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Palace and West Brom: Knowing when to cut ties

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This one’s for two chairmen, Steve Parish of Crystal Palace and John Williams of West Bromwich Albion, if anyone’s passing along advice from a writer with exactly zero Premier League experience.

There’s a temptation to leave well enough alone with managers, an allure made only more seductive by the fact that coaching stability is almost contrarian in the high-turnover world of the Premier League.

And if you’re goal is to just survive every year, then by all means, read no further. You have your men in Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce.

Before we go any further, let’s admit to some prejudices. Pulis’ management preference to often bunker down and strip attacking talents of freedom, at least on the surface, is far from alluring and doesn’t quite fit the expectations of West Brom. And Allardyce is Allardyce, a blustery, credit-claiming boss who’s prime claim  is “I keep ’em up.”

But even beyond that, there’s a question whether either can change aims with so many years of the same anthems.

Pulis’ stingy teams have done relatively well, no doubt, and in no way is he a bad hire for a team with a vacant manager’s chair. But what happened for a second-straight season at the Hawthorns should be unacceptable, especially considering that this season saw a ship chartered toward high success.

When the Baggies clinched safety in 2015-16 only to fall flatter than Saido Berahino‘s West Brom career, it was forgivable. The Baggies hit the 39-point mark with a memorable win over Manchester United, then managed just four points over their last nine matches. That included home losses to Norwich City and Watford.

But critics — myself included — were eating their words when Pulis had West Brom dancing in the Top Ten deep into the 2016-17 season. These weren’t 1-0 counterattacking snoozefests, either, as Pulis was producing goals. Yet what happened when the Baggies hit their vaunted 40-point mark, this time on Feb. 25? One more win the rest of the way, to go with nine losses and two draws.

Here’s what Pulis said after a couple losses, “Complacency is the most annoying word in the dictionary. It is human nature to switch off a bit sometime.”

Sure, but how can it surprise when your mantra from August on is seemingly, “Get 40 points.” Staying switched on when you’ve targeted 40 like it’s the Champions League group stage is tough.

Still, that’s nothing compared to Allardyce, and Parish would be wise to leap at Big Sam’s latest big threats of quitting Palace. Forget that he was hired anywhere after his embarrassing ouster from the England job for a second, and focus on this:

Allardyce took over from Alan Pardew, and Palace slipped into the drop zone. Palace had done a woeful job of recruitment in the summer and Pardew overly complicated his problems by refusing to consistently plug service machines Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha into the mix with Christian Benteke.

Allardyce did fix that, but if he deserves anything it’s for striking it rich on three terrific transfer buys in Luka Milivojevic, Mamadou Sakho, and Patrick Van Aanholt. Spending in January is as important as it’s ever been, and Allardyce had more tools in his shed than Pardew or even Pulis beforehand.

Which is to say that if Palace likes Allardyce, fine, but to credit him for this turnaround is only partially worthwhile. To expect him to suddenly become or surprass the man who thrived at Bolton between 1999-2007 is foolish. Almost all of his career nods that don’t involve “avoided relegation” come at levels outside the Premier League, and Palace wants to keep growing.

Back to Pulis, he’s again highlighting the need for West Brom to spend, and perhaps that would allow him to adjust his mentality in the run-up to next season (You’d like to think he’d at least target a Cup run).

What’s worth saying is not that Palace and West Brom should fire their bosses. In Pulis’ case, let’s see if spending can change his stripes a bit (although it should be noted they’ve purchased Nacer Chadli, Matty Phillips, and Salomon Rondon). In Allardyce’s case, it’s a matter of employing a man who’s only out for his reputation and is either going to succeed and claim it was all his genius, or fail and put it on the players or board.

Aren’t there better options?

WATCH: Leroy Sane’s vicious, bending, world class free kick

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Distance, pace, and curl: Leroy Sane’s terrific free kick equalizer had it all.

[ MORE: Real rocked at home ]

Manchester City went into halftime level with Hoffenheim at 1 thanks to a German player scoring his first UCL goal of the season, and doing it against German opposition.

Trailing via a Andrej Kramaric penalty conceded by John Stones, City hit the woodwork through Gabriel Jesus and has several other chances to equalize at the Etihad Stadium.

