Premier League Preview: Crystal Palace vs Chelsea

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  • Eden Hazard has 14 goals this Premier League season. Crystal Palace has scored 13 all year at Selhurst Park (19 overall).
  • Crystal Palace have four fixtures against top-five teams in their final eight matches.
  • Chelsea has not lost to Crystal Palace in 23 years.

With Manchester City in control of their Premier League destiny, Chelsea have to avoid dropping points against Crystal Palace during their trip to Selhurst Park at 11am ET tomorrow morning on NBCSN and live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.  Anything less than three points would be a disappointment after their 6-0 dismantling of the Gunners.

The Sky Blues have to make a trip to Arsenal this weekend, and that could provide an opening for Chelsea to regain control of the title race if they can hang on across London.

Crystal Palace has hardly proven a threat in front of goal this year, but their stout defense is what Tony Pulis has built his foundation for a battle against relegation on. They remain in 17th, just three points from the drop, and their schedule is daunting down the stretch.

But with the Eagles having registered one goal in their last five matches – a penalty – they face a Blues squad that hasn’t conceded a penalty in 48 matches and counting.

On top of things, Marouane Chamakh is doubtful for the match, meaning Glenn Murray or Camerone Jerome would deputize up front. Dwight Gayle is also out. On the other side, Samuel Eto’o is likely out with a hamstring problem, so Fernando Torres is likely to replace his injured teammate. Ashley Cole is also out injured.

What they’re saying:

Tony Pulis on Palace’s chances: “If you’re looking at the balance of the two clubs and what they have and haven’t got it is a very uneven contest. But football is a funny old game, if we set ourselves up well and give everything we possibly can…you never know. If you put our players up against their players individually I don’t think there are many of our players who would get into their team. But collectively, as a group and as a team, if you are working together and putting things in place you can make it difficult for them.”

Hazard on Eto’o influence: “Every day he tells me that I have to be among the best players in the world. In each game, he keeps telling me that I have to make the difference. He says: ‘You can’t leave the stadium without having scored a goal. Before, I said to myself that I was just going to play football. If we won and I didn’t score, never mind. Now, I say to myself that that is also football: always score, always show you can do things.”

Mourinho on difficulty losing: “One of the things I learn is that you can win, you can lose, and if you lose in the right way you have to move on and try not to lose again. Try to learn from the mistakes. But think about the next match. But I never learned or accept to lose that way [like we did against Aston Villa]. I learn how to lose with a bad performance, because the opponent were better and praise them.”

Prediction:

With all their goalscoring difficulties, it’s hard to see Crystal Palace managing a score without a flukey discombobulation in Chelsea’s defense. The only way Palace can pull spoils from this match would be in a 0-0 scoreline, and it’s difficult to see Chelsea not scoring in this one.  Mourinho’s men go up 2-0 comfortably in the first half before the manager brings on John Obi Mikel to shut up shop for the victory.  Hazard scores, much to Eto’o’s delight.

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.

Reports: Arsenal nearing deal for Lichtsteiner on free transfer

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According to multiple reports in England, including the BBC, Arsenal is looking to sign Juventus right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner on a free transfer this summer, potentially becoming the first signing under new manager Unai Emery.

Lichtsteiner is out of contract at Juventus this summer, having been with the club since 2011. Lichtsteiner has played in Italy since joining Lazio in 2008.

The Swiss international will captain his country at the World Cup this summer in Russia and will earn his 100th cap in his second match at the event.

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Lichtsteiner has been a mainstay in a Juventus squad that has won seven consecutive Serie A titles, but at 34 years old has been slowly phased out. He has made less than 30 Serie A appearances each of the last seasons, despite a nearly spotless bill of health since undergoing heart surgery in October of 2015. Last season, Lichtsteiner completed just nine full 90 minute performances, including just three after November. Lichtsteiner may have had an even smaller role this most recent campaign had Mattia de Sciglio not struggled with injuries for much of the season.

The Gunners have Hector Bellerin as the club’s main right-back, with the Spaniard leading the squad in total minutes played this past season. However, Bellerin’s level of performance has regressed considerably since proving one of the best young Premier League players in his first full season in 2015/16.

Lichtsteiner has also been linked with a move to Borussia Dortmund, where Lukasz Piszczek mans the right-back spot, but talks between the clubs reportedly broke down.