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Julian Speroni leaving Crystal Palace after 15 years

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Goalkeeper Julian Speroni will leave Crystal Palace this summer after spending 15 years at the club, it was announced on Thursday. Speroni’s contract expires this summer and it will not be renewed.

The 39-year-old Argentine will depart Selhurst Park this summer after joining from Dundee United back in 2004. He made 402 appearances for Crystal Palace, more than any other goalkeeper in the club’s history and placing him fourth all-time at the club overall. Speroni also owns a club-record 112 clean sheets.

“Julian has devoted the best 15 years of his playing career to our club, and will go down in the record books,” said club chairman Steve Parish, “but perhaps more importantly, will be remembered as a true club legend by all Palace fans and everyone at the club. You just don’t get many people like Julian in elite football any more – he is a model professional, ultra-committed, immensely loyal, and has set impeccable standards to his team-mates down the years. His contribution to this club cannot be overstated, and we will be eternally grateful for his service.”

Speroni had made just 14 Premier League appearances over the past four seasons, including just one this year as he rode the bench serving as third string to Wayne Hennessey and Vincente Guaita. He could get a final run-out in the last game of the season as Palace hosts Bournemouth, with little on the line sitting in 12th.

The Argentine was critical in securing Crystal Palace’s Premier League status in 2013, keeping clean sheets in both legs of the playoff semifinal against Brighton & Hove Albion, plus again in the final against Watford that saw Kevin Phillips score the extra-time winner in a 1-0 victory. He remained the starter for the club’s first two top flight seasons after promotion that saw them finish 10th and 11th, still the best table finishes for the club in its Premier League history.

It is unclear what the future holds for Speroni, but the release did not mention retirement, so it’s possible he has offers for a bigger role elsewhere, with both the Premier League and Championship likely in play.

FA Cup semifinal preview: Everton vs. Man United; Palace vs. Watford

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This weekend the two FA Cup semifinals take place at Wembley Stadium with four Premier League teams involved.

[ LIVE: Follow the FA Cup semis here ]

Struggling Everton face surging Manchester United on Saturday and lower midtable duo Crystal Palace and Watford lock horns on Sunday to decide who will reach the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 21.

Here’s a preview of both games and you can follow them live over the weekend by clicking on the link above.


Everton vs. Manchester United – (Follow live, 12:15 p.m. ET, Saturday)

After suffering a humiliating Merseyside derby defeat on Wednesday the pressure is building on Everton’s manager Roberto Martinez. The Toffees are now winless in seven games and in his third season at Goodison Park, many Everton fans are calling for the Spanish manager to be fired with another bottom half finish likely.

Did somebody say manager to be fired? Ah, yes, Mr. Van Gaal. United’s Dutch manager has been heavily criticized too but after securing six wins in their last eight games, United are pushing for a top four finish and reaching the FA Cup semifinal has boosted everyone Old Trafford. If Van Gaal can somehow finish in the top four and produce the first trophy since the Sir Alex Ferguson era ended then he may just remain in charge for another season. Maybe.

Everton beat United 1-0 in the FA Cup final in 1995 and have won six of their last seven semifinals. As for United, they have been knocked out at the semifinal stage the last two times they’ve reached it and have lost in two previous semifinals to Everton in 1966 and 2009.

In team news Everton will be without Seamus Coleman, while Phil Jagielka, John Stones and Gareth Barry will all undergo late fitness tests and Ramiro Funes Mori is suspended after being sent off in the Merseyside derby. United have no new injury worries

Crystal Palace vs. Watford – (Follow live, 11 a.m. ET Sunday)

Nobody really expected either Palace or Watford to get to this stage and their league form has tailed off dramatically in 2016. Palace have won just once in the PL, while Watford have won just three times. Just two points separates these teams in the PL table and this is a close one to call.

Palace beat Watford 1-0 at home early this season, while Watford returned the favor and won 2-1 at Selhurst Park. Both teams like to keep it tight and hit teams on the counter, so expect Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo to be the key figures for Watford and Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha to be the outlets for Palace.

The last time these two teams met at Wembley was the Championship playoff final three years ago when a Kevin Phillips penalty kick promoted Palace to the PL. It was tight and tense and you should expect the same this Sunday. Palace have not been in the FA Cup semifinal since 1995, while Watford has lost four of their last five semifinals but did reach the final in 1984.

In team news Nordin Amrabat is suspended for Watford, while Palace have Bolasie, Scott Dann, Joel Ward and Joe Ledley back from injury.

Three things we learned from Crystal Palace’s win at Watford

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WATFORD — Crystal Palace beat Watford 1-0 at Vicarage Road on Sunday as Alan Pardew‘s men continued their incredible record away from home.

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Yohan Cabaye‘s second half penalty kick was enough to grab all three points for the Eagles, as Watford lost at home for the first time this season.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Here’s three things we learned from a glorious afternoon in the sun in Hertfordshire, England.

EAGLES GRIND OUT WIN

Alan Pardew might not have been overjoyed by Palace’s performance away at Watford, but he’ll be happy with the three points. If Crystal Palace are going to achieve Pardew’s lofty target of challenging for a Europa League spot by finishing in the top six, wining away at places like Vicarage Road is crucial. Palace’s incredible away record under Pardew since he took charge in January last season (nine wins and three defeats in 12 games) continues as they failed to rip Watford open on the counter but did what they needed to do 20 minutes from time when Wilfried Zaha won a penalty kick which Yohan Cabaye converted for the win.

