Aron Gunnarsson

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PL preview: Cardiff City v. Crystal Palace

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  • Cardiff City has not scored a single goal in 3 PL meetings vs CPFC
  • Crystal Palace has the 2nd most PL away points in 2019 with 16
  • Cardiff has just 9 first-half PL goals all season

Cardiff City needs a win or relegation is all but complete as they host Crystal Palace on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

Thanks to a far superior goal differential, the magic number is two for Brighton & Hove Albion to secure Premier League safety and relegate Cardiff City, meaning any combination of two points dropped by Cardiff City or gained by Brighton would complete the bottom of the table. With Brighton taking on Manchester City in the final week of the season, Cardiff could significantly boost their hopes of survival with a result this weekend.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Still, Neil Warnock is staring down his third Premier League relegation with a third club, and he will be without a host of injured players at his disposal. Sol Bamba, Callum Paterson, Joe Ralls and Matthew Connolly are all confirmed out injured for the remainder of the season, while Aron Gunnarsson and Harry Arter are questionable for Saturday’s critical match.

Crystal Palace sits 12th in the Premier League, above the classic 40-point threshold teams often target for safety. They are limping to the finish line like their opponents, with Mamadou Sakho, James Tomkins, Jeffrey Schlupp and Pape Souare all out for the season plus Christian Benteke who is sidelined at least this weekend with a facial injury suffered last time out.

What they’re saying

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock on relegation fight: “We’ve got to win this game. If we don’t we can forget it, so we’ve got to concentrate on that really. We always give effort and sometimes we are a bit limited. But with two games to go we’re still in it.”

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson on playing a desperate side: “We have to expect a very motivated team, a team that will give its all to cling to the last chances of staying in the league, and hoping they can win while Brighton don’t. We have a desire to win the game as well.”

Prediction

Cardiff City needs a result in the worst way, but they are dangerously thin, and Crystal Palace is a quality road opponent, having topped Arsenal last time away from home. The Bluebirds will come close to earning a hard-fought draw, but they will throw everything forward at the end in desperation and concede late for a 2-1 loss to seal their relegation.

Premier League Sunday preview: Arsenal, Man United, Liverpool all in play

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The battles at the summit of the Premier League table continue as three of the top six teams take the field on Sunday.

The title race is still white hot, with both Manchester City and Liverpool swinging back and forth with every positive result. City jumped back into the lead with the win on Saturday over Tottenham, a point in front with four matches remaining on both the dockets.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE HERE

The fight for the Champions League places also looks a good one, with four teams battling for just two places. Tottenham sits precariously in third on 67 points, while Arsenal and Chelsea are level on 66 with the Gunners holding the goal differential tiebreaker by five. Manchester United is in sixth on 64 points, still in the mix.


Everton v. Manchester United — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The Red Devils are the first of the Champions League contenders to take the field as they visit Goodison Park. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s honeymoon period in charge of Manchester United is over and it’s time for him to prove he belongs. The Norwegian boss was given the permanent position after a record start to his interim tenure, but the timing was still odd and as the season winds down, the Red Devils could be left out of the mix for Europe’s biggest competition. Luke Shaw is suspended for the match for yellow card accumulation, but otherwise the injury news is good with Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera, and Alexis Sanchez all reportedly available.

Everton, meanwhile, sits in a similar position as Manchester United, battling for a European place but bringing up the rear. The Toffees sit in 10th, back of the pack among a crowded fight for the last Europa League place. Everton is still just three points back of Watford who currently holds that spot, and while they can break everyone’s hearts by upsetting Manchester City in the FA Cup final, a loss would give the Europa League position to whoever finishes seventh.

INJURIES: Everton —  OUT: Yerry Mina (hamstring), Andre Gomes (suspension). | Manchester United — OUT: Luke Shaw (suspension).


Cardiff City v. Liverpool — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Liverpool yet again has to put pressure on Manchester City to have any hope in the Premier League title race. Ahead of the midweek Manchester derby, the Reds have the opportunity not just to take the lead but to stay there should City slip up at all against the Red Devils with their game in hand.

