Crystal Palace FC

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Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Crystal Palace

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Chelsea hosts Crystal Palace on Saturday from Stamford Bridge (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via as Antonio Conte‘s side aims to close the gap on the top four clubs in the Premier League.

The Blues sit five points out of Tottenham Hotspur — fourth place — while Palace is one of seven sides in the bottom half of England’s top flight firmly in the relegation race.

Good news has come for Conte and Co. though, as Chelsea gets midfielder N’Golo Kante back from injury ahead of the weekend’s fixture and next week’s crucial UEFA Champions League tie against Barcelona.

Meanwhile, Palace will be battling time as Wilfried Zaha and Mamadou Sakho are both game-time decisions for the visitors.

What they’re saying

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte on not overlooking Palace“They [Palace] lost the last couple of games. They deserved more against Tottenham and against United.

“We must pay great attention. We need to have a good performance, to get three points. We’re playing against a really good team, with talented players.”

Palace boss Roy Hodgson about Chelsea’s inconsistency“Normally when you come against a team not having the best of times, that can be a very dangerous time to play them. They have fantastic players and are a brilliantly run club, a powerful club.

“We can only hope that we can reproduce the recent performances against similar opponents, and give them as good a game as we did against Spurs and [Manchester] United.”


The Blues may have to rotate their lineup with a vital UCL matchup with Barca upcoming, but they are still the favorites in this match. If Zaha and Sakho cannot play, things will be that much more difficult for Palace. Chelsea 2-0 Crystal Palace

Paul Lambert: There’s no magic formula

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Before Aston Villa hosted Crystal Palace, Paul Lambert made it clear that his side needed to step up and stop their run of three straight defeats. The Villa manager said, “We have to win – it will be a cracking crowd there, Boxing Day and we have to go and win.”

But the hosts were beaten by a stoppage time goal by Dwight Gayle, a goal that lifted Palace up out of the relegation zone. A goal that also put Villa within three points of the drop, after four consecutive losses. It was a classic counter attack that brought down the hosts — one that Villa themselves had put on display to beat Manchester City earlier this season.

In this match, however, it was all about possession, and that tactic didn’t pay off. The Villa were unable to do much with the ball, often resorting to hoofed balls, with shots going high or wide more often than not. It was not enough, and the home side was booed off the pitch at the final whistle.More distressing, for fans of the club at least, is the fact that Lambert’s side seem totally out of ideas.

Christian Benteke, after going ten games without a goal, is now out with injury. Andi Weimann is showing barely a spark of the form that allowed him to light up the pitch last season. And the forwards Lambert brought in  as cover — Libor Kozák, Aleksandar Tonev and Jordan Bowery — aren’t cutting it. More strangely, Lambert is keeping bright youngster Nicklas Helenius on the bench.

But, when speaking after the loss, Lambert couldn’t pin down an exact reason for his side’s failure to win. When asked about their dismal home record, with just two wins in nine matches, the Villa manager simply said,”It isn’t good enough. The lack of goals is contributing to the not winning games. You have to turn it around. There’s no magic formula.”

Yet his opponent today seemed to have found such a formula. When asked about his side’s victory, Tony Pulis said “We’ve worked very, very hard on the shape of the team, on making sure that people are in certain positions at certain times and that everybody knows what they’re supposed to do.”

It seems simple enough. And that’s just how Palace looked: compact, organized, disciplined – and willing to punish if they found an opportunity to exploit a weakness. Crystal Palace have won four of their six matches since Pulis was appointed. The formula may not be magic, but it’s certainly effective.

When wrapping up his time with the press, Lambert said, “I have looked at the table. It’s as tight as anything for midway through to right down.” Perhaps, then, what his side needs most is the same sort of approach that Pulis has taken with Palace to lift them out of the drop zone. Because Villa are, in fact, fighting a relegation battle.

Watch Live: Hull vs. Crystal Palace (Lineups and Discuss)

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Tony Pulis won’t be in the dugout today, but Crystal Palace will still be hoping to turn over a new leaf against Hull City at the KC Stadium (10 am ET, watch live online via NBC Sports Live Extra).

The goalless draw against Everton last week represented something of a breakthrough for Palace. Sure, they still haven’t scored a goal in over 350 minutes, but at least they managed to grind out a point. The visitors will potentially be bolstered by the return of young Jonny Williams, although the midfielder will start this one on the bench. Caretaker manager Keith Millen has elected to pair Dwight Gayle with Marouane Chamakh in hopes of finally finding that elusive goal.