[ MORE: Pardew thinking big as superb away form continues ]

The only criticism you could have had of Palace on Sunday was that the winning margin could’ve been more comfortable. With Patrick Bamford and Connor Wickham both missing, Dwight Gayle was given a run out up top and after Padrew gesticulated angrily at the speedy forward in the first half for not tracking his man, the 25-year-old hit the angle of the bar and post in the 59th minute when he should’ve scored, missed another effort from close range after Cabaye’s opener, then flashed another effort wide of the post. After this win, Palace sit in sixth spot on 12 points, just four points off top spot. Pardew’s plan is coming together nicely after another textbook away-day display.

HUMBLE HORNETS 

Watford’s fine start to life back in the Premier League has flown under the radar. The Hornets have only been in the PL on two separate occasions before — relegated at the first time of asking on both occasions in  1999 and 2006 — but in the first seven games of their third venture in the PL, they have shown they’re capable of at least staying up with two wins, three draws and two defeats to their name. With the pace of Ikechi Anya on the left flank, Etienne Capoue and Jose Manuel Jurado’s trickery in midfield and the bullish duo of Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney up top, Spanish coach Quique Sanchez Flores has a solid base to build from but you got the feeling his side just didn’t believe enough in their defeat to Crystal Palace on Sunday. Jurado hit the crossbar with a curling free kick in the second half but Deeney headed the rebound over, then in the 57th minute a glorious chance arrived but the Hornets left a loose ball in the box to each other as the moment came and went.

Flores has already said in this young season that he told his side to hold off from a gun-ho approach and in previous 0-0 home draws with Southampton and West Bromwich Albion, that was visible. To take that next step and not only solidify their place in the Premier League but push up to midtable, Watford need to stop being humble and replicate the likes of Swansea City, Crystal Palace and Southampton in becoming PL mainstays. With the players and financial backing they have, it’s attainable. They just need to be braver.

DEJA VU FOR WILF

Coming off the bench in the 62nd minute, Pardew grabbed hold of Zaha just before he entered the pitch and looked as if he was bellowing inspirational words into the young wingers ear. Its been a topsy-turvy return to Selhurst Park for Zaha after his big money move to Manchester United in 2013 didn’t pan out.

Nine minutes later Zaha won the penalty kick which won Palace the game. As he ran at Allan Nyom, Watford’s right back looked uneasy and dove into a clumsy tackle with Zaha going away from goal and about to reach the byline. Zaha was booed by Watford’s fans for the rest of the game. They’ve seen this script play out before. During the 2012-13 Championship playoff final between Palace and Watford, Zaha went down (much easier than he did on Sunday) under the challenge of Marco Cassetti. That won Palace a penalty kick at Wembley in the 105th minute of a tense, tight playoff final to decide who would get promoted to the PL. Kevin Phillips duly distracted the spot kick and Palace were promoted, while Watford had to wait another two seasons to reach the top-flight. In the first-ever top-flight meeting between these two teams, lightning struck twice as this was a cruel reminder to Hornets fans of how Zaha and Palace beat them over two years ago.

Watford 0-1 Crystal Palace: Zaha haunts Watford again as Palace go 6th

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Watford fans remember Wilfried Zaha well. The Crystal Palace winger won the decisive penalty in the Championship playoff final three years ago at Wembley, which Kevin Phillips bagged to send the Eagles into the Premier League.

This time, with the teams meeting at Vicarage Road, Zaha did it again, and Yohan Cabaye thumped the penalty home in the 70th minute as Crystal Palace defeated Watford 1-0 to end a two-game skid and jump to sixth in the Premier League table, while leaving Watford with its first home loss of the season.

Other than the big moment, the game left much to be desired. Watford started with much of the attacking possession, but Crystal Palace got the best early chance on 13 minutes as Yohan Cabaye swung in a lateral free-kick and Brede Hangeland met it with his head from point-blank range, but Heurelho Garcia stopped the attempt almost blindly.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The game closed down and dragged to the half-hour mark, but Vicarage Road remained noisy and bustling. As the game approached halftime, things sprung back to life as Watford continued to push on the ball and Palace defended and worked for set-pieces, but neither group could produce a chance to push themselves to the ascendency.

With the game begging for a moment of distinction, neither side changed much tactically into the second half. In fact, things bogged down even further after the restart, with constant whistles for persistent fouling by both sides. Watford would find themselves with the first chance of the 2nd half on 55 minutes as Troy Deeney chested down a long ball to Odion Igahlo who laid off for Aimen Abdi, but the low shot was saved by a collapsing Wayne Hennessey.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

That moment woke Watford up, and they began to push forward more consistently. In typical Palace fashion, they fed off opposition energy and worked forward themselves on the counter, and Dwight Gayle hit the post under pressure from Craig Cathcart.

Finally, the breakthrough came with 20 minutes to play as substitute Wilfried Zaha burst down the left edge of the box and was cut down by a tackle from Allan Nyom and a penalty was given with referee Anthony Taylor deciding correctly that the foul occured millimeters inside the box. Cabaye ripped a thunderous penalty into the top corner for the Palace lead.

[ MORE: Click here for full lineups, stats, box score

Watford continued to make rash challenges and give away free kicks, but they held firm with Palace threatening. Dwight Gayle was nearly able to put the game away with five minutes to go, but he put the effort wide. Watford pressed late, but had little to offer. The three points for Palace brought them to sixth in the table on 12 points, while Watford remain at nine.