They’ll need a result against a team fighting for its life. Cardiff City is in 17th in the Premier League table, three points shy of safety. A shocking win would put Cardiff in much better position, while a loss would see them potentially fall two games out. They’ve lost three straight and haven’t scored in their last two, so Liverpool will be licking its chops.

INJURIES: Cardiff City —  OUT: Souleymane Bamba (knee), Callum Paterson (ankle), Matthew Connolly (ankle), Harry Arter (calf), . QUESTIONABLE: Aron Gunnarsson (back). | Liverpool — OUT: none. QUESTIONABLE: Dejan Lovren (illness), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee).


Arsenal v. Crystal Palace — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold and NBCSports.com

The Gunners will know Manchester United’s result before taking the field, to see whether they will be looking to strengthen their Champions League position or hoping to recapture it. Arsenal is currently in fourth, clinging barely to its spot in the top European competition, but they have been strong of late and have a soft schedule to finish the season, so there is no reason not to lock the spot down. Still, the injuries are rampant and there are fears that Aaron Ramsey‘s Arsenal career will end with the thigh injury he picked up midweek in Europa League play. Coupled with the three long-term injuries to Bellerin, Welbeck, and Holding plus Sokratis’ suspension, the Gunners are thin.

Crystal Palace has little to play for at this point, sitting in 14th on 39 points but unlikely to be sucked into the relegation battle. Roy Hodgson has led the squad to five wins since the start of February, good enough form to keep them out of the maelstrom at the bottom of the table. They put up a decent fight against title leaders Manchester City last time out, and kept two straight clean sheets in the matches before that. However, they lost two important players recently in James Tomkins and Jeffrey Schlupp who both will miss the rest of the season after long-term injuries.

INJURIES: Arsenal —  OUT: Aaron Ramsey (thigh), Hector Bellerin (knee), Rob Holding (knee), Danny Welbeck (ankle), Sokratis (suspended). QUESTIONABLE: Granit Xhaka (groin). | Crystal Palace — OUT: James Tomkins (groin), Jeffrey Schlupp (ankle), Mamadou Sakho (knee).

Cardiff City 2-1 Wolves: Hoilett stunner caps Cardiff comeback

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Cardiff City came back from a 1-0 first-half deficit to defeat Wolverhampton Wanderers at home 2-1 for a massive three points in the relegation battle. Aron Gunnarsson and Junior Hoilett were the goalscorers who gave the home fans the day’s excitement, striking 12 minutes apart for the victory.

Wolves struck first 18 minutes in off a corner, the seventh goal Cardiff has conceded from a set-piece this year. The ball swung in and came to the head of Raul Jiminez at the near post. His header was destined for the far corner, but Neil Etheridge made a diving save to push the ball away. His touch fell to a streaking Matt Doherty at the far post, and he roofed the effort from point-blank range.

Cardiff came incredibly close to an equalizer past the half-hour mark after a mad scramble in front of net led to a long-distance volley by Harry Arter that rattled the post, nearly producing a stunning strike.

After the break, Gunnarsson took advantage of poor defending from Wolves to bring Cardiff level. Arter pumped the ball into the box with a clumsy swing that popped it high in the air. Sean Morrison got his head to it, and with Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio indecisive and the rest of the defense nowhere to be found, Gunnarsson lept into the air and scissor-kicked the ball into the net from close range.

That set Cardiff up for the moment of the match came the hosts as Hoilett put them into the lead with 13 minutes to go. Morrison chested down a deep cross into the box, laying it off for Callum Paterson right on the penalty spot, but he whiffed. The ball trickled to substitute Bobby Reid whose wild swing was blocked, and eventually the ball landed at the feet of Hoilett at the top-left corner of the box. He produced what the others could not, a moment of perfection that sailed effortlessly into the top corner of the net, past a helplessly outstretched Rui Patricio.

