Preview: Crystal Palace vs. Fulham

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  • Palace have a poor record against the Cottagers at home in last 10 meetings (1-5-4)
  • Three of Fulham’s five league goals have been scored by subs this season, most in the PL
  • Crystal Palace have yet to keep a clean sheet this campaign

It is sure to be a real ding-dong battle down at Selhurst Park on Monday, as Crystal Palace take on Fulham (3pm ET, watch live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports Live Extra) in a London Derby under the lights.

Both teams are desperate for three points with the home side losing six of their seven Premier League games so far, following their promotion from the Championship. Palace sit second from bottom in the PL, with Fulham just two places ahead of them and also struggling for form.

Ian Holloway will be hoping his side can dazzle against the Cottagers, with a home much needed home win putting them within one point of Norwich and Fulham direct above them in the standings. Expect a fiercely contested affair, full of touch tackling and last-ditch defending, as both these teams know a draw isn’t really what they need right now.

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The ecstasy of Fulham’s late win over Stoke was almost too much for manager Martin jol to handle…

Martin Jol’s Fulham have been under intense pressure after a run of just one point from five games, but a vital 1-0 victory against Stoke City — courtesy of substitute Darren Bent’s late goal — made the international break seem much smoother for the Dutchman and his squad. That narrow victory could prove to be the turning point, as Fulham aim to edge back up the table by beating plucky Palace.

Fulham’s on-loan striker Bent, 31, has been prolific since 2008-09 despite being on the bench for Aston Villa for most of last season. Only Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard have scored more PL goals than his 67 in that time frame, and his knack for finding the back of the net could be vital for Fulham this season. Bent’s impact on Monday’s game will be watched even closer, as Palace thought they’d agreed a loan move for him on transfer deadline day in September, only for the England striker to choose Fulham instead which
caused a little unrest between Holloway and Jol.

Both teams are getting players back to full fitness, with Palace winger Yannick Bolasie ready for his first start, while Fulham have Scott Parker, Aaron Hughes and Adel Taarabt in contention.

What they’re saying

Steve Sidwell on Palace being tough opposition: “I’ve seen them a couple of times. I watched the first game on TV against Tottenham Hotspur and I thought they were very unlucky not to get a result. It’s one of those scenarios where they’re always going to be the underdogs going into every game just because they’ve come up and the pressure is off. When the pressure is off you can enjoy it more and be more relaxed in your individual play. It’s going to be a tough game, Selhurst Park is a tough place to go and hopefully we can go there and stick to a game plan that we’ve been working on and try to get the three points.”

Ian Holloway on Darren Bent signing for Fulham over Palace: “That was then. Fulham have done very well to get him, he’s a fantastic player and a very good person, so well done to Martin Jol. We had a couple of discussions about it, and I thought he was turning up at my training ground. But you’ve never got anything in the ‘keep net’ until you’ve actually got it there, have you? So I learned that perhaps I shouldn’t have even spoke about it, I do apologize. But at the time I got a camera shoved in my face, 30 seconds after I’d found out he signed for Fulham. I do apologize to Martin Jol if that upset him, I didn’t mean to. I didn’t realize Fulham hadn’t announced they signed Bent yet.

Prediction

This game will be an extremely tight affair, and I expect things to be level until late on. Fulham looked devoid of confidence on the ball against Stoke last time out, and probably should’ve lost the game. But their late win may have filled the Cottagers with belief. Saying that, Palace are struggling to get any belief going, but I fancy them to clinch a vital victory tonight with their raucous crowd roaring them on. Another celebratory jig from Holloway could happen, as Palace’s pacy attackers Bolasie, Jason Puncheon and Dwight Gayle will prove too much for Fulham.

Court date for USWNT’s law suit versus U.S. Soccer delayed

USWNT equal pay
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A court case that has dragged U.S. Soccer’s administration through the mud and led to a change of leadership may drag into the summer.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

A judge in California has delayed the May 5 trial of gender discrimination against the USSF until June 16 due in part to the coronavirus pandemic. A pretrial conference was also moved to June 1.

The federation is being sued by members of the two-time reigning World Cup champion USWNT under the Equal Pay Act.

The women are requesting more than $66 million in damages.

The extra month gives both parties more time to reach a settlement which could keep this ugly case away from trial. Given the uncertainty in our world, it could of course be delayed again.

The USSF has a new CEO in Will Wilson, who can make a major statement of change by stopping the trial from reaching court.

