Ross Barkley

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PL Preview: Chelsea v. Crystal Palace

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  • Crystal Palace has won 2 of 17 PL fixtures at Chelsea
  • Chelsea has not won 6 straight PL matches since 2017
  • Palace has 8 PL away wins in 2019, third most in the league

A suddenly dilapidated midfield threatens to halt Frank Lampard‘s good form as Chelsea hosts Crystal Palace on Saturday at Stamford Bridge, with kickoff set for 7:30 a.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE HERE

Chelsea’s midfield is banged up, with anchor Jorginho suspended for yellow card accumulation while N’Golo Kante has yet to return from a nagging ankle problem and Mason Mount‘s status is questionable after hobbling off in pain against Ajax midweek. Kante was an unused substitute against Ajax and could be in contention to start in place of Jorginho, but it has been a month since his last appearance and the French international has made just three league starts all year. In addition, Ross Barkley was confirmed to miss the match as the midfield continues to lose bodies.

Still, that seems the only thing in the way of the Blues at the moment, with the club riding high after its wild Champions League comeback midweek that saw them erase a 4-1 second-half deficit and very nearly find the winning stroke. With five straight wins in Premier League play on top of that, this Chelsea team is firing on all cylinders. They have scored 13 goals in those five league victories, and have scored 19 goals in eight matches across all competitions since the start of October.

Meanwhile, Crystal Palace has struggled through a brutal October schedule and hopes the turn to November will lift its fortunes. The Eagles have failed to win over its last three league games, with losses to Manchester City and Leicester City plus a draw with Arsenal. Now Palace draws Chelsea on the road before a home date with Liverpool rounds out an absolutely ruthless five-game stretch.

Still, Roy Hodgson has maintained a top ten standing despite the rut, with the club currently sitting ninth on 15 points, two ahead of Manchester United in 10th. The boss will take charge of his 300th Premier League game at Stamford Bridge, becoming the 15th person and sixth Englishman to reach that milestone.

Injuries/suspensions:

Chelsea: OUT – Jorginho (suspended), Antonio Rudiger (hip), Ross Barkley (knock), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Achilles). QUESTIONABLE – Mason Mount (ankle), N’Golo Kante (ankle).

Crystal Palace: QUESTIONABLE – Andros Townsend (muscle), Gary Cahill (head), Cheikhou Kouyate (head), James McArthur (back).


Projected Lineups

Chelsea: Kepa; Emerson, Tomori, Zouma, Azpilicueta; Kante, Kovacic, Hudson-Odoi, Pulisic, Willian; Abraham.

Crystal Palace: Guaita; van Aanholt, Cahill, Tomkins, Ward; Milivojevic, Kouyate, McCarthy; Zaha, Ayew, Schlupp.


What they’re saying

Chelsea manager Lampard on Ajax draw: “There weren’t too many negatives. Some were freakish and some were on us, goals we don’t like to concede. To come back and to draw the game, we should take the positives. The fans were great. It starts with us.”

Palace boss Hodgson on Lampard: “Frank Lampard has done a very good job, there is no question about that. The club have (also) done a good job in encouraging the manager and his staff to blood some of the players that had previously been out on loan. Everyone at the club deserves a pat on the back for that.”


Prediction

Chelsea is in good form, but injuries have them a bit out of sorts, and the defensive performance against Ajax was a complete disaster. It’s been that way all season long in Premier League play, with just two clean sheets on the top flight season. Eventually, this will come back to haunt them, and with Mason Mount potentially out, those issues could combine to spell defeat. Meanwhile, Crystal Palace has shown well against good Premier League sides the last few weeks, and they are nearing a big result. The Eagles will bag an upset at Stamford Bridge with an impressive 2-1 win that gets Crystal Palace the signature win it has searched for over this brutal stretch of games, while leaving Frank Lampard with some defensive adjustments to make over the international break.

Ox, Hudson-Odoi in England squad; Grealish left out

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Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Callum Hudson-Odoi have been recalled to the England squad after lengthy spells out due to the injury.

England play against Montenegro and Kosovo on Nov. 14 and Nov. 17 respectively. A point against Montenegro will secure England’s qualification to EURO 2020 next summer.

