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PL Preview: Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur

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  • Spurs (24 points) sit 4th in PL table
  • Palace (8 points) in 14th
  • Spurs won both meetings 1-0 last season

Mauricio Pochettino is four months into perhaps his greatest miracle (thus far) as Tottenham Hotspur manager — keeping the club in the thick of the Premier League’s top-four race despite a series of debilitating challenges from outset. Has it been a complete departure from the last two or three seasons when Tottenham played some of the most attractive, entertaining attacking soccer in the world? It absolutely has, and perhaps that’s why they’ve been criticized for perceived regression. That’s without even mentioning the ongoing stadium situation.

Due in large part to injuries — coupled with serious fitness struggles following the World Cup — and the fact they failed to sign a single player during the summer transfer window, it becomes quite clear, quite quickly, how any start to the season would be seen as unimpressive should a single aspect of recent successes change. But — and here’s the important part — they just keep finding ways to win. Saturday’s trip to Selhurst Park (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com) — even to take on a struggling Crystal Palace side — will likely require a similar grind-it-out approach, given injuries to Jan Vertonghen (hamstring), Mousa Dembele (ankle), Eric Dier (thigh), Danny Rose (groin) and Victor Wanyama (knee), to those of recent weeks.

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Palace, on the other hand, are winless in their last six league games (two draws) and have slipped to within two points of the relegation zone. Admittedly, a run of fixtures against Arsenal, Chelsea, now Spurs, then Manchester United is going to be a tough period for any non-top-six side. The Eagles haven’t topped Spurs in a PL fixture in six tries, suffering defeat all six times — five of which came via a 1-0 scoreline.

What they’re saying

Pochettino, on unfounded criticisms of Harry Kane: “He is so obsessed with scoring that sometimes, when it is against him, he needs more freedom — not to be obsessed. But he is going to learn and he is starting to be really mature. Kane is English and sometimes you push him to the sky and paradise and then you put him on the outside. If Harry was Italian and playing for the Italian side, he would be a bit more protected because the Italian people are more protective of their players. It’s difficult to push them but when they are there, they try to keep them up there. It’s similar in Spain. Here, it is more up and down.”

Palace manage Roy Hodgson, on struggling to score goals: “I can’t in any way criticize or complain about what the players are trying to do either in training or in matches, and I’m sure that (the goals) will come when the ball goes in for us. But, as I say, we’ve scored three in the last games. “The only thing we can do is keep trying to give those performances, and hope that if there is any luck going, it goes our way”


Prediction

It’ll be something of a slog — perhaps with multiple goals for each side, given the lack of midfield options for Spurs — but they’re battle-tested and have given a fantastic account of themselves in recent weeks. At some point, the fatigue and grind will catch up to them, but not on Saturday.

Crystal Palace battle back, end Arsenal win streak

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  • Arsenal’s win streak ends at 11
  • Xhaka, Aubameyang scored for Gunners
  • Luka Milivojevic scores two penalty kicks 

Arsenal’s run of wins ended at 11 games in all competitions, as the Gunners drew 2-2 at Crystal Palace, on Sunday.

Unai Emery‘s men launched yet another second half comeback after Luka Milivojevic’s penalty kick gave Palace the lead right on half time.

Granit Xhaka‘s fine free kick and a controversial effort from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the space of five second half minutes looked to have given Arsenal yet another win. But Xhaka’s foul on Wilfried Zaha late on gave Palace another spot kick and Milivojevic grabbed the Eagles a point.

With the draw the Gunners have 22 points for the season, while Roy Hodgson‘s Palace remain without a win at home (but at least scored their first home goals of the season) and have moved onto eight points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

Palace looked lively early on and Zaha was causing plenty of problems.

