On Saturday the Tigers head to the Eagles as Hull City play Crystal Palace (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra) at Selhurst Park.
Steve Bruce’s side is in desperate need of a win after losing three on the spin and five of their last six. Palace and Pardew came unstuck against West Brom last weekend and they can expect a similar type of game against a team scrapping for their lives at the bottom of the table.
Though the odds were already long before their Premier League clash between Crystal Palace on Monday, Manchester City’s title hopes appear to be completely dead following their latest slip-up, a 2-1 defeat at Selhurst Park.
Wilfried Zaha nearly put the hosts ahead with just 61 seconds on the clock, as Martin Kelly’s left-footed cross evaded Joe Hart and found Zaha all alone at the far post, but the 22-year-old’s shot was blazed over the bar, letting the Man City defense off the hook.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side was slow to find their way going forward, but once they got going, Palace were under siege for the next 20 minutes. Joe Hart’s quick distribution past the halfway line put Sergio Aguero in on goal in the 12th minute. Aguero rounded goalkeeper Julian Speroni, squared the ball to David Silva, whose shot was tipped over the crossbar by the head of Speroni as he rushed back in front of goal.
Silva and Aguero linked up once again seven minutes, this time the connection in reverse. Silva found Aguero centrally, 20 yards out in traffic. Aguero created the half-yard of space he needed to unleash his shot, fired through traffic and smacked Speroni’s far post with the ball rebounding back into play.
The game’s first goal came in the 34th minute, when Scott Dann’s first-time shot was saved by the leg of Hart, but deflected into the path of Glenn Murray who was lurking at the back post, perhaps just in front of Martin Demichelis. Murray calmly put his foot through the ball and the hosts were on top, completely against the run of play (more than 2-to-1 possession held by City at that point).
The second half began just as poorly for City as the first half ended, as Jason Puncheon doubled Palace’s lead less than three minutes into the second period. Puncheon lifted his curling free kick from 25 yards out up and over the wall, then dropped the bottom out of it to beat Hart low and inside his left-hand post. (Current possession ratio: nearly 3-to-1 in favor of City)
City continued their dominance of possession through the second half, but failed to create anything with it, until the 71st minute. With 19 minutes left to play, Fernandinho saw his left-footed shot deflected by Yannick Bolasie, but the ball remained goalbound before Murray seemed to intentionally knock the ball down with a raised hand. No penalty given.
Fernandinho saw another chance go begging two minutes later, as James McArthur somehow managed to clear his effort and lift the ball over the crossbar from a yard and a half out.
The breakthrough finally came for City in the form of Yaya Toure’s thunderous, left-footed strike from the edge of the penalty area. Toure hit the ball hard and low, around Speroni as it nestled itself just inside the far post. With 78 minutes left to play, City’s entire season was given a lifeline but the miracle of the 2011-12 season’s final day wasn’t to be recreated on this night in south London.
With their latest disappointing defeat, City now find themselves nine points off the pace of leaders and champions-elect, Chelsea, who still have a game in hand. Palace have leapfrogged Everton for 11th place, just three points below Stoke City for a place in the top half of the Premier League.
Needless to say, Hodgson is impressed and seems hell-bent on shaking his squad up and putting in some of the talented youngsters now on show in the PL.
The pool of players has increased this season and more teams are injecting young English players into their teams and trusting them. Raheem Sterling has been playing regularly for Liverpool, as has either Jon Flanagan or Martin Kelly. Southampton are regularly using people like Luke Shaw, James Ward-Prowse, Calum Chambers, Jack Cork and Jay Rodriguez. So more and more teams are turning to their academies and young players they are bringing through, which is of course a positive thing.
In the case of Liverpool, Sterling and Kelly have both been capped by England, while Flanagan has performed superbly at right back in recent months as many believe he will be called-up for England’s friendly with Denmark in March. While Southampton have had recent call-ups for academy product Adam Lallana, young striker Rodriguez and stalwart Rickie Lambert, which has shown Hodgson is willing to put faith in Saints’ talented crop of players who are surprising everyone by looking at ease in the top half of the PL standings.
With Southampton boasting a whole host of talented teenagers coming out of their academy ranks, Hodgson has a big decision to make. Does he take some of the most exciting young Englishmen who are not just prodigies but are actually doing it regularly in the PL, or rely on the old guard?
Left back Luke Shaw is just 18, but many are already earmarking him to be in England’s World Cup squad this summer, while Under-21 midfielder James Ward-Prowse has impressed with wicked deliveries and another teenage right back, Calum Chambers, has been superb all season. Chambers has been keeping another England prospect, Nathaniel Clyne who is just 22, out of Saints’ starting lineup.
