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PL Preview: Chelsea v. Crystal Palace

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  • Crystal Palace has won 2 of 17 PL fixtures at Chelsea
  • Chelsea has not won 6 straight PL matches since 2017
  • Palace has 8 PL away wins in 2019, third most in the league

A suddenly dilapidated midfield threatens to halt Frank Lampard‘s good form as Chelsea hosts Crystal Palace on Saturday at Stamford Bridge, with kickoff set for 7:30 a.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

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Chelsea’s midfield is banged up, with anchor Jorginho suspended for yellow card accumulation while N’Golo Kante has yet to return from a nagging ankle problem and Mason Mount‘s status is questionable after hobbling off in pain against Ajax midweek. Kante was an unused substitute against Ajax and could be in contention to start in place of Jorginho, but it has been a month since his last appearance and the French international has made just three league starts all year. In addition, Ross Barkley was confirmed to miss the match as the midfield continues to lose bodies.

Still, that seems the only thing in the way of the Blues at the moment, with the club riding high after its wild Champions League comeback midweek that saw them erase a 4-1 second-half deficit and very nearly find the winning stroke. With five straight wins in Premier League play on top of that, this Chelsea team is firing on all cylinders. They have scored 13 goals in those five league victories, and have scored 19 goals in eight matches across all competitions since the start of October.

Meanwhile, Crystal Palace has struggled through a brutal October schedule and hopes the turn to November will lift its fortunes. The Eagles have failed to win over its last three league games, with losses to Manchester City and Leicester City plus a draw with Arsenal. Now Palace draws Chelsea on the road before a home date with Liverpool rounds out an absolutely ruthless five-game stretch.

Still, Roy Hodgson has maintained a top ten standing despite the rut, with the club currently sitting ninth on 15 points, two ahead of Manchester United in 10th. The boss will take charge of his 300th Premier League game at Stamford Bridge, becoming the 15th person and sixth Englishman to reach that milestone.

Injuries/suspensions:

Chelsea: OUT – Jorginho (suspended), Antonio Rudiger (hip), Ross Barkley (knock), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Achilles). QUESTIONABLE – Mason Mount (ankle), N’Golo Kante (ankle).

Crystal Palace: QUESTIONABLE – Andros Townsend (muscle), Gary Cahill (head), Cheikhou Kouyate (head), James McArthur (back).


Projected Lineups

Chelsea: Kepa; Emerson, Tomori, Zouma, Azpilicueta; Kante, Kovacic, Hudson-Odoi, Pulisic, Willian; Abraham.

Crystal Palace: Guaita; van Aanholt, Cahill, Tomkins, Ward; Milivojevic, Kouyate, McCarthy; Zaha, Ayew, Schlupp.


What they’re saying

Chelsea manager Lampard on Ajax draw: “There weren’t too many negatives. Some were freakish and some were on us, goals we don’t like to concede. To come back and to draw the game, we should take the positives. The fans were great. It starts with us.”

Palace boss Hodgson on Lampard: “Frank Lampard has done a very good job, there is no question about that. The club have (also) done a good job in encouraging the manager and his staff to blood some of the players that had previously been out on loan. Everyone at the club deserves a pat on the back for that.”


Prediction

Chelsea is in good form, but injuries have them a bit out of sorts, and the defensive performance against Ajax was a complete disaster. It’s been that way all season long in Premier League play, with just two clean sheets on the top flight season. Eventually, this will come back to haunt them, and with Mason Mount potentially out, those issues could combine to spell defeat. Meanwhile, Crystal Palace has shown well against good Premier League sides the last few weeks, and they are nearing a big result. The Eagles will bag an upset at Stamford Bridge with an impressive 2-1 win that gets Crystal Palace the signature win it has searched for over this brutal stretch of games, while leaving Frank Lampard with some defensive adjustments to make over the international break.

Transfer rumor roundup: Mari to Arsenal; Defoe makes permanent Rangers move

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors, including those involving Premier League outfits.

[ MORE: Premier League January transfer needs ]

Arsenal are reportedly hours from adding a defender to Mikel Arteta‘s squad.

Flamengo’s Pablo Mari has reportedly arrived in London and set for a medical at Arsenal, Sky Sports reports. The 26-year-old Spaniard will join the North London side for the remainder of the season with an option to buy.

It won’t be Mari’s first time signing for a Premier League side, however.

In 2016, the center-back signed with Manchester City, but never featured for the defending champions, instead making appearances for Girona, NAC and Deportivo La Coruna on loan.


Jermaine Defoe is not returning to Bournemouth.

On Saturday, Rangers announced that Defoe signed a pre-contract to join Rangers on permanent basis in the summer.

The storied 37-year-old English striker has 20 goals in 57 appearances since joining the Scottish giants last January on a 18-month loan. Defoe’s new contract runs through the 2020-21 season, a one-year deal.

“It’s fantastic news,” Rangers manager Steven Gerrard told the club’s website. “It’s something we have been working on over the weeks and it is great to finally get that done and dusted.”

“He is an incredible professional with the way he goes about his work on and off the pitch – he is a credit to himself and his family. And also on the pitch, which is the main thing. He is still contributing heavily – he is a major part of this group, this team and this squad and hopefully together we can go and share some success as I think he deserves that.”

This season, Defoe has scored 16 goals in 28 games.


