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VAR at the World Cup cemented its place in our soccer brains

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Feel how you will about Video Assistant Referee, but this summer’s World Cup changed how we feel when we watch club soccer.

That’s not a slight or a compliment to the tournament, which was in fact quite amazing, but rather a deep dive into that word: Feel.

V-A-R, you guys.

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While review wasn’t perfect at the World Cup in Russia — cough, Aleksandar Mitrovic versus Switzerland, cough — it cut down on red cards and was a part of the most exciting tournament in some time (perhaps ever).

And on opening weekend in the Premier League it was hard to not find yourself, for better or worse, thinking that the lack of video review played a role in some clubs earning and losing valuable points (They’re worth the same in August as they are in April, you know?).

Consider:

— Saints forward Danny Ings nearly earned a winning debut on his homecoming, only for the should-be penalty call to not arrive at St. Mary’s.

Mamadou Sakho takes down Fulham’s Andre Schurrle in the box, no PK, with Crystal Palace leading 1-0 en route to a 2-0 win over the Cottagers.

Moussa Sissoko stepping on the leg of Kenedy before halftime of Spurs’ 2-1 win at Newcastle (in front of referee Martin Atkinson for what it’s worth).

This wasn’t an unusual weekend for controversial plays at all, and certainly soccer has survived and thrived for years with plenty of human error.

But after a World Cup with an unusually low number of red cards — presumably because players knew there was an eye in the sky — and high amount of correctly awarded penalties, it’s going to take some time to get used to human error again.

That’s fine. Again, we’ve done it this way for years and can continue to do so for a long, long time. But it’s going to be interesting to see if we ever feel like the genie is back in the bottle.

Crystal Palace win at new boys Fulham

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  • Schlupp, Zaha score in each half
  • Fulham lose on return to PL after four-year absence
  • Roy Hodgson wins at his former club

Crystal Palace won 2-0 at Fulham on the opening day of the season, as Roy Hodgson’s Eagles put in a perfect away display.

Goals in each half from Jeffrey Schlupp and Wilfried Zaha did the damage as Fulham had plenty of the play but didn’t take their chances.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Fulham started very well early on as Ryan Sessegnon whipped in a cross which just missed Andre Schurrle, and the Cottagers were playing some lovely stuff.

Despite some flowing moves and plenty of possession from Fulham, Palace grew into the game and were soon ahead.

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Schlupp gave Palace the lead five minutes before half time with a fine finish. Patrick Van Aanholt played Schlupp in and he slammed home at the near post to put the Eagles ahead.

Before half time Fulham whipped in another dangerous ball to the box but it couldn’t find either Aleksandar Mitrovic or Sessegnon.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

In the second half van Aanholt drilled a shot which was palmed away and at the other end a huge moment arrived.

A ball was played into the box from the right and Schurrle took a touch and was then brought down by Mamadou Sakho but referee Mike Dean waved away the calls to enrage the home fans.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Mitrovic then sent a diving header in on goal which Wayne Hennessey saved as Fulham threw everything at Palace late on.

With Fulham pouring forward, Palace, somewhat inevitably, hit them on the break with Zaha set free and the Ivory Coast star rounded Farbi in goal and slotted home. 2-0.

Game. Set. Match.

Hennessey was forced into one more fine save late on as he tipped Sessegnon’s header away.

Season Preview: Finally some stability for Crystal Palace under Hodgson?

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Crystal Palace at a glance

Premier League titles: 0 (highest finish: 3rd – English First Division, 1990-91)

FA Cups: 0 (best finish: runners-up – 1990, 2016)

League Cups: 0 (best finish: semifinals – 1993, 1995, 2001, 2012)

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Since the start of the 2014-15 season, five managers (including Tony Pulis, who resigned two days before the campaign began) have been in charge at Selhurst Park (average tenure: 290 days). Somewhat surprisingly, Palace have managed to finish 10th, 15th, 14th and 11th during those four tumultuous seasons. Relegation seemed a distinct possibility in each of the three (particularly last season, when they started the season without a point — or a goal — in the first seven games), and yet, here we are in August 2018, previewing Crystal Palace, Premier League club.

Roy Hodgson arrived to replace Frank De Boer (just five games into his tenure) on Sept. 12, and while results didn’t take an immediate 180-degree turn, the Eagles lost just two of their following 12 games after finally getting on the board. Hodgson steadied the ship from October to January, hit a bit of a rough patch (in successive games against three of the PL’s top-five finishers) in February and March, and finished with five wins (and just one loss) in the final eight games of the season. Add it all up, and you’ve got 44 points (11 clear of the relegation zone).