AOC and CHO have both battled their way back to full fitness in recent months and the attacking midfielders have been rewarded with recalls to the Three Lions setup as Hudson-Odoi last featured in March and Oxlade-Chamberlain had a brief return in September.

There is however no place for Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish, as the midfielder is nursing a minor injury and didn’t feature in their defeat against Liverpool last weekend.

James Maddison has been called up by Southgate once again, as he is yet to make his debut and didn’t feature last month as he pulled out of the squad due to illness. Much was made about Maddison being spotted in a casino days later, but Southgate has rewarded the Leicester City playmaker for his fine form.

There are some injury concerns for England with Chelsea’s Ross Barkley and Mason Mount struggling with knocks, while Jordan Henderson is suspended for the game against Montenegro.

Below is the squad in full.


England national team squad

Goalkeepers: Tom Heaton (Aston Villa), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley)

Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Ben Chilwell (Leicester), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Danny Rose (Tottenham), John Stones (Manchester City), Fikayo Tomori (Chelsea), Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid)

Midfielders: Ross Barkley (Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Everton), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), James Maddison (Leicester City), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Liverpool), Declan Rice (West Ham), Harry Winks (Tottenham)

Forwards: Tammy Abraham (Chelsea), Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Callum Wilson (Bournemouth)

Pulisic in ‘strong contention’ to start at Burnley

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Frank Lampard says Christian Pulisic is “in strong contention” for a start at Burnley after a pair of game-changing sub performances for Chelsea (Watch Live at 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

American star Pulisic stole the ball that led to Chelsea’s winner last weekend versus Newcastle, and assisted Michy Batshuayi‘s decisive goal in the Champions League at Ajax.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Now to Turf Moor, where the bruises are as plentiful as the possession. Will Pulisic get into the XI?

“The way he’s played he deserves a starting place regularly in the last few weeks but so do others and that’s what I keep saying, it’s a nice problem that I have,” Lampard said. “It’s brilliant that he’s coming on and making the impact that he’s making and of course he’ll get his starts. It’s the reason he’s here.

“But we’ve got Callum Hudson-Odoi who’s top class against Newcastle last week at home. In terms of creation, Willian I think I kinda declared him our best player in the great patch that we had over four or five games. They are good options for me and Christian is getting stronger and more in the groove, and you keep seeing it with players, some you have to give them a bit of time, the young players. But he’s playing well so he’s certainly in strong contention.”

There could be a place for Michy Batshuayi or Reece James in the Starting XI as Lampard eyes rotation for the Blues’ third match in just over a week.

The Blues have taken advantage of a promising run of fixtures to climb into the Top Four on 17 points, and that run continues with Burnley, Watford, and Crystal Palace. Cup fixtures with Manchester United and Ajax are mixed in, so Saturday may present a prime chance to start Pulisic in a PL match and use his favored vets at midweek.

Burnley, meanwhile, saw a four-match unbeaten run end at Leicester City. The scrappy top-half Clarets are 1W-2D-1L in their last four trips to Stamford Bridge.


Injuries/suspensions

Burnley: OUT —  Danny Drinkwater, Johann Berg Gudmundsson. QUESTIONABLE — Chris Wood. PROBABLE —Ashley Barnes, Jack Cork.

Chelsea: OUT — Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Antonio Rudiger, N’Golo Kante, Ross Barkley, Andreas Christensen. QUESTIONABLE — None.


Probable lineups

Burnley: Pope, Pieters, Mee, Tarkowski, Lowton, Brady, Westwood, Hendrick, McNeil, Wood, Barnes.

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Alonso, Tomori, Zouma, Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Kovacic, Hudson-Odoi, Mount, Pulisic, Batshuayi.


What they’re saying

Sean Dyche on Lampard’s performance at Chelsea: “A lot is made of the young players and they are doing really well but there is some really good players around them. If you look at that squad on paper. It is not like he went into a group of novice hurdlers, but he is adding to that and adding his own way as to how he wants the team to perform. You could see the pressing lines and the energy and the sharpness.”

Lampard on the Turf Moor challenge: “It’s a tough place to go. They have a strong way of playing, they are well drilled. They can give you big problems. It is a tough match. You have to respect the teams you play, it will be a physical battle.”


