John Stones

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Southgate to rest stars, give youth a chance v. Kosovo

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With qualification to the 2020 European Championship secured earlier this week, England manager Gareth Southgate is set to rest most of his star players in favor of giving a number of younger players a chance to impress when the Three Lions take on Kosovo in Pristina on Sunday (12 p.m. ET).

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According to a report from Sky Sports, Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford will be rested to make way for Chelsea youngsters Tammy Abraham (four caps) and Callum Hudson-Odoi (two caps). Finally given a chance to play regular minutes for the Blues, Abraham has already scored 10 goals in 12 Premier League appearances this season. The 22-year-old former journeyman loanee scored his first England goal in the 7-0 thrashing of Montenegro on Thursday. Hudson-Odoi is yet to score in PL play this season, but has shown well following his return from a ruptured achilles late last season.

John Stones and Jordan Pickford will be moved to the bench after starting against Montenegro. They will likely be replaced by Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings and Burnley’s Nick Pope. Mings has made just one appearance for England, while Pope would be making his first start. Stones is seen as having taken on an excessive workload this season due to the ongoing defensive injury crisis at Manchester City.

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Jordan Henderson and Joe Gomez departed England camp on Saturday, due to illness and injury respectively. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Declan Rice and Mason Mount could start in midfield with James Maddison (calf) and injury doubt.

Another Chelsea youngster, 21-year-old Fikayo Tomori, is also said to be in line for his first England cap, most likely as a late-game substitute along the backline.

Ederson out for Liverpool game, while Van Dijk fit for Reds

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Pep Guardiola confirmed Manchester City’s injury fears ahead of the massive game against Liverpool at Anfield, with Ederson set to miss out after limping off at halftime of the weekday Champions League draw with Atalanta.

The Brazilian goalkeeper was withdrawn at the break for Claudio Bravo, who himself was unable to finish the match after being sent off, leaving Kyle Walker to don the gloves for the final few minutes. “He is not able to play,” Guardiola said of Ederson. “On Sunday he cannot play. We have another top keeper. We won the Carabao Cup and FA Cup thanks to Claudio. He is an exceptional goalkeeper.”

That leaves Man City even more thin at the back, already missing defenders Aymeric Laporte and Oleksandr Zinchenko to long-term knee injuries. Laporte has a torn ACL and will miss at least the majority of the season, while Zinchenko is expected back in December after knee surgery of his own. John Stones is back in action, having returned in mid-October from his injury and utilized in each of the last three Premier League games, but he was rested midweek as Fernandinho deputized at center-back alongside Nicolas Otamendi.

Guardiola did not address the status of David Silva, but reports state that the Spaniard will also miss the game against Liverpool. The boss did say last weekend that Silva would be sidelined 10-12 days with a muscular injury suffered against Southampton. With two goals and four assists this season, Silva would be a big loss to an already thin Man City squad that utilized Bernardo Silva in a more central role with the Spaniard missing midweek.

For Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp confirmed that defender Virgil Van Dijk is ready to go despite missing training on Thursday, confirming that the absence was merely for personal reasons as the defender returned home to receive an award from the Dutch royal family. The Reds boss did say that Joel Matip and Xherdan Shaqiri are both out for the game, meaning that either Dejan Lovren or Joe Gomez will partner van Dijk in the middle. Lovren has played each of the last two Premier League matches in place of Matip, while Gomez was given the start midweek against Genk in Champions League play.

Premier League preview: Crystal Palace v. Man City

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  • Crystal Palace has earned four points in their last 3 PL games v. MCFC
  • Crystal Palace has 3 clean sheets in 4 home PL matches this season
  • Sergio Aguero has not scored in 6 PL matches at Selhurst Park

With Liverpool set to face Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, and Arsenal in the next three matches with Champions League play sprinkled in, now is the time for Manchester City to pounce.

Pep Guardiola leads Man City to Selhurst Park with a hefty eight point distance between them and the Reds atop the Premier League table, looking to make a dent in the differential as they face Crystal Palace on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET live on NBC or live online at NBCSports.com.

