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.

Study: MLS improves racial hiring, slides in gender hiring

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A diversity report shows improved racial hiring practices for Major League Soccer but also highlighted a continuing decline in gender hiring efforts.

The annual report card from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at Central Florida on Wednesday gave MLS an A with 93.9 points for racial hiring in 2019 for its highest score in 15 years.

[ MORE: Top 25 players in USMNT pool ]

But the gender score of 72 points for a C grade fell for the third straight time, down from 76.8 points in 2018 and 81 points as recently as 2016.

The overall grade for MLS was a B at 82.9 points, falling from a B-plus and 85 points in 2018.

TIDES director Richard Lapchick, the lead report author, called lower gender hiring numbers across men’s professional sports a “systemic problem.”

Online: http://tidesport.org/

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

Medel: Chile players decline friendly over civil unrest

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Chile had already canceled a home friendly with Bolivia this international break, and now the players will not play Tuesday in Peru either due to unrest in their country.’

A nationwide strike and protests against the government, spurred by a rise in metro fares, have Chile on edge.

[ MORE: USMNT-Canada preview ]

La Roja stars Gary Medel and Arturo Vidal both posted lengthy messages on their Instagram accounts, saying that the decision was made “in response to the social moment in our country.”

They urged both protestors and law enforcement to turn away from violence.

From Mega.CL:

“We are soccer players, but above all people and citizens. We know that we represent a complete country and today Chile has other priorities much more important than next Tuesday’s game.”

Chile is ranked No. 17 by FIFA and 22 in Elo Ratings.

Slumping USMNT big favorites v. Canada

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Let’s start with two statements which might be a bit controversial given the tone and tenor of the United States men’s national team program.

  1. The CONCACAF Nations League very much matters to Gregg Berhalter’s era and the program in general, even if the coach’s job is not in jeopardy and the tournament is in its infancy.
  2. The USMNT are the oddsmakers’ heavy favorites to win (nearly +500), even given the current injury problems, and it will be shocking but not surprising if they lose to the Canadians.

Point No. 1 might be a bit surprising, but this is a competition with silverware and Berhalter hasn’t won any of it yet in his tenure as USMNT boss. It’s also relevant because losing to Canada twice in a month after not losing to them since the Billboard No. 1 single was the sensual “One More Night” by Phil Collins.

And even without Christian Pulisic and a raft of injury excuses, plus taking into account Canada’s sincere re-emergence on the CONCACAF scene, the USMNT has no business losing a meaningful match at home to a team that, while improved, has far more holes than the hosts.

If you remember from October, Berhalter didn’t call upon his men to press an inexperienced Canadian back line (I just realized I’m still angry about this). There is literally no way he’ll do that at home.

If John Herdman keeps his backs the same as the one that shut out the Yanks at BMO last month, he’ll have Kamal Miller, Derek Cornelius, Steven Vitoria, and Richie Laryea out there. Three of the four aren’t full-time starters for their MLS clubs (Vitoria is an every week man in Portugal’s top flight). Goalkeeper Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade) is capable of stealing a result, but shouldn’t have the chance if the Yanks pressure the ball on Friday.

The midfield and attackers are where the U.S. will have its hands full. Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David beg speedy and/or smart defenders. John Brooks being in the mix should help in both counts, plus he’s the best passing back in the pool right now.

Whether the match is cagey or comfortable will come down to the midfield. Scott Arfield is going to make it difficult on the Yanks, but Alfredo Morales plays with a nasty streak and will not be as bullied as his peers were in Toronto.

The one thing to fear is how bamboozled Berhalter was by Herdman’s plan in Ontario. This isn’t to pile on the coach, who is known for his tactics but hasn’t seen them deliver against too many opponents of quality. Herdman may be the novice in terms of overall club experience, but he’s got a better handle on the international game.

If the Yanks look out-foxed and unprepared on Friday, that’s a big problem.

How will the USMNT line up versus Canada?

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No Christian Pulisic.

No Tyler Adams.

No Timothy Weah.

No Michael Bradley, Matt Miazga, and no Zack Steffen, either.

Ugh.

[ MORE: NYCFC teen signs for Gladbach ]

Still, the United States men’s national team will be favored to get a home decision over Canada on Friday as the CONCACAF Nations League begins its final two match days of the group stage.

How will Gregg Berhalter line up his team without so many key components?

Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan is probably going to get the start here, and he won’t kill the team, but we’d love to see Sean Johnson get a chance to improve on his 100% clean sheet success rate across two tournament caps for the U.S.

Back line: It would be insane if Sergino Dest didn’t start at one of the full back spots given his election of the USMNT over the Netherlands. Also insane would be not starting a finally-healthy John Brooks.

After that, it seems likely Berhalter will opt for Aaron Long to pair with Brooks. If his left back option is Dest, then it’ll be DeAndre Yedlin at right back (or Reggie Cannon). If Dest is on his preferred right side, than Daniel Lovitz may get a look over Tim Ream on account of the speed in Canada’s attack.

Midfield: Might Berhalter pull back an attacker and use a four-man midfield against the Canucks? Weston McKennie and Alfredo Morales will take two spots, and it seems pretty likely Jackson Yueill will get the chance to be a deep-lying playmaker with McKennie and Morales running their shorts off to make his life easier. We suppose Berhalter could opt for Wil Trapp over Yueill. It’s possible. A little too possible.

Attack: Josh Sargent is going to get the center forward spot, and it would be wild if Jordan Morris doesn’t join him. Then it’s down to Tyler Boyd or Paul Arriola, exciting versus a bit safer. And Arriola would give him more of a midfield presence than the forward-thinking Boyd.

Here’s how we think Berhalter starts in Orlando:

Guzan

Yedlin — Long — Brooks — Dest

Yueill

Morales — McKennie

Morris — Sargent — Arriola