Perhaps the only question that matters ahead of the 2018-19 season is whether or not Hodgson can carry that momentum over to the new season and guide Palace to a handful of points in August and September.


Palace will finish top-half because… they genuinely have one of the most talented starting units outside of the top-six (and one or two others). They managed to keep hold of Wilfried Zaha, who’s very much at home as a very unconventional striker, as well as Mamadou Sakho and Luka MilivojevicCheikhou Kouyate will make them much tougher in midfield, and Max Meyer could turn out to be an absolute steal as a midfield playmaker.

Palace will end up in a relegation battle because…. they’re Crystal Palace, and it’s kind of what they do. While they’ve finished fairly high the last three years, it’s been an absolute slog to get there. A similar start this season, followed by a failed bailout by [insert English relegation-battling specialist here], and it could all go wrong very quickly.

Best possible XI:

Hennessey

Ward — Tomkins — Sakho — Van Aanholt

Milivojevic — Kouyate — Meyer

Townsend — Benteke — Zaha

Transfers In: Cheikhou Kouyate ($12.5 million, West Ham United), Max Meyer (free, Schalke), Vicente Guaita (free, Getafe)

Transfers Out: Yohan Cabaye (free), Lee Chung-yong (free), Bakary Sako (free), Damien Delaney (free)

Ranking their offseason: C

The squad was already quite talented, but a bit more depth was certainly needed, particularly in the attacking half. Getting out from under Cabaye’s crippling wages was a massive win itself, and Meyer could make a real impact over 24 or 36 months, but it doesn’t feel like quite enough for this season. Considering what was done this summer by the other clubs aiming to finish between 10th and 17th, one or two more signings (for decent money) before the deadline would be welcome.

Star player: Zaha was linked with a move to Tottenham Hotspur, and a couple other PL clubs, all summer long, but fortunately for Palace, Tottenham don’t actually sign players during the transfer window, so the 25-year-old looks set to tear it up in south London for another season.

Coach’s Corner: Hodgson has been everywhere (nine different clubs and three national teams at multiple age levels) during his 36-year managerial career, so there’s nothing he hasn’t seen (Palace is his fifth job in the PL). Despite not scoring a single goal in the first seven games, Palace still managed to finish 9th in goals scored last season, so he’ll let them play.

PST Predicts: At this point, Palace feel like part of the PL furniture, destined to finish 12th or 13th season after season. It’s not a bad place to be, but they’re a few players away from dreaming of breaking into the top-eight.

PL Sunday preview: Man City go for 19; WBA-Arsenal

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How much longer can Manchester City keep up to their winning ways in the Premier League? Their latest test comes on Sunday…

[ PL ROUNDUP: Chelsea leapfrog Man United for 2nd ]

Crystal Palace vs. Manchester City — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

At some point, one would presume, Man City will lose a PL game again. Whether or not it happens this season is the storyline on everyone’s mind: they’re 20 games through the 38-game campaign, and yet to taste domestic defeat. Sunday’s trip to Selhurst Park will afford Pep Guardiola‘s side the opportunity to make it 19 straight wins, thus extending their own English top-flight record. After winning three straight by a combined score of 12-1, Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over Newcastle United felt uncharacteristically laborious for the Citizens, but they held on to turn Raheem Sterling‘s 31st-minute goal (his team-leading 13th of the PL season) into the winner.

“I don’t think anyone is really thinking about records,” Sterling said this week. “They’re nice to have on your CV but we have to keep winning and getting three points. Records only stand for a certain amount of time. Three points add to the table.

After a dreadful start to the season (they didn’t win a point — or score a goal — until game no. 8), Crystal Palace put together a seven-game unbeaten run starting in mid-November, only to see all their hard work go up in flames in Thursday’s 3-2 home defeat to Arsenal. Sunday’s clash with a record-setting City side is, to put it lightly, hardly an ideal opportunity for Roy Hodgson‘s to get back to winning ways.

INJURIES: Crystal Palace — OUT: Mamadou Sakho (calf), Connor Wickham (knee), Chung-Young Lee (hamstring) | Man City — OUT: Vincent Kompany (calf), John Stones (hamstring), Benjamin Mendy (knee)

West Brom vs. Arsenal — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

It’s no 18-game winning streak, but Arsenal do enter Sunday’s trip to The Hawthorns with a five-game unbeaten run in tow — that’s the positive spin. Here’s the negative from the other side: the Gunners have won just two of those five games and have fallen behind Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur while slipping to sixth place (from fourth) in the PL table. The victory over Palace did see Arsene Wenger‘s side overcome a bit of adversity, as they were pegged back to 1-1 after taking an early lead. Alexis Sanchez responded with a second-half brace just four minutes apart. Palace finished the game with a second goal a furious fight for an equalizer, and Wenger was largely pleased with the result.