That strike against the run of play set Cardiff City up for all three points, as the home side kept Wolves off the scoreboard the rest of the way and earned the three points. It was the perfect 70th birthday for Neil Warnock, as his side moved out of the relegation zone with its third win of the season.

For Wolves, it’s a disappointing result against a team they were expected to beat. They miss the chance to jump into the top half of the table, instead sitting in 11th, two points back of Leicester City.

PL Preview: Tottenham vs. Cardiff City

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Winless in the league through the season’s first seven matches, Cardiff City will look to take advantage of a banged up Tottenham Hotspur as they meet at Wembley Stadium on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

[ WATCH LIVE: Tottenham vs. Cardiff live on NBCSports.com ]

Tottenham will be without defender Jan Vertonghen who has picked up a hamstring problem and could miss as much as six weeks. Along with the Belgian defender, Spurs will miss Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Mousa Dembele who are all sidelined with various injuries. Spurs will especially miss the creativity of Eriksen, who has been out since suffering what Pochettino called an “abdomen problem” he picked up after the 2-1 victory over Brighton in late September.

Spurs have been all over the place with results of late, but they’ve done enough to put themselves into fourth place in the Premier League table. They fell to Barcelona in midweek Champions League play, carved up by Lionel Messi and company. However, they’ve been perfect through Premier League play aside from a two-game losing skid back in early September.

For Cardiff City, manager Neil Warnock is fearing the sack if the Premier League new boys can’t pick up points, and fast. With just two points through the first seven matches, Cardiff sits in 19th, level on points with Huddersfield Town and Newcastle. They are without midfielder Aron Gunnarsson this weekend who is on his way back from a knee injury, while Junior Hoilett is reportedly fit and ready to go.

What they’re saying

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino on playing a weaker team: “The most difficult game is the game that everyone believes, outside of the team, that you must win. For us it’s so important to be motivated at the same level. If not we’re going to struggle.”

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock on the possibility of being fired: “If we don’t get results, no doubt it will become someone else’s problem. Every manager is under pressure. You do find every big agent is pushing managers’ names. I have heard two or three be mentioned already for my job, but that’s not just me, every manager gets that.”

Prediction

This Tottenham team is banged up, but right now Cardiff City is just not scoring enough to be trusted against such a disciplined team like Tottenham. An early goal will put Cardiff out of its comfort zone, and it will be elementary from there in a 2-0 Spurs win.

PL Sunday preview: 19th hosts 17th when Cardiff, Burnley meet

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Only one game on the Premier League docket for Sunday, but it’s one that carries much weight in the 2018-19 relegation battle…

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 7? ]

Cardiff City vs. Burnley — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Cardiff came into the season as the overwhelming favorites to be relegated from — if not to finish dead last in — the PL, and the Bluebirds entered the weekend right where everyone expected them to be: bottom of the table, with just two points to show for their first six games. Then, a funny thing happened on Saturday: Neil Warnock‘s side rose to 19th without having yet played this weekend, thanks to Huddersfield Town’s 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. Given Cardiff’s inability to score goals, they might have already experienced the highlight of their week.

For all of Burnley’s struggles to start the season — and there have been plenty, as the Clarets collected just one point from their first five games before picking up their first win last weekend — Sean Dyche‘s side has still put together a defensive record which ranks in the top half of the PL (10 goals conceded in six games, 9th-fewest). That likely spells trouble for Cardiff, who have scored a PL-low three goals thus far.

The only possible silver lining for Cardiff — one that Warnock will be desperately hoping to realize — is that while they conceded a dozen goals in their last three games, they did so against Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City. They’re hardly the only side that’ll ship a large number in consecutive games against top-four hopefuls, and perhaps that challenge will have prepared Warnock’s men for the more realistic challenge that is a fellow relegation battler.

INJURIES: Cardiff — OUT: Aron Gunnarsson (knee), Peltier (shoulder) | Burnley — OUT: Ben Gibson (abdomen), Nick Pope (shoulder), Robbie Brady (fitness)