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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.

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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

Crystal Palace 0-0 Man City: Record winning streak ends

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Manchester City’s record-breaking run of consecutive wins ended at 18 as they drew 0-0 at Crystal Palace on New Year’s Eve.

The Premier League leaders hit the post in the first half at Selhurst Park and huffed and puffed but failed to break down a stubborn Palace side.

City almost lost late on as Ederson saved Luka Milivojevic‘s penalty kick in stoppage time to keep City’s unbeaten run alive.

With the point City stretch their lead atop the PL table to 14 points, while Palace are out of the relegation zone on 19 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

Palace almost took the lead early on after a mix up between Eliaquim Mangala and Ederson following a long ball, but Mangala managed to block Christian Benteke‘s effort with the goal open. A big let off for City.

Two injuries in the first half disrupted the flow of the game with Scott Dann stretchered off after taking out Kevin De Bruyne in a tackle, while Gabriel Jesus limped off in tears after hurting his knee earlier in the game.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Aguero came on for Jesus and made an immediate impact as he ran at Palace’s defense and his shot deflected off Jairo Riedewald and hit the post.

City struggled to get into their stride for the rest of the first half as Palace looked dangerous on the break.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

In the second half City pushed for an opener with Ilkay Gundogan curling an effort just wide and Aguero having a header saved.

Wayne Hennessey then made a great stop to deny Leroy Sane at the back post from Raheem Sterling‘s searching cross.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Late on Andros Townsend sidefooted over the bar after a great move from Palace tore City’s defense open, then Zaha won a penalty kick in stoppage time after going down under a challenge from Sterling.

Ederson saved Milivojevic’s spot kick and from the resulting break Jason Puncheon launched into a horrible tackle on Kevin de Bruyne as both players left the pitch on a stretcher.

Watch Live: Crystal Palace v. Man City

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Crystal Palace host Manchester City on Sunday (Watch Live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at Selhurst Park.

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Pep Guardiola’s City are aiming to stretch their lead atop the Premier League table to 16 points by securing a 19th consecutive win, while Roy Hodgson’s Palace have lost just once in their last nine games and that was last time out in a 3-2 defeat to Arsenal.

In team news Palace make four changes with Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Wayne Hennessey, Patrick Van Aanholt and Jairo Riedewald coming in.

City make three changes to the side which beat Newcastle. Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero drop to the bench with Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus starting, while Vincent Kompany (calf knock) is replaced by Eliaquim Mangala.

Fabian Delph and David Silva aren’t in the matchday squad but John Stones returns to the City squad for the first time since mid November.

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Crystal Palace

Manchester City

PL Playback: Mane’s red masks Liverpool’s real problems

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MANE RED MASKS LIVERPOOL ISSUES

Sadio Mane‘s red card in the 36th minute was the main talking point from Liverpool’s 5-0 defeat at Manchester City on Saturday.

It was a big moment but in no way should it have masked the bigger problem Liverpool have failed to address over the offseason: their defense.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Jurgen Klopp was scathing after Mane’s red for a high challenge on Man City goalkeeper Ederson. Told to calm down on the sidelines by officials, perhaps Klopp was so incensed because he had seen his team go 1-0 down after a poor piece of defending, plus miss glorious chances via Mohamed Salah to compound Mane’s sending off.

[ MORE: Klopp vs. Guardiola antithesis

Speaking to the media afterward, Klopp stood up for Mane as Guardiola also believed it was an accident but that the action was dangerous.

“It was an accident. A very unlucky situation. I think everybody knows Sadio didn’t see the goalie. He just wanted to get the ball as soon as possible… and then it was a red card. We cannot change that anymore,” Klopp said. “Hopefully the goalie isn’t seriously injured. At the first moment when the people were on the pitch it looked like this, but after the game he was running around the dugout. Hopefully it was not too serious.”

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Ederson did not break anything but had some nasty cuts on his face and will be feeling the impact of that reckless challenge from Mane, which deserved a red, for quite some time.

Klopp was also asked if Liverpool would appeal against Mane’s three-game ban, and reports have since suggested they could do: “It would be another waste of time. Like the game today,” Klopp said.

Yet, the game wasn’t a complete waste of time.

We learnt an awful lot about Liverpool’s defensive deficiencies and the usually charismatic Klopp seem distracted as he mumbled through his answers in his post-game press conference.

He admitted it was far too easy for Man City’s midfielders, the brilliant David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne in particular, to turn and hurt his defense but that he “will try, with the boys, to forget the result. Not the mistakes, but the result” as Liverpool were torn apart time and time again.

“We have four in defense and six in midfield and in these situations, yes, we could have done better. We could have done better with the ball in the second half. You don’t lose 5-0 when a lot of things are right. It is not that I am concerned in the long-term,” Klopp explained. “I think if City takes too much confidence from this game today it is a mistake, if we lose too much confidence from this game we will also make a mistake.”