Hull, who could theoretically go 10th with a win today, are looking to keep their strong defensive record at home. They’ve conceded just once in five games at the KC Stadium, and have yet to lose. The Tigers’ impressive defense will be bolstered by the return of goalkeeper Allan McGregor, while perhaps their stingy scoring record will be improved now that winger Robbie Brady is back from from injury.


Hull City Starting XI: McGregor, Figueroa, Elmohamady, Davies, McShane, Huddlestone, Livermore, Boyd, Brady, Koren, Sagbo

Subs: Harper, Rosenior, Faye, Bruce, Meyler, Graham, Gedo

Crystal Palace Starting XI: Speroni, Ward, Gabbidon, Delaney, Moxey, Jedinak, Dikgacoi, Bannan, Bolasie, Gayle, Chamakh

Subs: Alexander, Mariappa, Phillips, O’Keefe, Puncheon, Williams, Jerome

Mourinho steers former assistant away from Crystal Palace, to Middlesbrough

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Aitor Karanka would have been the fourth José Mourinho-affiliated manager in the Premier League. Instead, the man thought to be the favorite to get the Crystal Palace job will go north, the 40-year-old  appointed Middlesbrough manager this morning.

The Basque boss, assistant to Mourinho at Real Madrid, would have joined Steve Clarke (West Brom), Brendan Rodgers (Liverpool), and André Villas-Boas (Tottenham) as former Special One staffers managing in the Premier League, yet on the advice of his former boss, Karanka turned his back on the top-level gig to work in England’s second division.

“Mourinho recommended me to come here,” the former Real Madrid defender said at today’s introductory press conference, one which spent inevitably addressed Karanka’s connections with the Chelsea boss.

“He’s the person who’s supported me for months,” Karanka said. “He recommended me to come here because he believes in this project, like me.”

“It is my time. I have been, for three years, with José Mourinho and I think he supported me every day. I learned with him and his staff and I’m ready now.”

That readiness will be tested immediately, with Karanka set to debut with this 16th place side at Leeds United on the 23rd. Fifteen games into the season, Boro sit eighth points back of sixth (the last Championship promotion playoff stop). Replacing former West Brom manager Tony Mowbray, Karanka will be expected to mount a stiffer challenge for a Premier League return.

“We set down a clear template of what we were looking for,” club owner Steve Gibson said at Karanka’s introduction, “and Aitor was the outstanding candidate.”

There’s some talent on the shelves. The team features Jonathan Woodgate and Australian international Rhys Williams in defense. Dean Whitehead and Grant Leadbitter are options in midfield. Africans Albert Adomah and Kei Kamara are capable of getting goals. Perhaps it’s not the best stocked team in the division, but teams with less have found ways to get promoted.

But what of Crystal Palace? Karanka’s no longer an option, nor is Martin O’Neill. Tony Pulis is rumored to have been too expensive.

Welsh boss Chris Coleman? Alex McLeish? It’s unclear where the Eagles go after Karanka turned them down.

Mourinho’s former assistant could take over at Crystal Palace

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Aitor Karanka, a former Real Madrid defender and assistant to José Mourinho during his time with the Spanish giants, may be in line to replace Ian Holloway at Crystal Palace. Palace have been without a permanent manager since October 23, when Holloway stepped down. Since that time, the club has been linked with Wales manager Chris Coleman, former Stoke City boss Tony Pulis, and Martin O’Neill, who accepted the Republic of Ireland gig this week.

Appointing Karanka would be a bit outside the box. The 40 year old may have been Mourinho’s number two at the Bernabéu, but he has no experience taking on the No. 1 role, nor has he worked in England. But Karanka did well in his interview this week, impressing Palace co-chairman Steve Parish. It doesn’t hurt, either, that Mourinho himself speaks highly of his former assistant, saying “”I think the club that gets him, whether in England or another country, will be a lucky club.”

After losing to West Brom last weekend, Crystal Palace have now lost seven in a row. The side, temporarily managed by Keith Millen, are bottom of the Premier League, and have the thankless task of facing Everton on Saturday. If Karanka is brought on board, he could be in place after the international break, in time for the clash against Hull City.