to wait.

Barcelona has revealed their superstar picked up a left hamstring injury at an unspecified time, and discovered them during tests earlier on Monday. The statement said he would still travel to Argentina to link up with the national team for the international break, and will have more tests there.

Argentina, sitting in the third spot in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying and just two points above elimination, have vital matches against Uruguay and Venezuela over the next week. “His presence in those matches will depend on how the injury develops,” the statement from Barcelona read.

It is unclear when Messi developed this injury. He has played the full 90 minutes in all four of Barcelona’s matches this season, including the 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, the first of the four matches in which he did not score or assist a goal.

This also could be a bit of gamesmanship from Barcelona. Obviously, it benefits clubs for their players to rest during international breaks instead of play international matches, and for them to suddenly announce an injury to Lionel Messi would put pressure on Argentina to consider sitting their superstar. Of course, in attempts to dispel this idea, Barcelona included in their statement that the injury report was “approved by the FC Barcelona Medical Services and the Argentinian Football Association.”

A legitimate injury to Messi would be a devastating blow to Argentina considering Sergio Aguero has already withdrawn from the squad following an injury picked up against West Ham this weekend. Aguero was substituted in the 88th minute of Manchester City’s 3-1 win over the Hammers.

Messi was expected to make his first appearance to the national team setup after his brief “retirement” following the loss in the Copa America finals.

VIDEO: What will Southampton’s new star Boufal provide?

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Sofiane Boufal is a name many will be familiar with.

After his $21 million move to Southampton on Monday for a club-record fee, plenty of people are getting excited about seeing Boufal in the Premier League.

The Moroccan international is the type of player who has already become a cult figure due to the “Football Manager” video game, as his potential to become a star of European soccer has been well documented with huge teams interested in signing him over the past six months.

[ MORE: Fabregas wants Chelsea stay ]

That’s because Boufal, 22, shone for Lille last season, scoring 12 goals and his trickery, pace, set pieces and direct running saw him named as the best African player in Ligue 1.

He chose Southampton and it seems like a very wise choice after they helped turn the likes of Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw, plus many more, into top international players.

So, what have Southampton got in Boufal?

Take a look at the video above which gives a great overview of Boufal from his time at Lille after making the step up from Angers in Ligue 2 in January 2015.

That’s right, those comparisons with Riyad Mahrez seem pretty legit.

Late show? Chelsea linked with transfer deals for James Rodriguez, Alonso

Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
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Chelsea may be set to do some late business in the summer transfer window.

According to Marca in Spain they will sign Fiorentina defender Marcos Alonso for $27 million.

[ MORE: Boufal signs for Saints ]

Alonso, 25, previously played for Bolton and Sunderland in the Premier League but the Real Madrid product moved to Serie A in 2013 and has flourished for Fiorentina. He is able to operate as a left back and in midfield and could provide Antonio Conte with another option in defense so he can switch Cesar Azpilicueta to right back and potentially Branislav Ivanovic to center back.

Another player who could be on his way to Chelsea is Real Madrid’s forward is James Rodriguez. This is one we’ve heard before, many times.

The Colombian national team captain, 25, was subject of a $80 million bid from Chelsea but according to the Daily Mirror the bid was turned down by Real Madrid.

[ MORE: McCourt to buy Marseille ]

James has found himself a bit-part player at the Santiago Bernabeu with Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema around. However he has a huge release clause in his contract and Chelsea would have to pay close to $100 million for his services. Is he really worth that? When you have Oscar, Pedro, Willian, Eden Hazard, Victor Moses and others already in your squad, probably not.

In terms of outgoings at Stamford Bridge, Kurt Zouma has been linked with a move to Schalke in the Bundesliga as the French central defender continues his long comeback from a horrendous knee injury he suffered against Manchester United in February last season. Zouma, 21, is said to be close to joining Schalke on a season-long loan deal wit a view to a permanent move.

Nacer Chadli signs for West Brom

COLCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 30:  Nacer Chadli of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates scoring his team's third goal during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Colchester United and Tottenham Hotspur at Weston Homes Community Stadium on January 30, 2016 in Colchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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West Bromwich Albion have signed Nacer Chadli from Tottenham Hotspur in a deal said to be worth $17 million.

[ MORE: Boufal signs for Saints ]

Chadli, 27, has spent the past three seasons with Spurs after arriving from FC Twente in 2013 for $9.1 million.

The Belgian international fell down the pecking order at Tottenham last season under Mauricio Pochettino and has now moved on to secure regular minutes in the Premier League.

Speaking to West Brom’s website about his move to the Hawthorns, Chadli was delighted to be on board with Tony Pulis‘ side.

“I feel very good to be here. It came very quickly but I spoke to the Club and they have a good team, a good manager and I am very pleased to be here,” Chadli said. “My ambitions? I just want to help the team win as many games as possible.”

Chadli can operate in central midfield, out wide, in a No. 10 role or even up front and he is very good on the ball and has an eye for goal with 25 goals in 119 appearances in all competitions for Tottenham.

With Spurs possessing Dele Alli, Victor Wanyama, Dele Alli, Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen and Heung-Min Son in the central and attacking midfield areas, Chadli wasn’t guaranteed minutes at White Hart Lane.

West Brom have picked up a player who can create chances and is a powerful presence in midfield. With his creativity Chadli should slot in nicely in front of Darren Fletcher in the Baggies’ midfield and Pulis will be hoping he can lay chances on for Salomon Rondon up top.

This seems like a really shrewd piece of business by West Brom, while Spurs are also looking to offload Ryan Mason and Son according to multiple reports. Is Pochettino lining up some last-minute business in the transfer window?

Could West Brom’s Saido Berahino be heading for Spurs with Chadli the sweetener in the deal? Let’s see what the next 48 hours or so brings before the transfer window slams shut at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday.