Premier League Preview: Crystal Palace vs. Manchester United

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  • Manchester United have just one point in their last three away matches
  • The Red Devils are eight points back of European qualification and 11 back of the top four
  • Crystal Palace has allowed 34 goals this season, third best in the bottom half

Two teams in desperate need of a win come into Selhurst Park looking to duel it out for three points at 12:30pm ET on NBC, or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

Manchester United have just four points in their last five matches, and if they wish to keep their slim Champions League hopes alive, they must return home with the spoils against a Crystal Palace squad that’s troubled top teams in the past.

The Red Devils recently learned that Wayne Rooney has signed a five-and-a-half year contract extension, and he will once again be vital for the visitors to remain in the hunt for the top four.

Another man of importance for Manchester United will be Robin van Persie, who has been touch-and-go since his return from injury four matches ago. He has three goals since, but has also drifted in and out of the matches, registered some poor misses, and has failed to have a late impact in most of them.

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Tony Pulis has Crystal Palace riding high, up out of the relegation zone and into temporary safety. Their stout defense has allowed just nine goals in their last 10 matches, and United should find it difficult to get through fully-fit squad.

However, it’s of vital importance that the hosts kick United while they’re down, or else they risk falling back into the relegation zone. They sit just two points above the drop despite their recent run, and have one of the Premier League’s most difficult schedules down the season’s stretch run, with much of it on the road.

What they’re saying

Tony Pulis on Manchester United’s season: “They just haven’t had the breaks, that momentum to take them forward. Last year under Sir Alex they didn’t play as well as the year before, but they got the breaks. This year they’ve not been able to pick up any momentum. But they have wonderful players and are a wonderful football club and we will be proud to host them.”

Crystal Palace’s Joe Ledley on facing Manchester United: “We are looking forward to playing against the likes of Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and van Persie. We know it’s going to be a very difficult game but we look forward to it.”

David Moyes on United’s 2-0 win in the reverse fixture: “We could have done with scoring more goals, but I thought we were dominant from the first whistle. I don’t think the result was ever in doubt.”

Prediction

With Manchester United struggling, and Crystal Palace flying high, it’s quite possible that the home side takes something from this match. United have plenty of disappointing matches in their recent results.

However, with the boost of Wayne Rooney’s new deal and a fully fit attack, Manchester United pulls out the win and pegs back Crystal Palace’s attempts to avoid the drop with a 2-1 win for the visitors.

Reina faces hearing over links with trio connected to mafia

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ROME (AP) Outgoing Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina has been summoned to a hearing at the Italian football federation over his association with people with links to the mafia.

Reina, along with Paolo Cannavaro and Salvatore Aronica, is to face the FIGC’s disciplinary committee after an investigation by Naples’ anti-mafia department.

It is reportedly one of the reasons why Napoli decided not to renew Reina’s contract, with the former Liverpool goalkeeper set to move to AC Milan on a free transfer.

The FIGC says Reina “has had and continues to have inopportune association and friendship with Gabriele Esposito, Francesco Esposito and Giuseppe Esposito.” It adds that that includes holidays and “an exchange of favors.”

Cannavaro, who had two spells with Napoli, retired at Sassuolo last year. Aronica also spent several years at the southern club before joining Palermo in 2013.

Iran names initial squad for World Cup

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Jalal Hosseini and Vouria Ghaffouri have both been left off Iran’s provisional 24-man squad for the World Cup.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz did not say why Hosseini, a Persepolis defender, and Ghaffouri were not included.

There was space for midfielders Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi, however. Both played with Greek club Panionios against Maccabi Tel Aviv in August 2017. Iran does not recognize Israel and its supreme leader has threatened the country in the past. Both Shojaei and Hajsafi missed matches with the national team after the game.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh, a 24-year-old forward who plays in the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar, is also in the squad, which was announced Sunday.

In the midfield, Queiroz chose Saeid Ezatolahi, although the Amkar Perm player will miss the team’s first World Cup match because he was given a red card in a game against South Korea in qualifying.

Nottingham Forest midfielder Ashkan Dejagah was also chosen.

Goalkeeper Amir Abedzadeh of Portuguese club Maritimo made the squad. His father, Ahmadreza Abedzadeh, was Iran captain and goalkeeper at the 1998 World Cup in France.

Iran will play in Group B at the World Cup with Portugal, Spain and Morocco. The team will play warm-up matches in Turkey and Greece before heading to Russia.

Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo)

Defenders: Ramin Rezaeian (KV Oostende), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Al Saad), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Seyed Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal)

Midfielders: Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens), Mehdi Torabi (Saipa), Ashkan Dejagah (Nottingham Forest), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Ehsan Hajsafi (Olympiakos), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds FK), Ali Gholizadeh (Saipa)

Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiakos), Mahdi Taremi (Al-Gharafa Sports Club), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan), Reza Ghoochannejhad (SC Heerenveen)

Six Premier Leaguers named to Argentina, but no Icardi

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Argentina’s World Cup roster features a number of the usual suspects, particularly up front, but Serie A’s top goalscorer has been surprisingly left off the list of 23.

[ MORE: Belgium goes to World Cup without Nainggolan ]

Manager Jorge Sampaoli’s squad was made official on Monday, which includes the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain.

The Albiceleste won’t be taking Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi though, which has raised some questions about the decision.

Icardi led all scorers in Italy’s top flight this season, scoring 29 goals in 34 Serie A matches, while Paulo Dybala edged out the final striker spot in the Argentina squad.

Dybala is teammates with Higuain at Italian giants Juventus.

Meanwhile, six Premier League players were named into the South American nation’s squad, including goalkeepers Sergio Romero (Man United) and Willy Caballero (Chelsea), as well as Nicolas Otamendi (Man City), Marcos Rojo (Man United) and Manuel Lanzini (West Ham).

Men in Blazers POD: FA Cup recap, UCL final preview and more

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Rog and Davo recap a spite-fueled, snear-filled, peak Phil Jones FA Cup Final, preview this weekend’s Champions League tilt between Liverpool and Real Madrid and eulogize Big Sam… gone the opposite of too soon. Plus, World Cup rosters and MLS.

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