Prediction

Another tough, contested, but ultimately victorious days for the in-form Blues. There will be a scare at some point, but Chelsea finds a 2-1 win at Turf Moor.

Rodgers excuses Maddison’s behavior after England departure

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Leicester City and England midfielder James Maddison made headlines for the wrong reasons after he was pictured last week watching the England match at the Czech Republic from a casino.

Despite the negative attention from Maddison’s decision to watch the game at that venue, he has the backing of his club manager, Brendan Rodgers.

“The kid went away with the international team and took ill while he was away,” Rodgers said, via the Guardian. “He wanted to stay and hopefully be ready for the second game. But the England medical staff – which I can understand, as he had flu and they didn’t want that to spread to his teammates – decided it’s best for him to leave the camp. So he leaves, gets some tablets with our guys at the club, then he feels better.

“He watched the game at home on his own on the Friday and then goes out at half-time – probably he’ll make better decisions in his life but he went to a casino on his own to sit and watch the second half by a poker table. The suggestions are he left England purposelessly and then goes to a casino but that’s totally not the case at all. But his eyes have been opened now to the wider world in terms of what he did. He knows in hindsight he’s made a mistake.”

Considering all that went on during England’s international break, from the poor performance in Prague to the horrible racism endured in Bulgaria, this is a bit of a silly scandal. To be honest, as long as Maddison is taking care of his body and himself, why does it matter if he was at a casino, or a pub, or anywhere?

However, there’s no denying that the optics look bad. Folks didn’t know that he arrived to England camp with the flu, or a flu-like illness at least, and the England medical staff are right to send him away to make sure no one else gets sick. He may have been feeling better by Friday and wanted to get out of the house. I think we’ve all been there after being sick for a few days.

The most important lesson for Maddison is to learn that his actions, out of context, can be misunderstood. In terms of soccer, after Ross Barkley’s performance for England, Maddison will have to prove in his club form that he should still have a place in the England team for the near future. There’s only two more international dates left before the 2020 Euros, so time is running out for Maddison to make an impact to Southgate.

Kane, Sterling star as England rout Bulgaria

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On a night where racist abuse from the stands in Bulgaria marred the overall spectacle, England’s players produced an incredible result and spectacle for the visiting fans, with all things considered.

Harry Kane scored once and assisted on three others as England rolled over Bulgaria, winning 6-0 on Monday evening in the Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria. Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley both scored a brace for the Three Lions and Marcus Rashford’s thunderbolt from a tight angle gave England the opening goal it needed.

[READ: USMNT looks to build from win v. Canada]

The blowout result was the perfect response after England had suffered its first loss in qualifying for a decade, losing on Friday, 2-1 at the Czech Republic. The six goals England put past Bulgaria was also the fourth time out of six games that England had scored at least five goals in a match. The only other time, aside from the defeat, was a 4-0 win last month at Wembley Stadium over Bulgaria.

It took just seven minutes for England to get on the board. Barkley found Rashford down the left wing, and after turning a defender with a cross-fake, Rashford cut back from goal and whipped a strike that flashed past Bulgarian goalkeeper Plaman Iliev and in for a goal.

Kane, who has earned some criticism for not scoring as much recently as in the past, showed he was more than a goal-scoring No. 9. Combining with Raheem Sterling like he did so well at the 2018 World Cup, Kane in the 20th minute played a great pass into Sterling’s feet in the box. The Manchester City winger did the rest, crossing to a wide-open Barkley at the back post for a tap-in.

Kane again played provider in the 32nd minute, floating to the right and delivering an-inch perfect cross right to the penalty spot with his left foot. Barkley was there to meet it with a glancing header to score and put the game to rest.

Despite dealing with horrendous racist abuse from the crowd and two pauses in the game, England continued to attack and were rewarded when Kane set up Sterling for another tap-in moments before the halftime break.

Kane and Sterling connected again for another goal before in the 85th minute, Kane finally got his finish to send Bulgaria packing.

Considering the events in the stadium, it’s a triumphant win for England. However, they still must win at least one more game before automatic qualification to Euro 2020 is assured, as Kosovo beat Montenegro, 2-0 on Monday as well to stay within touching distance of England and the Czech Republic.