Zaha hit the post after a mazy run, then moments later Patrick Van Aanholt surged into the box and found Andros Townsend but he lashed his shot wide.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

At the other end Arsenal had two chances in quick succession as Lacazette shot wide and then Hector Bellerin had a shot blocked. Before the break Jordan Ayew went down in the box after a tackle from Shkodran Mustafi but no penalty kick was given.

Moments later Palace were awarded a penalty as Mustafi lunged in on Cheikhou Kouyate and Milivojevic stepped up to score and put the Eagles 1-0 up in first half stoppage time.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

At the start of the second half Arsenal drew level as Xhaka thundered home a fabulous free kick from a tight angle to make it 1-1.

Five minutes later the Gunners were 2-1 up in controversial fashion. A corner was flicked on by Lacazette at the near post, but he appeared to flick the ball with his hand as he was shoved by a Palace defender. The ball then found Aubameyang at the back post and he prodded home to make it 2-1.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Max Meyer hit the outside of the post and fired another effort over after coming on as a sub, as Palace pushed hard to find an equalizer and eventually it arrived.

Xhaka challenged Zaha in the box and although the Palace winger went down a little easily, a penalty kick was given and Milivojevic slammed home to make it 2-2 and end Arsenal’s winning run.

PL Sunday preview: Chelsea, Arsenal chasing title pacers

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One half of the Premier League’s “big six” will be in action, spread across three games, on Sunday.

Chelsea seek to remain in the PL title race; Arsenal seek to extend their winning streak to 12 games; Manchester United seek to reassert themselves and turn their season around.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 10? ]

Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal — 9:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

It’s been a while since Arsenal last dropped points — let alone lost a game. You have to go back to the second week of the PL season to find the most recent blemish on Unai Emery‘s otherwise sparkling record. No side in Europe can claim a better ongoing run of results (11 straight wins, by a combined score of 31-9 – all competitions). The Gunners will look to make it a dozen wins in a row on Sunday, when they visit Selhurst Park. The club’s longest-ever winning streak is 14 games — achieved in the fall of 1987. Wins over Palace, Blackpool (League Cup) and Liverpool would see Emery and Co., match the record.

Things couldn’t be going much worse for Palace at the moment. Roy Hodgson‘s Eagles have lost three straight league games (winless in four) and slipped to 15th in the PL table, now just two points clear of the relegation zone, during the slide.

INJURIES: Crystal Palace — OUT: Christian Benteke (knee), Scott Dann (knee) | Arsenal — OUT: Laurent Koscielny (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Sead Kolasinac (hamstring), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (fitness)


Burnley vs. Chelsea — 9:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Chelsea remain one of three unbeaten PL sides (Liverpool and Manchester City) ahead of Sunday’s trip to Turf Moor. Maurizio Sarri‘s side has, however, dropped points in three of their last four games (draws with West Ham United, Liverpool and Man United). That mini-skid has seen the Blues fall five points back of leaders Liverpool (and potentially City, who play on Monday, as well). Eden Hazard has been arguably the PL’s best player through nine games, but the Belgian superstar’s status is unknown due to a lingering back injury suffered during last week’s 2-2 draw with Man United.

Speaking of Belgian centerpieces, midfielder Steven Defour is back and available for the Clarets after nine months out following knee surgery. Likewise, winger Robbie Brady is expected to be available for selection for the first time in 10 months following a knee operation of his own. The two represent a different class of players capable of delivering Burnley back into the PL’s top-half to build upon last season’s seventh-place finish.

INJURIES: Burnley — OUT: Ben Gibson (fitness), Nick Pope (shoulder), Stephen Ward (knee) | Chelsea — QUESTIONABLE: Eden Hazard (back)


Manchester United vs. Everton — 12 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com

Seven points — and five places in the table — currently separate Man United from the top-four, thanks to the Red Devils’ dreadful start to the season (just four wins, and three losses, in the first nine games). European competition hasn’t treated them much better, as they were completely outplayed and beaten by Juventus at Old Trafford this week. Jose Mourinho isn’t expected to have Alexis Sanchez or Jesse Lingard to pick from on Sunday, meaning Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford should start by default. Martial bagged a brace in the draw with Chelsea, while Rashford hasn’t scored a league goal since Sept. 29; it’s been even longer for Lukaku, whose last PL tally came on Sept. 15.

