PL Sunday preview: Streaking Everton host slumping Palace

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With only one game on the Premier League docket for Sunday, it’s a battle of mid-table teams who began the season with plans of finishing safely inside the top half of the table.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 9? ]

On one side, there’s 11th-place Everton who have won back-to-back PL games for the first time this season. On the other side, there’s 14th-place Crystal Palace who enter Sunday’s trip to Goodison Park on the back of two straight league defeats.

The Toffees spent big in the summer transfer window, but a bit of patience was required before the return on their investment was realized. Following a comprehensive demolition of Fulham three weeks ago, and a late win away to Leicester City last week, first-year Everton manager Marco Silva is increasingly pleased with the progression his side is making.

“We are looking more like a team – more compact, more solid in some moments, and staying focused during the game. It is up to us to continue in this way, getting better every time, because we have different problems on Sunday with a different opponent, too. We have to be able to find solutions to score and win the match.”

[ WATCH: Messi scores, assists, injuries arm in first 16 minutes ]

The worst part about Palace’s recent slide is the opponents who have resigned them to defeat: Bournemouth and Wolverhampton Wanderers, a pair of sides likely to finish in the bottom half come the end of the season. Even worse, Palace’s do-everything superstar Wilfried Zaha faces a late fitness test in order to be available for selection after injuring his groin while on international duty for Ivory Coast this week. Palace are winless (0W-4D-3L) in their last seven games against Everton.

INJURIES: Everton — QUESTIONABLE: Idrissa Gueye (ankle); RETURNING: Yerry Mina (foot), Andre Gomes (hamstring), James McCarthy (leg) | Crystal Palace — OUT: Christian Benteke (knee), Scott Dann (knee); DOUBTFUL: Wilfried Zaha (groin); QUESTIONABLE: Connor Wickham (calf)

Palace’s Benteke undergoes successful knee surgery

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Christian Benteke‘s return to Crystal Palace isn’t coming any time soon.

The Belgian’s knee injury has not healed correctly, and the 27-year-old underwent exploratory surgery to flush out the area.

Palace says the surgeon was happy with the procedure and that another update would come in a few weeks.

[ MORE: Villa hires manager, adds Terry to staff ] 

A reliable double digit scorer in the Premier League, Benteke scored just three times last season and had yet to grab a goal this season before he was hurt.

Benteke has appeared just once for Belgium since World Cup qualification resumed in June 2017.

Palace sits 14th in the Premier League, four points clear of the drop zone with just five goals scored on the season.

Making a case for Mourinho (regardless of the Newcastle comeback)

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International breaks, they bring out the wild posts. Bear with me.

Fine margins.

Liverpool was 3W-3D-2L in the Premier League when it replaced Brendan Rodgers with Jurgen Klopp in 2015. It had needed penalty kicks to outlast Carlisle United in the League Cup, and drew Bordeaux and Sion 1-1 in an uninspiring start to life in the Europa League. A 1-1 draw against Romelu Lukaku and rivals Everton was too much, and Rodgers was out.

[ PL ROUNDTABLE: The story so far ]

The managerial change happened this time three seasons ago, and certainly would’ve had some parallels if Manchester United did not rebound from its 2-0 deficit to beat Newcastle United on Saturday. United now has 13 points (Rodgers’ Reds had 12), and did not survive the League Cup penalty kicks against a lower division side (Derby County). Its win over Young Boys in the Champions League was solid, the home draw to Valencia disappointing.

Shoot, when Klopp was hired he called himself The Normal One, so of course there are differences. Liverpool spent wildly in the previous summer, acquiring pieces which remain a part of their successful squad. Roberto Firmino, Joe Gomez and James Milner as highlights, with Nathaniel Clyne, Christian Benteke, and Danny Ings something else.

United didn’t really back Mourinho this summer. Fred, Diogo Dalot, and Lee Grant the only arrivals. But Mourinho also hasn’t really given United what Klopp has given Liverpool: A consistently affable manager who plays the PR game better than most.

This isn’t to argue that anyone would or should choose Mourinho over Klopp at this stage of the game, but the numbers alone don’t really scream out, “Smell ya later, Jose!”

Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool: 166 matches, 88W-46D-32L, +157 GD, 1.87 ppm
FA Cup final loss, Europa League final loss, UCL final loss

Jose Mourinho at Man Utd: 131 matches, 79W-27D-25L, +121 GD, 2.02 ppm
League Cup win, Europa League win, FA Cup final loss

And head-to-head, Mourinho’s Man Utd has one win and three draws in four against Klopp’s Reds.

(AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Now, of course, Liverpool rivals Everton didn’t go and rewrite the Premier League record books during that time like Man City did, and the Europa League is not the Champions League. So that matters.