Handicapping the Final Four of Premier League March Madness

Premier League March Madness
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Our Premier League March Madness results have been as topsy-turvy as the 2019/20 on-field campaign before coronavirus halted it last month.

Yes, the runaway No. 1 seed is alive, but the second, third, fourth, and fifth seeds have been expelled from the tournament within the first two rounds.

Voting in the semifinal round begins Thursday.

[ RESULTS: March Madness Round of 16 ]

Before we go any further, if you’re unfamiliar: To make sure you’re not missing out on either March Madness or the business end of the PL season, we’ve gone ahead and merged the two competitions. The March Madness Final Four and Championship game were due to take place this weekend in Atlanta but now you will be voting on Tottenham v. Arsenal instead of Duke v. Kansas.

Teams are seeded from 1-16 based on their current spot in the table, with Aston Villa winning the relegation playoffs on Monday to remain in the Premier League.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Before we handicap the semifinal matches, let’s take a look at where the field sits after your Wednesday voting.

No. 1 Liverpool v. No. 12 Everton
No. 6 Wolves v. No. 7 Sheffield United

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Look, all bets are off for the derby. The Everton faithful has shown up in a big way during voting, dispatching Manchester United and Chelsea.

That’s big time stuff, though Liverpool ended the dreams of our presumptive sleeping giant favorite Arsenal after beating West Ham in the Sweet Sixteen.

The Reds are going to have to not just been upstart Everton but overcome the legions of rival supporters who would happily click the Toffees’ box rather than see Liverpool gain the crown.

The other side of the bracket sees No. 7 Sheffield United looking to continue its surprising run in both the PL season and our voting.

The Blades knocked off Man City, potentially aided by the same phenomenon Everton hopes to see on Thursday.

Now they meet Wolves, who may be riding a crest of North American momentum in the form of affinity for El Tri hero Raul Jimenez.

Our prediction: Everton and Wolves in the Final.

RESULTS: Premier League March Madness Elite Eight

Premier League March Madness
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Everton continued its upset path toward in our Premier League March Madness voting, showing its sensational support and setting up a fantastic eMerseyside Derby in the Final Four.

Thousands of votes were cast Wednesday, and the Toffees upset isn’t even the top underdog story.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Chris Wilder’s Blades of Sheffield United won a back-and-forth affair with No. 2 seed Manchester City to move into the semifinals.

That’s where they’ll meet No. 6 seed Wolves, who powered past Leicester City as if it wasn’t a challenge.

If you want to see the full game schedule, seedings and bracket, here is the post you need as the tournament will run all week long:

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final – Aston Villa prevailed, Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford relegated
TuesdaySweet 16 results in full
Wednesday: Elite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

IFAB: New handball rule can be adopted when games resume

Handball rule
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The International Football Association Board (IFAB) issued a letter from secretary Lukas Brud on Wednesday, outlining several changes to the game.

The “tee shirt line” handball rule may be coming to club football quicker than expected due to the coronavirus suspension of the 2019/20 season.

IFAB will allow leagues the choice to use the new handball rule when matches resume this season, also making changes to VAR protocol and vowing to review the offside rule.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

The new handball rule states that the shoulder goes to the end of the shirt sleeve or the bottom of the armpit (though obviously not in the case of a long-sleeve jersey).

For the purposes of determining handball offences, the ‘arm’ stops at the bottom of the armpit

So… get ready for baggy, longer jersey sleeves, or the increased recruitment of players with the longest armpits.

Kidding aside, the handball rule desperately needed clarification and we’ll see if this gives enough to fans and players alike.

Referees will now be “expected” to go to the screen on the field when a call is subjective, forcing the official to either uphold or overrule his initial call.

This same post says IFAB will now allow accidental handballs in the run-up to a goal in certain situations.

“Accidental handball by an attacking player should only be penalized if it ‘immediately’ results in a goal or an obvious opportunity for the player and/or their team to score a goal (i.e. following the handball, the ball travels only a short distance and/or there are very few passes).”

Well, that needs some clarification.

Back to the timing issue for the new handball rule, it seems logical that leagues would want to introduce new laws with a new season but stand-by for the decision of your favorite league.

As for the offside rule, “The members agreed that the fundamental philosophy of offside is underpinned by a desire to encourage attacking football and the scoring of goals. It was further agreed, therefore, that Law 11 – Offside should be analyzed and reviewed with a view to potentially proposing changes reflecting this philosophy.”

It’s a lot to unpack, and we’ll surely here from proponents and opponents of the changes soon. As always, implementation will make the biggest difference in how these changes are received.