Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace

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•Palace’s have face Arsenal in 10 attempts and have won only once–a decade ago with a 2-1 victory at Highbury.

•Arsenal have won two title in three months, capturing the Community Shield last weekend, after waiting nine years for a trophy.

•Crystal Palace avoided being relegated for the first time in the Premier League, having fallen victim to the system in each of their previous four BPL campaigns.

Facing a strong Arsenal squad on Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, Crystal Palace will have to ignore the sudden departure of their manager, Tony Pulis, who kept them out of relegation last season. The game will be available on NBC, according to the matchday schedule.

Palace haven’t endured the craziest offseason, with their most notable signing being the £1.5 million Martin Kelly acquisition from Liverpool. Other than that, predictable moves occurred–central defender Brede Hangeland’s free transfer and striker Fraizer Campbell’s £900,000 relocation. Regardless, the team comes into this season with the hope of finishing higher than the 11th place spot from 2013-14. In the end, though, the realistic expectation would be to avoid relegation, since Pulis’ exit has struck coaching uncertainty. In the Arsenal contest, Mile Jedinak, the Glaziers relentless midfielder, will take his usual strong defensive stance against a technically skilled Arsenal squad. He’s the key to points for Palace.

In the meantime, Arsene Wenger hasn’t ruled out adding a defensively sturdy player to his roster prior to the end of the summer transfer window. Arsenal’s big purchase was FC Barcelona striker Alexis Sanchez, snapped up from the Catalan giants for a reported £35 million. Defender Backary Sagna left to Manchester City, but longtime Lille man Mathieu Debuchy, although offensively inclined, could serve as his replacement. Thomas Vermaelen went to Barcelona, but his 14 league appearances a season ago didn’t have much of an effect on Wenger’s plans. Thus, Arsenal will sit in better position than 2013, especially if Sanchez can perform fittingly alongside Olivier Giroud.

Match Absences/Inclusions:

Defender Adrian Mariappa should have gotten past his rib knock, while  Jonathan Williams and defender Damian Delaney appear doubtful for Palace. Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny has essentially recovered from his Achilles injury, and About Diaby’s fitness concerns have toned down, so he could play as well. Recent World Cup-winners Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker will rest for this competition.

What they’re saying

Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud on Alexis Sanchez acquisition and “stronger” team (Daily Star): 

“I saw him play with Chile in the World Cup and thought he did really well, but I didn’t know then he was coming to Arsenal. When I heard they were signing him I thought: ‘Yeah, if he can sign it would be great because he’s a top player’. And he comes from Barcelona – a fantastic team where he played well. He will bring his experience and maybe something new we didn’t have before…..I think it’s (this season’s) different now, because we are stronger than we have been in years before.”

Assistant manager Keith Millen on Tony Pulis’ departure (Daily Mail):

“What Tony brought in was the experience and knowledge of what it takes to stay in this league. That was the biggest thing that the staff took on straight away. We have lost a great leader of the football club and a leader of men if you like. He likes to control what goes on in the football club, but he also controls the players. He is close to the players and he works them hard.”

Prediction: 

Arsenal should get points in this game, whether it be a win or a draw. Most people would lean towards a Gunners win because Wenger and Co. are just more talented and higher-priced than Palace. That makes perfect sense, and a Palace victory at Emirates Stadium shouldn’t happen, even with Ozil, Podolski and Mertesacker out.

Vancouver adds versatile Juarez, formerly of Monterrey, Celtic

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Efrain Juarez is bringing his game to Major League Soccer.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 39-times capped Mexico veteran has inked a deal with the Vancouver Whitecaps, joining a strengthened unit which came within a point of winning the West last season.

Juarez, 29, was unveiled as a midfielder by the ‘Caps, though he’s primarily played right back in his club career. He’s played at Celtic, Real Zaragoza, Club America, Monterrey, and Pumas.

Last capped by El Tri in 2012, Juarez has played every position except goal, center attacking mid, and center forward in his career (picture a ‘U’ on the pitch).

“I’m so happy and excited for this new stage in my career,” Juarez said. “It’s an opportunity for me to keep growing in a new league and to be a part of an amazing club in Vancouver. From the moment they showed interest me, Carl Robinson and the Whitecaps staff have made me feel very important. I promise to put all my effort into this club and do my best to help us achieve our goals.”

