Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace

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  • On average, Liverpool have scored their first goal in the 19th minute of games. The quickest in the PL.
  • Crystal Palace have made more tackles than any other side, 146.
  • Steven Gerrard has create more goalscoring chances from set pieces (8) than any other PL player

On Saturday at Anfield, Liverpool have the chance to go back to the top of the Premier League table when they host Crystal Palace (10am ET, watch live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports Live Extra).

The Reds comfortably beat Sunderland last weekend, and could momentarily jump one point ahead of Arsenal with a win.

Brendan Rodgers’ side will be favorites against the Eagles, and Palace’s season really has been a struggle so far. Ian Holloway’s men have lost five of their opening six games, with the lone victory coming at home against basement side Sunderland. Surely the South London outfit can’t go to Anfield and grab a win?

Liverpool have switched their tactics around slightly, and have been looking extremely solid in a 3-5-2 formation since Luis Suarez’ return from suspension. The Uruguayan scored twice against Sunderland on his PL return, and his partnership with Daniel Sturridge could prolong Liverpool’s challenge at the top of the table.

Lucas Leiva is missing for the Reds through suspension, while Glen Johnson, Aly Sissokho and Joe Allen are all out but should return after the international break. Palace could welcome back winger Yannick Bolasie and defenders Patrick McCarthy, Damien Delaney and Johnathan Parr.

What they’re saying

Brendan Rodgers on facing a defensive Palace side: “In the modern game, teams are set up defensively well. Tactically, there is limited space – especially at home. You have to be patient, teams aren’t going to just turn up and roll over. Especially if you don’t get an early goal – a goal in that first 20-25 minutes – then it can be difficult. However, we’re a team that’s evolving and starting to understand that side of football; with every attack, you can’t score.”

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard: “Managers are only ever eight to 10 games away from the sack, so to take risks on unknown young players is difficult. There’s no two ways about it, it’s a lot more difficult to break through nowadays because of the standard of players and because there is a lot more foreigners about.”

Crystal Palace midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi: “The confidence is still there. No-one is letting their heads drop – despite the last few results – and we know that one match and one good result can make all the difference. We always expected things to be tough in the Premier League because we are up against the best teams in the country – but we have time to turn things around. Our aim is to be out of the relegation zone before January because we have a run of matches coming up where we can definitely pick up points.”

Prediction

This result is not in question, at all. Sorry Palace fans, but this is a Liverpool home win all day long. The Reds are serious about keeping themselves at the top of the table, and they will have to ruthlessly dispatch sides like Palace to at least make the top four and qualify for the Champions League. I expect Suarez and Sturridge’s burgeoning partnership to create havoc for the newly-promoted side. A big win coming up for the Merseyside club.

Chicharito says Mexican team “always feels welcome” in the United States

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Mexico will take on Wales on Monday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA as they warm up for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Playing in the United States is nothing new for the USMNT’s southern neighbors, and it doesn’t phase them. In fact, they love it.

Star striker Chicharito told reporters that he and the rest of the squad is more than happy playing north of the border, because according to him, apart from a pair of venues, they can’t even tell they’re on the road.

“We always feel welcome here,” Chicharito said. “It’s like our second country, if we can say that, apart from Columbus [Ohio] and apart from the stadium in Miami when we played Colombia…those two stadiums, that’s the only time I’ve felt that we were the away team.”

Chicharito knows that the high population of his countrymen and women in the United States helps the Mexican team feel close to home when they play over the border. He’s all for the melting pot of the US.

“We feel at home [in the United States],” Chicharito said. “We have plenty of Mexicans here, so I don’t know what else to tell you, we feel welcome, we feel glad, happy to be in touch with those people here. They are sacrificing a lot of things, and they are all enjoying their lives that they decide to live in the USA…it’s great. It’s great when you come to another country and you feel like you are home. You see all the stadium green, shouting and screaming your names, screaming your goals, so yeah, it’s great.”

Mexico will play Wales on Monday at 9:00 p.m. ET, and will return home to take on Scotland at Azteca on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET.

England international Delph expecting child in middle of World Cup

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England international Fabian Delph could face quite the dilemma if England advances past the group stage of the World Cup.

Delph’s wife Natalie is expecting the couple’s third child on June 30, which is two days after their pivotal group stage match against Belgium, and two days before the squad would take the field July 1 for its Round of 16 game should they win Group G. If they finish second in the group, they would play their Round of 16 game on July 3.

When asked what his plans are, Delph joked that his wife would manage on her own. “She’s tough, she’s a Yorkshire lass so she’ll deal with it,” Delph said with a smile.

He then coughed up the truth: they’re not quite sure what the plan is.

“We’re not 100% certain, with a game on the 28th there might be an opportunity to fly back and then get back fast,” he said. “[England manager] Gareth [Southgate] has been fantastic. There’s nothing more important than family to me – family always comes first and always will.”

There’s another dilemma that Southgate must navigate involving Delph. The 28-year-old is a natural winger, but played wing-back in Pep Guardiola‘s title-winning system for much of the year and saw a massive uptick in form in the new role, playing in place of the injured Benjamin Mendy. Southgate must decide where he wants to deploy Delph – if at all – and if he wishes to fit his formation and tactics to mold Delph’s season under Guardiola.

Authorities drop assault charges against Hope Solo

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KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) — Prosecutors in Washington state have dropped domestic violence charges against former U.S. national team star goalkeeper Hope Solo.

Solo was charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault in 2014 after police said she assaulted two family members at a home in Kirkland, east of Seattle. The case was delayed by appeals.

KING-TV reports that city prosecutors dropped the charges Wednesday, saying the witnesses in the case wanted to move on with their lives and did not want to participate in a trial. An attorney for Kirkland, Melissa Osman, wrote in court documents that the circumstances were unlikely to be repeated.

The longtime national team goalkeeper and two-time Olympic gold medalist recently ran unsuccessfully for president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. She has called for equal pay and equal treatment for the U.S. women’s team.

Mark Hughes signs new long-term contract at Southampton

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Mark Hughes has gone from Stoke City outcast to Southampton savior in little under six months time.

The Welsh boss was let go from Stoke City with the Potters 18th in the table and headed towards eventual relegation, but he was picked up by fellow relegation candidates Southampton after the departure of Mauricio Pellegrino. He steered the club to safety, finishing three points above the drop in 17th.

With the Saints in the top flight for another season, the club has announced the signing of Hughes to a new three-year contract.

“Mark, Eddie and I are thrilled to have signed long-term contracts with the club. It was the only option we considered, having spent the last eight weeks with the club,” Hughes said of himself and his assistant coaches Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki. “Now it is vital that we take the unbelievable support we received from the fans during the last few games into next season. The staff and the players will work hard every day to deliver the success this club deserves, and with everyone pulling together we will achieve our goals.”

Hughes guided Stoke City to three consecutive ninth-placed finishes, the highest the club had ever finished in the English top flight, but they finished 13th last year and regressed even further this campaign. The sale of playmaker Marko Arnautovic was particularly damaging, and the club scored just 35 goals in 38 games as a result.

At Southampton, Hughes took over a club that sat in 17th with just eight matches to go. He lost three Premier League games in a row to start his tenure and only won two league matches with Saints the rest of the way, but managed to keep the club barely afloat.