[ WATCH LIVE: Crystal Palace v. Manchester City ]

Kevin De Bruyne has been on fire despite his injury troubles, with eight assists in league play this season, double anyone else in the league. Unfortunately, the Man City defense has not followed suit, with the squad banged up and conceding twice to Wolves before the international break and recording just three clean sheets this season. The nine goals they’ve conceded thus far is triple what they allowed through the first eight matches of last season – in fact, it took them until a Week 16 loss to Chelsea to concede nine league goals.

Now, they face an in-form Crystal Palace side challenging for a European place to begin the season, having won its last two and four of its last six. They have been excellent at home, going unbeaten in four this season in league play. They aren’t dominating teams, but they’re earning results and sit sixth in the table with 14 points. What’s more, they’re doing all this without stalwart defender James Tomkins, who struggled with a groin injury early in the season and has suddenly found his place in the squad snatched up by Martin Kelly and Gary Cahill who are performing well together at Selhurst Park.

Roy Hodgson has instilled a culture of consistency at Crystal Palace that has allowed the club to not just earn results against teams they should beat but also challenge for points against the best squads in the league week in and week out.

Injuries/suspensions

Crystal Palace: OUT – Mamadou Sakho (groin), Connor Wickham (ankle).

Man City: OUT – Aymeric Laporte (knee), Leroy Sane (knee). QUESTIONABLE – John Stones (thigh), Benjamin Mendy (thigh).


Projected lineups

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

Man City: Ederson; Zinchenko, Otamendi, Stones, Walker; Fernandinho, De Bruyne, David Silva; Sterling, Aguero, Bernardo Silva.


What they’re saying

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson on Raheem Sterling: “The criticism that could be leveled at him then and was, much to my displeasure because I would see him playing well, the big thing for Raheem is that there’s no draining his confidence, and no doubts. He’s playing in a team that creates a lot of chances so he gets in the right positions. His maturity, not just as a Manchester City player, but shouldering a very heavy burden with the racism and the attention that is being paid to the racism problem that we have. He has been a spokesperson.”

Man City boss Guardiola on Roy Hodgson: “I think since Roy took over the team [Palace] with zero points and helped them to avoid relegation, they have always made a really good season. They have incredibly talented players. Of course I admire him. He has the patience and love. It’s incredible. You have to have a lot of energy every day and he is there.”


Prediction

Manchester City has a loaded squad with reinforcements on the way in John Stones and Benjamin Mendy. Stones in particular is a massive addition, and if he is indeed fit to play, his presence gives this squad new life at the back. Still, Crystal Palace is as formidable a mid-table side as any in the Premier League and will be hungry to prove they mean business challenging for Europe this season. It will be a hard-fought grind, but Man City walks away with a quality 1-0 victory behind a goal from Raheem Sterling.

England struck by poor club form in qualifying blip

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What do you do as a national team manager when the best players in your group are struggling at the club level?

That’s the issue currently facing Gareth Southgate, and it’s spilled over into Euro 2020 qualification as England fell to the Czech Republic 2-1 on Friday, its first Euro qualifying defeat in ten years.

While its obvious England has a massive talent imbalance between offense and defense, the poor form plague has also struck, leaving Southgate with a host of difficult choices both up front and at the back. It has become such a pestilence that Southgate was left with no choice but to admit it after the match.

“In terms of the players, I think there are players who are not playing well for their clubs, but that is the situation we are in at the moment, certainly in a couple of positions,” admitted Southgate in the post-match press conference. “We collectively have to accept the result, but of course, as the manager, then I have got to accept that as well, absolutely.”

The England boss has some serious pondering to do up and down the pitch. Marcus Rashford has become a problem for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the suddenly stagnant Manchester United attack, and he gave way in the England starting lineup to young Jadon Sancho, who was unable to lift England on the day. In midfield, a now-broken Dele Alli was a guaranteed starter at the World Cup two years ago but was left out entirely this international break as Tottenham continues to flounder, while fellow Spur Harry Winks was relegated to the bench. Harry Maguire in defense has begun his Red Devils career well, but beside him was Michael Keane who has been downright poor at Everton thus far. Ross Barkley has lost his place at Chelsea and was left among the substitutes in Prague as well in favor of the in-form teammate Mason Mount, but with England misfiring Barkley was unable to change the tide off the bench.