But it was Sane who came through in stoppage time with this stunning effort which begs for more angles.

Real Madrid suffers worst home Champions League loss

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Real Madrid rested several big name players for Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League visit from CSKA Moscow, having already acquired a spot in the Round of 16.

You could very much tell, as Real suffered its heaviest home loss in UCL history.

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The three-time reigning champions were waxed 3-0 at the Bernabeu, giving the home crowd little to cheer.

Thibaut Courtois allowed all three goals, and probably won’t appreciate his work on at least two of the three.

Federico Valverde, Jesus Vallejo, Vinicius Junior, and Javier Sanchez got starts despite having a total of 22 appearances this season, with Toni Kroos, Dani Carvajal, and Gareth Bale coming off the bench and both Raphael Varane and Luka Modric unused subs.

Georgi Schennikov, Arnor Sigurdsson, and Fedor Chalov scored for CSKA, leaving Real manager Santiago Solari disappointed in his depth players and stars alike.

UCL, LIVE: Man City, Man United aim to win groups

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Both Manchester clubs are already safely through to the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, but Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho want more.

Of course they do.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Manchester City host Hoffenheim knowing a win will secure top spot in Group F, while Man United head to Valencia knowing they must win and hope that Juventus fail to beat Young Boys in order to win Group H.

Stranger things have happened, but it appears Pep’s City are nailed on to win Group F and United will finish second behind Juve and be at risk of facing a much tougher team in the last 16.

Elsewhere, the only thing to sort out is in Group F as Shakhtar and Lyon go head-to-head for the final spot available in the last 16 of the competition. While Ajax and Bayern do battle for top spot in Group E.

[ MORE: Champions League standings

Click on the link above to follow the action live. While below is the look at the full schedule for Tuesday, with all games kicking off at 3 p.m. ET.


Tuesday, UCL group stage schedule

Group E
Ajax v. Bayern Munich
Benfica v. AEK Athens

Group F
Manchester City v. Hoffenheim
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Lyon

Group H
Valencia v. Manchester United
Young Boys v. Juventus

Tottenham release update on new stadium

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Tottenham Hotspur have issued an update on when their new White Hart Lane stadium will be ready.

Spurs fans, you’ll have to wait a few more months.

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On the back of their superb draw at Barcelona on Tuesday which secured an improbable spot in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, Mauricio Pochettino had been speaking about the excitement of playing the home leg of their UCL knockout round game at their new home.

Tottenham’s $1 billion new stadium on the site for their former White Hart Lane home was supposed to be ready for the start of the 2018-19 season, and its opening was then delayed until September, and then pushed back a few months and, well, here we are.

This update states that the stadium will not be ready until at least the last week of January.

In a statement released on Wednesday, chairman Daniel Levy didn’t want to confirm exactly when they would be playing in their new home, but he did confirm the game against Manchester United on Jan. 13 would be played at Wembley.

The club said that they will receive a “status report from our contractors in the week commencing 7 January 2019 and will update you thereafter” and went into a few more specifics.

“The past few months have been spent rectifying issues with the critical safety systems. We are pleased to report that progress has been steady and we are now into the integrated testing and commissioning phases that take place ahead of the application for a stadium safety certificate. Testing is being conducted both during the day and night and our contractors will continue to work during the Christmas period. Barring no further significant issues we should then be in a position to schedule Test Events.”

Levy continued that Tottenham are “acutely conscious that we are asking fans to go to Wembley for far longer than any of us wanted to” as attendances at their temporary home have dropped drastically in recent months.

“What I don’t want to do is set any firm dates until we have finally achieved a safety certificate. So many people tell me to look at other major schemes that run late and, whilst I know it happens often, we are still hugely frustrated. Once again I want to apologise to fans and to thank you for your ongoing support. We have a busy time ahead both on and off the pitch, particularly after last night’s amazing qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League.”

When do Spurs need their new stadium to be ready by for the Champions League?

The last 16 first leg games will take place on February 12-20, while the second legs will take place on March 5-13, so Spurs will be hoping they are drawn away from home in the UCL last 16 first leg so their new stadium would be ready for a massive European knockout game.