Crystal Palace are in talks to sign Belgium international Yannick Carrasco, according to Sky Sports.

Carrasco, 26, wants to leave Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang and is currently training in Belgium, ahead of a return to European play.

Carrasco has scored 24 goals in 52 appearances since making a move to China from Atletico Madrid in February 2018.


Norwich City are actively pursuing Danel Sinani, according to the Daily Mail.

The 22-year-old Luxembourg winger is out of contract with Luxembourg side FC Dudelange this summer. If the parties involved can’t reach a deal this week,  the Canaries are reportedly ready to propose a pre-contract agreement.

Mourinho hints Spurs to sign Lo Celso permanently: ‘I think the boy is earning the decision’

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Tottenham Hotspur loanee Giovani Lo Celso is closer to permanently stay in North London than he is to return back to Sevilla.

[ MORE: Spurs, Saints draw and force 4-th round FA Cup replay ]

The 23-year-old Argentine, who arrived at Spurs from Real Betis last summer on a season-long loan, experienced a rocky start in the Premier League. Lo Celso – with only 44 minutes of English top-flight playing time under his belt – suffered a hip injury with Argentina, ruling him out two months in the fall.

Since, the attacking midfielder has worked his way up Jose Mourinho’s pecking order, featuring heavily in the Portuguese’s scheme over the past few months. Most recently, on Saturday, Lo Celso displayed his well-balanced virtues in Tottenham’s 1-1 draw with Southampton in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Following the match, Mourinho addressed questions on whether or not his club is going to sign the midfielder on a permanent contract. Praiseworthy of Lo Celso’s learning abilities, Mourinho hopes the midfielder will be a part of the club’s long-term plans.

“It’s not an obligation, it’s an option,” Mourinho said of Lo Celso, who is reportedly available at reduced price of $35 million. “I think the boy is earning the decision. He’s making an easy decision for the club to execute the option.”

“Incredible evolution since I arrived,” he added. “Barely played a game, I think he played against Red Star Belgrade, with me a little bit difficult to come in the first few weeks. But he understood what we wanted. Good learner, good kid and I think by himself he made the decision that the club is going to execute the option. That’s normal, he earned it.”

With Christian Eriksen on the verge of departing the London side, Mourinho and company will have additional funds to land Lo Celso this winter before his price spikes in the summer.

Everything points to the creative midfielder having a future in London, but will Spurs brass follow suit and make it official soon?

Netherlands forward Rob Rensenbrink dies at age 72

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Rob Rensenbrink, the forward who was centimeters away from delivering the Netherlands a World Cup title in 1978, has died at age 72, the Dutch football association said Saturday.

“We have heard with sadness of the death of football legend Rob Rensenbrink,” the association said in a tweet.

Rensenbrink played most of his club football in Belgium with Club Brugge and Anderlecht, where his weaving runs earned him the nickname “Snake Man.” He also played briefly for the Portland Timbers in the United States in 1980.

He was a regular for the Netherlands national team in its period of dominance in the 1970s.

He played 46 times and scored 14 goals for the Dutch team known for its slick, position-swapping “total football.”

But he will always be best remembered for the goal he didn’t quite score in the 1978 World Cup final.

With the scores tied at 1-1 between the Netherlands and host Argentina and the seconds ticking away in injury time of the final in Buenos Aires, Rensenbrink’s shot hit the post. The match went to extra time and Argentina scored twice to win 3-1.

It was the second straight World Cup final defeat for the Netherlands, which has appeared in three finals and lost them all.

Rensenbrink was diagnosed with a muscle disease in 2012 and died as a result of the illness, according to Dutch national broadcaster NOS.

Anderlecht said he died Friday night.

“Thanks for everything Robbie!” the Belgian club wrote on its website. “We will never forget you.”

Serie A roundup: Ilicic powers Atalanta in historic win over Torino (video)

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Atalanta’s historic and overpowering win over Torino highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Torino 0-7 Atalanta

Josip Ilicic scored a hat-trick, including a center-line strike, as Atalanta humiliated Torino 7-0 on Saturday, handing the hosts their worst home loss ever in Serie A play.

With only nine men on the field towards the end of the match for Turin-based side, Atalanta were able to capitalize, elevating their goal count to 57 goals in 21 games this season. Gian Piero Gasperini’s men, who are back in Champions League contention, lead the league in goals.

Robin Gosens and Duvan Zapata, who scored a minute before the break, added to Ilicic’s first of three. A three-goal advantage after the first 45 minutes foreshadowed what Torino was going to encounter in the second half: more goals.

Eight minutes into the final 45 minutes of Saturday’s bout at the Olimpico di Torino, Ilicic quick-fired two more past an exposed Salvatore Sirigu.

With less than 10 minutes to go, Luis Muriel took the field for the visitors. And just six minutes after his first foot on the natural surface, the Colombian striker had a brace to his name.

“All we can do is apologize,” Torino coach Walter Mazzarri said. “In so many years of my career I had never had such a game.”

In fourth place with 38 points, Atalanta look to increase their seven-goal performances this season to three as they host struggling Genoa in a weeks time. Torino, on the other hand, meet AC Milan on Tuesday in the quarterfinal’s of the Coppa Italia.

Elsewhere

SPAL 1-3 Bologna

Fiorentina 0-0 Genoa