With eight Premier League fixtures on Saturday, two more remain in Matchweek 11.
Crystal Palace v. Leicester City — 9 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Leicester City has plenty of things going for itself: a super reliable Jamie Vardy, an impenetrable backline, and a recent 9-0 win against Southampton, to name a few. In other words, what was supposed to be a year filled with trials and tribulations following Harry Maguire‘s record departure and Brendan Rodger’s first, full season at the helm, has been a close replica of the Foxes’ historic 2015-2016 season. Whether it will have a similar Cinderella ending is a different discussion, but there are certainly parallels.
How will this surprising Leicester hold up at Selhurst Park, though? If Rodgers has ever struggled at a venue, it’s Palace’s.
“As long as there’s green grass and posts, it doesn’t matter where the game is,” Rodgers said prior to Sunday’s game. “We go there to win. They [Palace] have got an outstanding manager who I’ve got a huge amount of respect for. The team is coached extremely well and they have some outstanding players.”
Palace, who’ve climbed as high as fifth in the table this season, are in the midst of a challenging stretch of games. A loss to Manchester City and a recent draw to Arsenal have slowed down the Eagles, who have top-three sides Chelsea and Liverpool lined up following Sunday’s bout. That wasn’t the topic of discussion in at Selhurst, however. Roy Hodgson, who is three seasons into his tenure, confirmed that there are contract extension talks being held with Palace.
“I just read today or heard today that Donald Trump, who is a little bit older than I am [by one year], is planning to stay on as President of the United States for the next five years,” Hodgson said. “With respect, this is an important job I have here but not as important as being the leader of the free world.”
“I must say I don’t wake up every morning thinking how old I am,” he said. “I don’t feel 72, no-one is going make me feel 72 or make me feel like I am too old. The day may come when I feel that way and it certainly hasn’t happened yet.”
Everton v. Tottenham — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Surely, the season has more turns to give, but as it stands, Tottenham and Everton are far from meeting expectations. Only two points separate the two sides, who stand 13th and 17th in the table, respectively.
Tottenham are winless in their last three and have only picked up one win in their last five games. Their latest showing, a 2-1 defeat to Liverpool, showcased glimpses of the formidable Spurs that made headlines last season. With Everton a lopsided loss away from hitting rock-bottom, Mauricio Pochettino and company have a slim psychological edge, if anything.
Maybe they’re unaware of their mental superiority, but the Argentine manager made sure to shine some light on the topic.
“We need to be positive, feeling that positivity makes us believe we can beat any team,” Pochettino said. “At the moment we struggle a little bit in our confidence.”
“The most important is how we are going to finish, it’s not nice to see you in the middle of the table but that is a reality we need to accept,” he added. “If you don’t accept the reality you are going to struggle. In our mind we know very well that we need time, to be strong, be solid and start to win because that is going to be the best thing for us.”
As for Everton, the team’s situation has distanced itself from the messages of hopeful. Only two points out of relegation, there’s a deep sense of urgency and panic at Goodison Park. It’s a now-or-never aura that surrounds the team, specifically boss Marco Silva.
“We have not achieved the results we want [this season] and taken what we deserve,” Silva confessed heading into Sunday’s bout. “The last game is clear of that but football is about results.”
“We need to change it as you can’t have two faces – one when you play at home and one completely different away,” he added.
INJURIES: Everton — OUT: Jean-Philippe Gbamin (thigh), Bernard (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Yerry Mina (knee) | Spurs — OUT: Erik Lamela (thigh), Hugo Lloris (elbow); QUESTIONABLE: Jan Vertonghen (hamstring)