On the other side, Marco Silva has Everton playing some great soccer late: three straight wins, by a combined score of 7-1. Even better, six of the seven goals have been scored by Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Bernad, Theo Walcott or Cenk Tosun, the Toffees’ five most important attacking players. With summer signings Andre Gomes and Yerry Mina making the startling lineup and bench for last week’s victory over Palace, Silva has everyone around Goodison Park feeling exceedingly hopeful ahead of Sunday’s trip to Old Trafford.

INJURIES: Man United — OUT: Alexis Sanchez (groin), Marouane Fellaini (groin), Scott McTominay (knee), Jesse Lingard (groin) | Everton — OUT: None

Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 9

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This is getting good.

[ ARCHIVE: Premier League club power rankings ]

Five teams sit within two points of the Premier League lead following nine weeks of play, and Champions League midweek action will only raise the potential for tumult atop the table.

And there are a number of eyebrow-raising litmus tests for mid-table sides once we reach another weekend of PL play.


20. Huddersfield Town — Scorers of four goals through nine matches, the Terriers were stout but non-threatening against Liverpool. Better needed, and fast, with points for the taking in their next six PL fixtures.
Last week: 20
Season high: 18
Season low: 20

19. Newcastle United — The weekend’s loss to Brighton and Hove Albion was the first one in some time which couldn’t be written off due to opponent or injury. That the Seagulls were without Davy Propper and still controlled the midfield is not a good sign for Rafa Benitez‘s punchless attack.
Last week: 18
Season high: 13
Season low: 19

18. Fulham — Fulham has allowed 25 goals through nine matches.

Googles “Most goals allowed in Premier League season.” 100, Swindon Town, 1993-94. 

That’s history-making pace, Slavisa.
Last week: 18
Season high: 11
Season low: 18

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

17. Burnley — A week after drawing Huddersfield at home, the Clarets were absolutely worked by Man City. That happens. Chelsea, West Ham, and Leicester are next.
Last week: 13
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

16. Cardiff City — Huge win for the Bluebirds, who clobbered Fulham to show a bit of hope to their supporters ahead of trip to Anfield.
Last week: 19
Season high: 16
Season low: 20

15. Crystal Palace — Three-straight league losses and a slumping Wilfried Zaha have taken the shine off Roy Hodgson‘s tenure at Selhurst Park. A visit from high-flying Arsenal in next.
Last week: 15
Season high: 6
Season low: 15

14. Southampton — A visit from Newcastle provides Saints an inviting chance to experience breathing room from the relegation race.
Last week: 16
Season high: 13
Season low: 17

13. West Ham United — Andriy Yarmolenko‘s injury is a concern for an attack which was coming together. Two-straight losses, but a litmus test at Leicester City awaits the Irons.
Last week: 12
Season high: 9
Season low: 20

12. Leicester City — Maybe the most difficult team in the league to read on a week-to-week basis, the Foxes were a bit hard done by after taking a lead at Arsenal. See: West Ham for prognosis.
Last week: 11
Season high: 7
Season low: 13

11. Brighton and Hove Albion — Back-to-back wins have Chris Hughton‘s men envisioning a run up the table, and a win over Wolves would be wonderful for those ambitions.
Last week: 10
Season high: 9
Season low: 19

10. Wolves — A 2-0 home loss to Watford? We didn’t see that coming.
Last week: 5
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

9. Watford — Javi Gracia‘s men are capable of any result in the book on any given week. Can they built on win at Wolves by getting an expected win when Huddersfield visits?
Last week: 14
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

8. Everton — Three-straight wins on the road to Old Trafford, and a fixture worth circling on Sunday.
Last week: 8
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