VIDEO: Asensio goal ends Real Madrid’s winless run

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Marco Asensio’s eighth goal of the season and second of this Copa del Rey put an end to an unlikely Real Madrid winless run in a 1-0 victory at Leganes.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 21-year-old darted in front of a defender to volley home from in-tight, giving Real Madrid a first leg lead in the tournament quarterfinals.

More importantly, perhaps, it gives struggling Real a boost in morale after draws with Celta Vigo and Numancia, and a loss to Villarreal.

Real is home to Deportivo de la Coruna in La Liga before hosting Leganes in the second leg.

Hopeful Newcastle buyer Staveley: Offer still on the table

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Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is probably happy that his for-sale club is away this weekend, even though his side’s up against Manchester City.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 24  ]

That’s because hopeful buyer Amanda Staveley has responded to claims that her hopeful takeover of the team won’t be happening any time soon.

Talks had stalled, said Tuesday reports, much to the chagrin of an #AshleyOut brigade that at times can make Arsenal’s #WengerOut brigade look like a yard full of happy puppies.

A “source” had said, “Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time,” but Staveley shot back on Thursday to reignite the fire. From the BBC, taken from The Times:

“Our bid remains on the table. This is an investment, but it has to be a long-term investment. Newcastle would be run as a business, but we want it to be a successful, thriving business that is an absolutely integral part of the city.”

She also said that popular manager Rafa Benitez is integral to her interest in the team, and that fact combined with her insistence that an offer remains on the table will have many Newcastle fans seething with current ownership (and there have been protests for years). It’s Ashley’s move now.

2018 MLS Mock Draft: LAFC, Galaxy hold the keys

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Major League Soccer’s latest batch of hopeful rookies learn the next steps of their professional careers beginning Friday with the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft.

There are several intriguing prospects, including accomplished Stanford center back Tomas Hilliard-Arce and dangerous Michigan winger Francis Atuahene.

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An MLS mock draft is always tricky given the wildly varying opinions on players from the college game. This year, it’s even trickier as clubs without picks and some with multiple first round picks may be looking to move up and down even more than the norm.

Here’s how we think the draft could play out:

  1. LAFC – Tomas Hilliard-Arce, CB, Stanford
  2. LA Galaxy – Jon Bakero, FW, Wake Forest
  3. DC United – Francis Atuahene, FW, Michigan
  4. Montreal – Joao Moutinho, LB, Akron
  5. Minnesota – Wyatt Omsberg, CB, Dartmouth
  6. Orlando City – Ema Twumasi, FW, Wake Forest
  7. Montreal – Chris Mueller, FW, Wisconsin
  8. New England – Mo Adams, MF, Syracuse
  9. New England – Chris Lema, MF, Georgetown
  10. Real Salt Lake – Justin Fiddes, LB, Washington
  11. FC Dallas – Marcelo Acuna, FW, Virginia Tech
  12. San Jose – Brandon Bye, RB, Western Michigan
  13. Sporting KC – Ed Opoku, FW, Virginia
  14. Atlanta – Alex Roldan, MF, Seattle
  15. Chicago – Mason Toye, FW, Indiana
  16. New York Red Bulls – Alan Winn, MF, North Carolina
  17. Vancouver – Tristan Blackmon, RB, Pacific
  18. Sporting KC – Jon Gallagher, FW, Notre Dame
  19. New York City FC – Daniel Musovski, FW, UNLV
  20. Houston – Mo Thiaw, FW, Louisville
  21. Columbus – Brian White, FW, Duke
  22. Seattle – Tim Kubel, MF, Louisville
  23. Toronto FC – Oliver Shannon, MF, Clemson

There are a few players to keep an eye on for the later rounds that I won’t project for the first round due almost exclusively to first person bias (Some I’ve seen play in college, others at other levels). Afonso Pinheiro from Albany produced like crazy until this season, and Bowling Green defender Alexis Souahy has a skill set that could really transmit to the MLS level.

Mac Steeves (Providence) is a prototypical big body scorer, while Evansville’s heady Ian McGrath has a flair for the absurd and can play almost every position up the center of the pitch. Charleston’s Thomas Vancaeyezeele was a D-2 monster and is probably worth a shot earlier than people suspect.