Analyzing Liverpool’s defensive display before and after Mane was sent off will draw a similar conclusion: gaping holes. Not just among the defenders because that is an easy target. But in midfield, which player is the true holding midfielder to provide a shield? Jordan Henderson isn’t and Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum lack discipline defensively. Even club-record signing Naby Keita, who will arrive next summer, is a two-way player who chips in with goals and assists.

City’s balanced midfield of Fernandinho behind Silva and De Bruyne is what Liverpool should aim for if their extreme attacking side is going to challenge for trophies.

Liverpool’s young right back Trent Alexander-Arnold was targeted too easily and the center back duo of Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan (who was preferred to Dejan Lovren) didn’t know whether to step up or hold with Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus buzzing around them. Every time City put the ball in the box it looked like they would score and they had two more goals ruled out for offside. Yes, Liverpool aren’t a team who are ever going to set back but when you’re 2-0 down at Man City at half time and a man down, surely Klopp didn’t expect the defensive capitulation he witnessed.

Even if Mane hadn’t been sent off, it would be tough for Man City not to have won that game.

Liverpool went all-in on center back Virgil Van Dijk this summer and they didn’t get their man. They didn’t seem to have a Plan B about strengthening their defense, which is undoubtedly their Achilles heel. Until they defend better, they will not win the title or challenge in Europe. Simple.

Klopp tried to mask the issues with Mane’s red card but you felt that, like Liverpool’s defensive display, it was halfhearted.

“After the international break, one man down, young players on the pitch in different positions. It was hard for the boys, I know, but we don’t look for excuses. It [the red card] changed the game today, we know it,” Klopp said. “What would have happened if we played 11v11? But I don’t have the chance to watch this game.”


DE BOER UNLUCKY

Quite why Crystal Palace hired Frank De Boer in the first place is mind-boggling.

It is admirable that for the second time in 12 months Steve Parish and Palace’s U.S. owners Josh Harris and David Blizter want to change the playing style of the south London club to an attractive, possession-based side, but now on both occasions it has failed. Miserably.

Palace now have to be brave and stick with what they want to be. Substance over style is okay. If you’re going to do it, just own it. And give it longer than four games.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Frank de Boer was nothing more than a victim of Palace’s ongoing identity crisis. They have now replaced Alan Pardew‘s experiment with a more attacking side with the pragmatism of Sam Allardyce and after the de Boer experiment went horribly wrong they are reportedly going back to basics with Roy Hodgson lined up to take charge as a horror run of games is on the horizon with Man City, Man United and Chelsea all in their next four PL games.

Sacked just four Premier League games into the season, FDB lasted 77 days and set a new record for the fewest PL games managed by a permanent boss. This comes after his disastrous 85-day spell in charge of Inter Milan last season as the Dutchman will do well to rebuild his coaching reputation following his four-straight Dutch titles with Ajax.

He was given some funds to strengthen and loanees Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Timothy Fosu-Mensah looked okay, but Mamadou Sakho never played due to injury and Jairo Riedewald also suffered on the sidelines. The players are partly to blame, particularly with their poor finishing and shambolic defending, but without a complete squad overhaul these systematic changes were doomed from the start.

This squad flourished under the direct approach of Allardyce last season and was now expected to play expansive, flowing soccer from the back.

Yet, this isn’t really about de Boer. Sure, he wanted to bring his expansive style of soccer to Selhurst Park, but that’s what Parish and others wanted too. And although you could accuse Palace of making horrendous defensive mistakes as they tried to keep the ball, they mixed it up and played long balls and got in crosses against both Liverpool and Burnley where they could have picked up points.

But they didn’t and they lost all four opening games without scoring a goal and the killer-blow was that three of those defeats came against Huddersfield, Swansea and Burnley who are all likely to be relegation rivals.

With 54 points from their last 63 games, Palace have racked up the second-lowest points total out of the 92 professional teams in England in that period. They have been scrapping away and fighting with themselves for so long now. Do they try to create a different identity or do they play it safe and aim for 40 points each PL season? The financial implications of relegation, plus the impending arrival of Hodgson, suggest the latter.

This is no longer de Boer’s problem to sort out.


DE BRUYNE OTHER-WORLDLY

Kevin de Bruyne provided two wonderful assists for Manchester City on Saturday in their demolition of Liverpool and the Belgian wizard finally seems to have found his spot in the team.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Under Pep Guardiola last season he was played in a deeper role and he flourished, grabbing 18 assists in the Premier League (more than any other player)

This season he is again lining up centrally rather than out wide and it giving City extra balance to their play with a 3-5-2 system allowing Jesus and Aguero to start up top, plus wing backs Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker to bomb forward.

De Bruyne, 26, spoke to the media in the tunnel area at the Etihad Stadium with a smile on his face as he discussed his match-winning display like it was a kickaround with his mates in the schoolyard.