7. Bournemouth — There have been few stumbles this season for Eddie Howe‘s men, who simply must handle their business at Fulham this weekend.
Last week: 6
Season high: 6
Season low: 12

6. Manchester United — Where’s the mentality? That’s the question after a comeback win over Newcastle and draw with Chelsea yielded to Tuesday’s loss to Juventus. If Mourinho has hold of this crew, it’ll be just fine when Everton arrives on Sunday. If he doesn’t?
Last week: 9
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

5. Chelsea — The draw with Manchester United keeps Chelsea unbeaten, but the Blues have just one win in their last four PL matches. A trip to Burnley three days after Europa League duty is next.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 4

4. Spurs — Four-straight wins, three away from home and three without conceding a goal. Hugo Lloris and Tottenham are breathing a bit easier and have until Monday to regroup and face Man City.
Last week: 7
Season high: 3
Season low: 8

3. Liverpool — Here’s the good news: Liverpool’s first “slump” of the year has cost them very little and includes a number of “gut it out” results. Expect the Reds to “get healthy” at Cardiff.
Last week: 4
Season high: 1
Season low: 4

2. Arsenal — A tricky week for the red-hot Gunners, who start a Europa League pair with Sporting Lisbon before visiting desperate Crystal Palace. Arsenal has now won 10-straight in all competitions under Unai Emery since losing its first two matches of the PL season.
Last week: 3
Season high: 3
Season low: 9

1. Man City — Kevin De Bruyne is back, and the Citizens are basically beating back anything in their path. A trip to Tottenham is next.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 2

Premier League loans for Rooney, Zlatan?

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This is something which happened a lot in the past but loan deals from Major League Soccer to the Premier League seem to have died down slightly in recent years.

[ MORE: Rooney, DC make playoffs ]

I’m talking Robbie Keane to Aston Villa and Thierry Henry to Arsenal in 2012. Landon Donovan to Everton in 2010 and 2012. David Beckham to AC Milan in 2009 and 2010. That kind of deal. Not quite Frank Lampard from New York City FC to Manchester City, because we all know how that worked out…

But could Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic be the latest MLS stars to head back to Europe for an offseason loan stint?

Given Zlatan’s incredible form in his debut campaign in MLS with 22 goals in 26 games at the ripe age of 37, plus Rooney’s huge impact at D.C. United (12 goals and 10 assists in 19 games) which has dragged them from last place in the East to playoff qualification, surely they could help out a few PL clubs right now?

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson recently said Rooney, 32, left England too soon, and with the Eagles having goalscoring issues, maybe they could an option if the Manchester United captain fancied a stint back in England in January?

While Zlatan’s former club Man United could certainly use a little help given their poor start to the season and with a busy festive season coming up with PL and European action. It has even been suggested by the Spanish media that Real Madrid would be willing to sign Zlatan on a short-term loan. Now, wouldn’t that be something…

But lets think about this. Would D.C. United and the LA Galaxy really want their star players heading overseas to risk injury and burnout after a gruelling MLS campaign?

In Zlatan’s case, probably not. The Galaxy would be correct to be concerned about Zlatan’s injury record and the fact that the Swedish superstar has four years on Rooney suggests he could probably do with a rest. Plus, Zlatan has played an entire MLS season whereas Rooney arrived at the halfway point.

As for Rooney, it seems like December-February would be better spent getting to known the D.C. area better with his family after his move during the season to MLS.

But, as we know with top players, they want to play at the best level possible for as long as possible and both Rooney and Ibrahimovic will no doubt have offers on the table for loan moves in January. It’s not about the money with these two veterans. It is more about proving to everyone than can still do it. And their form in MLS proves they can.

You can scoff at MLS all you want but if you tell me that 15 out of the 20 current Premier League teams wouldn’t jump at the chance to take Rooney and Zlatan on loan in January, then I’d call you a liar right to your face.