Really Mourinho is reaping what he’s sown in terms of not giving a rat’s behind about what he says to the media (while also caring very much about his public perception).

We know he’s much better to the players than his reputation suggests, still it gets labeled “throwing players under the bus” when he calls them out. For others, it’s no problem (Klopp rightly laid blame at Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino after the loss to Napoli, but got the benefit of the doubt).

Maybe in the time of Brian Clough, being something like the Special One was much more forgivable. But like players in the pre-Internet era, managers were far less replaceable.

The fine margins of wins and losses are a little less fine when you’ve curried some favor with the fans and, well, anyone. If and when Klopp hits the skids at Liverpool, he’s going to be fine. Again, deservedly so. Because he’s got a better handle on life than Mourinho, who just hasn’t read that infamous bumper sticker: Don’t be a jerk (I changed a word).

I’m pretty sure this post was a long and perhaps convoluted way to argue that it isn’t necessarily the time to move on from Mourinho. The Red Devils haven’t done him any favors in terms of selling players he doesn’t want around, which certainly cannot help but amplify the tumult in the room.

Theoretically, maybe Paul Pogba‘s gripes fall on deaf ears if those ears don’t belong to an Anthony Martial that Mourinho almost certainly wanted to move.

And maybe this is just the early downswing of a long season that will move upward once Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku start firing.

This is United’s next six matches, and Mourinho’s going to get the proverbial ink to write his own obituary or laudatory plaque. Sacking him now asks the interim man or new boss to sink or swim. Giving Mourinho two weeks to prepare for the run makes a lot more sense given his history in manufacturing results.

Chelsea away

Juve home (Ronaldo to boot!)

Everton home

Bournemouth away

Juve away

Man City away

Here goes everything.

Watch Live: Bournemouth vs. Crystal Palace

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Eddie Howe and Bournemouth welcome Roy Hodson’s Crystal Palace to the Vitality Stadium Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as both teams look to close out Matchday 7 with three points.

The two teams played to a pair of dramatic 2-2 draws last season. Joshua King saved a point for Bournemouth last April on the south coast of England while Christian Benteke missed a 93rd minute penalty kick to squander a chance for Crystal Palace to win last December. This time around, we could see another four-goal thriller, with Zaha, Max Meyer, and Andros Townsend starting for the Eagles and King, Callum Wilson and Jefferson Lerma starting for the Cherries.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Enjoy the match!


LINEUPS

PL Preview: Bournemouth vs. Crystal Palace

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  • AFC Bournemouth will make late calls on Diego Rico (hamstring) and Dan Gosling (calf) ahead of Monday night’s match. Charlie Daniels (knee) has completed a couple of days of training and is close to a return to the squad.
  • Crystal Palace will be without Jairo Riedewald, who was injured in the midweek victory over West Bromwich Albion. Christian Benteke (knee) is progressing with his recovery but manager Roy Hodgson says he is still not ready to play. 
  • Eagles forward Wilfried Zaha has scored in all three of his side’s away league fixtures this season.

Premier League matchday seven comes to a close as Wilfried Zaha and Crystal Palace head south to visit Bournemouth (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as both clubs try to position themselves in the heavily-populated mid-table.

Zaha last week called for more protection for star players like himself from referees, so it will be interesting to see how he’s officiated against a backline that will be key’d up to stop him. Bournemouth’s malaigned backline is coming off a rough, cathartic 4-0 thrashing from Burnley and will need a step up in performance if Eddie Howe‘s side wants to return to the win column.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Bournemouth can move up to as high as sixth place with a win, while a win for Crystal Palace will see it overtake Manchester United in the table.


What they’re saying

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson on Bournemouth: “Their start has been good, there is no doubt about that with ten points from six games being a very good reward and they must be really confident. They haven’t changed their team spectacularly and their football has been pretty stable for the last two seasons which has given them very good results so obviously have no reason to change. We have a good idea what awaits us and the big question will be, are we good enough to deal with the threats that they pose and then of course to make certain that our football poses enough threats to them which will give us a chance to win the game.”

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe on facing Zaha and Crystal Palace: “He is an outstanding player. He did well against us in the two games last year, we found him difficult to deal with. From our prospective that is something we will look to improve. As I would say with any team it is not just him. Yes we need to deal with, be aware of and you have Andros Townsend on the other wing who has had a good start to the season. When [Christian] Benteke plays he is a focal point for them, they have got excellent midfielders, a lot of experience. So there are a lot of areas that they manage very well. But of course we have good players the other way. We know if we are at the top of our game we are a match for anyone.”

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Prediction

Crystal Palace is coming into the match on better form, but this game features two pretty even teams with just one or two great attacking options. Both teams will want the three points but will settle for a draw. Bournemouth 1-1 Crystal Palace