“I just do whatever I need to do. I’d prefer to get zero goals and zero assists and win the league. Obviously it is a little bit different. I will try to do my thing and the coach is very happy with the way I am playing since the beginning of the season. I feel sharp. It always depends, but think where I am playing right now is the position which is best for me. Obviously every game is a little bit different, higher, lower, but it is small margins.”

Those small margins are what Guardiola and City are all about and De Bruyne believes they are hungrier than ever to win silverware this season after a barren spell in Pep’s first campaign.

“Everybody wants to win,” De Bruyne explained. “Obviously we have a couple of years where we don’t win a lot so there’s maybe more urgency to win something between the players. I have a good feeling about this season but you never know. We started well.”

And if those trophies arrive with him playing in a deeper role and not scoring as many goals?

“If it happens, it happens. If we win at the end of the season you will see a very happy Kevin.”


USMNT UPDATE: CAMERON OUT; EPB ON THE WAY?

Couple of U.S. national team notes to catch up on from around the Premier League.

Pro Soccer Talk understands Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron will be out for up to two weeks after injuring his hamstring just before half time in the Potters’ 2-2 draw against Manchester United.

Cameron, 32, started at center back but hobbled off after pulling up as he tracked back Romelu Lukaku. The experienced defender will now face a race against time to get back to full fitness before the USMNT’s final two World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Trinidad & Tobago with a trip to the 2018 tournament in Russia on the line.

A younger USMNT center back has also been in the news with reports stating that Sporting Kansas City’s Erik Palmer-Brown will join Manchester City.

EPB, 20, has been a star for the U.S. youth national teams and his coach as SKC, Peter Vermes, has confirmed he will move on at the end of the 2017 MLS season when his contract expires.

Pro Soccer Talk understand there is interest from Man City and that any deal will be sealed for him to join at the start of 2018. A versatile defender who can also play in midfield, EPB will likely join City’s development squad and then be loaned out.


INTRIGUING GOLDEN-BOOT RACE

We are only four weeks into the Premier League season but the Golden Boot race already seems like an intriguing one.

Harry Kane, the reigning two-time top scorer in the PL, is off the mark (because it is September) with two goals, while he has a little catching up to do as Romelu Lukaku has four goals, while Alvaro Morata and Gabriel Jesus have three goals each.

[ MORE: Premier League stats

There’s no doubt Sergio Aguero and Alexandre Lacazette (both on two goals) will also be up there all season long, but this could well be a three-horse race between Kane, Lukaku and Morata.

All three are the main-men up top for their teams and will likely start every single game. They are also very similar players who are comfortable with scoring in the air, holding the ball up and able to score all kinds of goals.

Let the best man win. And by win, I mean score a bucket load of goals.


Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

PL Sunday preview: Palace seek 1st point; Swansea vs. Newcastle

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures feature four sides currently sitting in the bottom half of the league table, a combined three wins and 11 points between them. To say points are precious to these sides would be a massive understatement.

[ PL ROUNDUP: Premier League’s big boys score big on Saturday ]

Burnley vs. Crystal Palace — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Frank De Boer could have never foreseen himself fighting for his job just three games into his Palace tenure, but ahead of Sunday’s visit to Burnley’s Turf Moor, that’s precisely the Dutchman’s reality after dropping all nine points to start the season, and doing so without scoring a single goal and conceding six. After losing his job at Inter Milan after just 14 games last season, De Boer’s reputation (and future employment prospects) could very well be on the line.

“We know it takes time and it is a long-term project we have here,” de Boer said at his Friday press conference. “I have a positive feeling from what I have seen in training this week. I want to start seeing the performances I am expecting and once we start getting results it will give us all the confidence we need.”

INJURIES: Burnley — OUT: Nahki Wells (ankle); PROBABLE: Jeff Hendrick (thigh) | Palace — OUT: Wilfried Zaha (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Jairo Riedewald (groin), James Tomkins (groin); PROBABLE: Mamadou Sakho (ankle)

Swansea City vs. Newcastle United — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The dark-cloud story at Newcastle remains the same in September as it was in March, April and May: Rafa Benitez might just up and walk away from the club any day now, due to his poor working relationship with club owner Mike Ashley. The Magpies started the season in poor form, losing to Tottenham Hotspur and Huddersfield Town, before trouncing a lifeless West Ham United side right before the international break. Recapturing that momentum will be vitally important against a Swansea side which is expected to figure in this season’s relegation battle, right alongside Newcastle.

To make matters worse, Benitez won’t be on the sideline for Sunday’s trip to the Liberty Stadium after Benitez underwent surgery for a hernia last week. Newcastle assistant Francisco de Miguel Moreno will take charge in Benitez’s absence.

INJURIES: Swansea — OUT: Ki Sung-Yueng (knee), Nathan Dyer (achilles), Kyle Bartley (knee) | Newcastle — OUT: Chancel Mbemba (groin), Aleksandar Mitrovic (suspension); QUESTIONABLE: DeAndre Yedlin (hamstring), Dwight Gayle (illness)