The problem for Southgate is two-fold, and he’s damned no matter what. In the case of players like Alli, Rashford, and Winks, the England boss chose to replace them with less experienced players, which clearly upset the balance and cohesion within the squad. Yet he chose to stick with Keane, who has started every Euro qualifier thus far, in favor of a younger Joe Gomez and that backfired as well, as Keane toiled ineffectively in Prague. Gomez himself has lost his place at Liverpool to Joel Matip, and would have been another questionable option.

Injuries also played their part no doubt. Key players in Aaron Wan-Bissaka, John Stones, and James Maddison were axed due to injuries or illness, while Callum Hudson-Odoi was not selected as he recently returned from a long-term problem himself. Still, Wan-Bissaka’s absence left Southgate with no choice but to select a replacement, choosing Kieran Trippier on the edge of the back line, who has seen an up-and-down start to his Atletico Madrid career. Even Stones had dipped in form at Manchester City, falling completely out of the matchday squad in favor of Aymeric Laporte and Nicolas Otamendi before succumbing to an unspecified muscle injury.

These problems caused issues tactically for a squad that suddenly had to deal with a deviation from the norm. Southgate deployed a 4-2-3-1 with Mount in the central creative role, but according to Yahoo’s Kieran Canning, the national team has not played in such a formation in two years. Southgate mentioned multiple times in his post-match press conference how displeased he was with England’s off-ball structure and movement, a direct product of mixing and matching. “We tried something [in the second half] to make ourselves a bit more solid without the ball, and that didn’t happen,” he said. “We didn’t look any more solid, and we were poor at using the ball in the first half. That said, at 1-1, at half time, we were able to change that. I think we were better in the second half and we created chances to win the game.”

To make matters worse, the few players in good club form didn’t live up to standards on the international stage. Declan Rice, maybe West Ham’s best player so far this season, was miserable in a pivot with Jordan Henderson and hauled off in the second half. The Mirror says between the midfield pair, they made just one successful tackle through the entire match and completed just 11 passes in the opening 20 minutes of the game. Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has been one of many fantastic Liverpool players this season, was bafflingly left on the bench in favor of Trippier.

The issues facing Southgate are a stark reminder how long two years truly is. This England squad felt far more solid and secure with depth as it reached the semifinals of the World Cup just two year ago. Now, there are glaring holes and numerous questions at a host of different positions. With the starters floundering in Prague, Southgate’s choices off the bench have thinned considerably, and Rashford’s injection of quality off the bench two years ago in Russia 2018 is no longer to be found as he came on with 17 minutes to go on Friday. The rock solid World Cup back-three of Stones, Maguire, and Kyle Walker is nowhere to be found despite the presence of all three in the setup.

Little has changed personnel wise for England, and yet two years on after a promising World Cup run with a host of players in their prime, the squad now feels in flux again as key individuals are forced to fight for their places. Gareth Southgate does not sit in an envious position, looking for answers while keeping faith in some key squad members while making necessary changes elsewhere hoping not to upset the squad chemistry. A visit to Bulgaria on Monday represents a quick turnaround between two road matches, an opportunity to right the ship amid the necessary distraction of travel. Anything less than a convincing performance will allow lingering questions to fester for another month, plenty of time for the sudden dysfunction to become even more chronic.

Man City lose John Stones to injury

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Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City are down to the bare bones at center back.

John Stones will be out “four to five weeks” with a muscle injury, according to City boss Pep Guardiola.

Speaking ahead of City’s UEFA Champions League clash at Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday, City’s manager confirmed the injury happened in training.

With Aymeric Laporte out until January at the earliest, Man City have a real problem at center back with Nicolas Otamendi their only experienced central defender left.

The Argentine defender has struggled early this season and was awful in their shock defeat at Norwich on Saturday.

Midfielder Fernandinho will likely slot in at center back in the coming weeks, and that was likely going to the case anyway with Stones and Otamendi playing so poorly together. After losing Vincent Kompany this summer and then failing to sign Harry Maguire, not adding a new center back was a massive oversight by City.

That sound you can hear is Liverpool’s fans celebrating, as Jurgen Klopp’s side already have a five point lead atop the Premier League table.