In Southampton’s 1-0 midweek win against Hull, nine of Saints’ 18-man squad were eligible to play for England and five were under the age of 24 and three of those were teenagers. Liverpool don’t boast that many English players in their squad, but they have more ‘finished articles’ than Saints, with Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge, Flanagan, Sterling and Jordan Henderson all playing in the 3-2 win away at Fulham on Wednesday, while Martin Kelly was on the bench.
Hodgson’s comments suggest he will give youth a chance to shine in Brazil this summer, as England are well and truly in a transitional period in terms of where their squad is at. Liverpool and Southampton are two of the form teams in the PL, and it is no surprise that Hodgson wants to latch onto their talented youngsters and ride their feel-good factor into the summer and beyond.
Investment in youth is something PL teams have been slow on the uptake with, but Liverpool and Saints have shown it can work and can prove fruitful as both teams surge up the standings with young English talent leading the way.
Will these teenagers aid England’s progress this summer in Brazil? Roy is certainly contemplating giving it a go.
The Premier League has a full-slate of matches scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday this week, lead by the mouth-watering fixture between Liverpool and Everton (watch live on NBCSN at 2:00pm ET and online at NBC Live Extra).
Only a point separates 4th placed Liverpool from 6th placed Everton meaning there will be much more than pride on the line when these two sides square off. In the reverse fixture at Goodison Park last fall the Merseyside clubs engaged in what was arguably one of the best matches of the season, a pulsating 3-3 draw.
The 222nd installment of the Merseyside Derby promises to be just as exiciting. Liverpool enter the match unbeaten in their last three, having beaten Hull City 2-0 and Stoke City 5-3 before dropping points at home in the 2-2 draw with Aston Villa.
The Villa match was an aberration that no right-minded pundit could’ve called but nevertheless underscored Liverpool’s injured defense that featured a center-back pairing of Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure, and full-backs Aly Cissokho and Glen Johnson. Johnson succumbed to injury in that match meaning he’ll be sidelined for at least a month, joining Daniel Agger (calf) and Mamadou Sakho (hamstring).
The defense will also be blunted by the loss of holding midfielder Lucas Leiva, who injured his knee against Villa and now faces three weeks out. Joining him on the sidelines is fellow midfielder Joe Allen (muscle injury) and Jose Enrique (knee). The defensive injuries mean Martin Kelly or Jon Flanagan will likely play the role of right-back, setting up a potentially tasty matchup for Steven Pienaar, who is likely to return to Everton from a groin injury.
The Toffees come into the game unbeaten in their last four, beating Southampton and Norwich (2-0 and 2-1, respectively) but drawing with Stoke and West Brom (both 1-1 draws). Joining Pienaar as late fitness tests will be Sylavin Distin (knock) and Seamus Coleman (hamstring). Ross Barkley remains out with a foot injury as does Gerard Deulofeu with knee ligament damage, while Bryan Oviedo’s broken leg in the 4-0 FA Cup win over Stevenage means he is out for the season.
What They’re Saying
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: “There are still going to be quality players and the football ideas of both teams will come out, but it is unfortunate a number of players are out of the game – and a lot of them starting players – it would’ve made it a different game.”
Everton manager Roberto Martinez: “We are capable of going anywhere and beating any team. What we will need on Tuesday night is a combination of those two games. We need to be absolutely perfect.”
Everton have not won in the last seven derbies – a run stretching back to since October 2010 – while Liverpool’s defensive issues will be tough to overcome. In the end, honors even. 1-1 draw. Follow @mprindi
Liverpool’s Daniel Agger awaiting word on calf, to find out damage on Wednesday
When Liverpool fought so hard to keep Daniel Agger this summer, it was expected he’d play a major part this season. Through the first half of the campaign, however, Agger gone from automatic starter, relegated to the bench, to back in the rotation within the span of five months. Yet after this weekend’s FA Cup game against Oldham Athletic, the Danish international is back on uncertain ground, a calf injury threatening to undermine the progress he’s made to get back into Brendan Rodgers’ team.
Agger was forced to leave Sunday’s 2-0 and underwent tests on Tuesday to help diagnose the injury’s extent. With four other defenders already hurt, Liverpool was thin in defense before Agger’s injury, a state that forced the Danish international to make three starts in eight days after going off versus Oldham.
After 35 starts last season, Agger has only made 11 appearances in 20 league games in 2013-14. Last Wednesday, Agger scored his only goal of the season as Liverpool defeated Hull City 2-0 on New Year’s Day, only his ninth start of the Premier League campaign.
Should his injury prove serious, Liverpool’s defense would be relatively depleted ahead Sunday’s visit to Stoke City. In addition to Mamadou Sahko’s hamstring problem, the Reds are also dealing with injuries to John Flanagan and José Enrique, while Uruguayan Sebastian Coates has been sidelined since August.
Should Agger joined them on the sideline, Rodgers will likely have to start Kolo Touré and Martin Kelly against the Potters.