“Overall, I think it was a very good, positive performance. We were fluid going forward and controlled the game well,” he said. “At half-time it was 1-0, but it should have been more and then of course at some stage the home team who fights against relegation will come at you. I thought we had two good chances and after it was just down to 1-1, then we showed resources and character, were leading 3-1 and controlled the game quite well, but at 3-2 we became quite nervy again and we finished in a bit of a less controlled way, but overall it was a good team performance.”

West Bromwich Albion are currently the anti-Man City: having won their first two games of the season, the Baggies are without a win in their last 18 PL games and have fallen into 20th place, currently three points behind Palace who sit just outside the relegation zone. Similar to the Eagles, West Brom have a genuine mountain to climb if they’re to reverse fortunes on Sunday.

INJURIES: West Brom — OUT: Salomon Rondon (hamstring), Nacer Chadli (thigh), James Morrison (calf) | Arsenal — OUT: Olivier Giroud (hamstring), Aaron Ramsey (hamstring), Nacho Monreal (ankle), Santi Cazorla (achilles)

PL Preview: Tuesday fixtures include Chelsea

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As the holiday season nears, the Premier League begins to ramp up. While that can be hard on Premier League managers, it’s great for you, the fan, who now has plenty of options to choose from as you make your way through the work week.

[ PL SCHEDULE: Where to watch all midweek Premier League games ]


Burnley vs. Stoke City – 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

If Burnley defeats Stoke City on Tuesday, the Clarets would jump Tottenham, Arsenal, and Liverpool en route to a place in the Premier League table’s Top 4. Just pause for a moment and soak that in.

Better?

That’s right, Sean Dyche has his Burnley side on a roll, having won five of its last seven matches. In games where they were earning draws last year, they’re picking up all three points this year. Meanwhile, they face a Potters group that sits just three points above the relegation zone, meaning the heat has turned up on Mark Hughes. What is in store for us at Turf Moor?

INJURIES: Burnley – Tom Heaton (shoulder), Robbie Brady (knee), Jonathan Walters (knee) | Stoke City – Jese (personal leave), Glen Johnson (knee), Bruno Martins Indi (shoulder), Stephen Ireland (leg).


Huddersfield vs. Chelsea – 3:00 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Antonio Conte, in charge of the defending champions, is suddenly on the hot seat. Already 14 points back of leaders and expected winners Manchester City, the Blues are sitting a distant third in the table.

A trip to Huddersfield could be exactly what the doctor ordered. The Terriers started the season well, but had lost four Premier League matches in a row before a 2-0 victory over Brighton turned things around.

Conte has already ruled Chelsea out of the title, with the Blues now fighting for a Champions League place. Can the boss take advantage of the poor opposition form? He will be without star striker Alvaro Morata who is dealing with both back problems and general fatigue, with Conte calling his schedule “impossible.”

INJURIES: HuddersfieldMichael Hefele (Achillies), Philip Billing (ankle), Jon Stankovic (knee), Kasey Palmer (ineligible – parent club) | Chelsea – Alvaro Morata (back), David Luiz (knee).


Crystal Palace vs. Watford – 3:00 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

The Eagles hav a chance to pull themselves not only off the bottom of the Premier League table, but out of the relegation zone completely when they host Watford at Selhurst Park. Crystal Palace sits a point back of Swansea City on the bottom, but with somewhat improved performances under Roy Hodgson, three points would climb them completely out of the drop.

Nevertheless, it remains to be seen how Hodgson balances a desperate need to collect points with discipline of his struggling striker Christian Benteke, who remains goalless on the year after missing a critical penalty he wasn’t supposed to take in the 2-2 draw with Bournemouth over the weekend.

Watford, meanwhile, is without a win in its last three and desperately needs a result. The Hornets sit ninth in the Premier League table but could see their advantage over the bottom half evaporate with another loss.

INJURIES: Crystal Palace – Mamadou Sakho (calf), Joel Ward, Damien Delaney, Connor Wickham (knee) | Watford – Will Hughes (hamstring), Isaac Success (knee), Nathan Chalobah (knee), Younes Kaboul (hamstring), Craig Cathcart (knee)