Roy Hodgson

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PL Sunday preview: Sheffield United v. Palace; Chelsea host Leicester

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Chelsea will look to earn its first points under Frank Lampard as they host Leicester City, who started their season with a draw against Wolves. Elsewhere, the Premier League returns to Sheffield as Roy Hodgson‘s Crystal Palace visit the Blades.

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Sheffield United v. Crystal Palace — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCS and NBCSports.com

88th minute, Billy Sharp, and goal are words that are still fresh in the Blades’ minds.

Why wouldn’t they be? After all, they’re only a game into their dream return to the Premier League, one they hope can only keep projecting upwards. The task won’t be a walk in the park, however, as a visiting Palace will look to rely on their plethora of attacking weapons to open their scoring account, which they failed to do so against Everton.

One of the weapons Palace could lean on is Wilfried Zaha, who may depart the club in January according to Hodgson. Last week, the Ivorian international came off the bench and only played 25 minutes, but a start for the winger at Bramall Lane may certainly improve Palace’s chances.

If so, Chris Wilder and the Blades will need more than a late Sharp goal to secure points in the Premier League’s return to Sheffield.

Chelsea v. Leicester City  — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCS and NBCSports.com

It’s only Frank Lampard’s second league game at the helm but the pressure is certainly on.

With Arsenal and Liverpool already at six points a piece, the Blues will need three points against Leicester City. Having lost to Manchester United (4-0) and Liverpool (5-4 via penalties) in a four-day span doesn’t help the cause either. Luckily, Chelsea has the quality to give the team a completely different look with the snap of a finger – whether Lampard believes that Christian Pulisic, Olivier Giroud or N’Golo Kante can give him that is yet to be seen.

The Foxes, on the other hand, also have their work cut out in front of them. Against Wolves, Brendan Rodgers‘ side recorded a lone shot on target. Certainly, Chelsea is not the ideal opponent to try to correct that, but if they can get it done what an injection of confidence that’d be for Leicester City. All in all, three points will not come easy for Jamie Vardy and Co.

Premier League preview: Newcastle v. Crystal Palace

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  • Newcastle has lost just 1 of its last 16 matches v. Palace
  • Crystal Palace has 19 away goals in 2019, a joint-league high
  • Newcastle has a five-game home PL winning streak

Amid speculation about Rafa Benitez‘s uncertain future, Newcastle takes to the field as the Magpies host Crystal Palace at St. James Park on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

With his contract set to run out this summer, Benitez claimed the “ball is in Newcastle United’s court” when it comes to an extension. While he looks to finish out the season strong amid the speculation, Newcastle takes on Crystal Palace to begin one of the more lenient run-ins among the Premier League, at least on paper. The Magpies have remaining games against Fulham, Brighton, Southampton, and Crystal Palace remaining to go along with top-half matchups with Liverpool and Leicester City.

[ MORE: Watch Newcastle v. Crystal Palace live on NBCSports.com ]

Newcastle also has good news on the injury front, with Isaac Hayden, Mohamed Diame and DeAndre Yedlin all either returning this weekend or close to doing so in the near future. In addition, Jonjo Shelvey and Ki Sung-Yeung have both recently returned from long injury troubles and could see more time on the field in the coming matches.

For Crystal Palace, the magical 40-point threshhold is just four points away, and while they’re already all but safe with an eight-point cushion with six matches to go, matches such as this provide an opportunity amid a bit tougher of a late-season fixture list. The Eagles still have matches against Manchester City, Arsenal, and Everton remaining before meeting Cardiff City and Bournemouth to close out the campaign.

Roy Hodgson will have Andros Townsend to call upon, with the England international returning from a hand injury as a substitute midweek. Other than a long-term knee injury to Mamadou Sakho, there are no other certain injury concerns for Crystal Palace ahead of the road visit to St. James.

What they’re saying

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez on his contract situation: “The only club I’m talking about my future [with] now is Newcastle United, and I’m waiting for an answer. Why? Because we have been in contact and I’m waiting for an answer.”

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson on their table position:  “We haven’t actually gone out saying we’re safe. We can’t stop the general opinion that’s out there – we realize we need more points and we also realize we’ll be coming across some very good teams that’ll make it hard for us to get those points.”

Prediction

While there’s not a ton on the line for these two teams, these two seasoned managers know how to motivate a squad with little to play for. Benitez in particular will have his job – not on the line, but plenty to prove. The home crowd should boost Newcastle, and with a healthy squad, the Magpies will win a fun one 3-2.

Top 5 Premier League managers of 2018

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The big boys occupy the top three spots in our list of the best Premier League managerial performances of the 2018 calendar year.

But you might be surprised at both their order and the men who rivaled each other for fourth and fifth.

And Nuno Espirito Santo, we still almost plugged you into the mix despite a half-year in the league.

5. (tie) Claude Puel, Leicester City (37 matches, 48 points) and Roy Hodgson, Crystal Palace (37 matches, 44 points) — Two men who did very different jobs in 2018.

Hodgson was just above the relegation zone, and led Palace well up the table through the power of Wilfried Zaha. The Eagles, however, have been less inspiring in the first half of this season.

Puel, on the other hand, didn’t do much at all with his Foxes after riding into 2018 in eighth place (They finished in ninth). But the oft-maligned manager has kept Leicester cool despite the departure of Riyad Mahrez and, more saliently, the horrible helicopter crash which claimed the life of Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four others.

4. Eddie Howe, Bournemouth (37 matches, 50 points) — Put aside the Cherries’ recent and mighty struggles against any decent opponent, Bournemouth entered 2018 in the drop zone and finished 12th. That was 11 points clear of the drop zone. They are 11 points clear of the drop entering 2019, and Howe remains one of the most talked-about, “Would he leave for (Bigger Team X)?” managers in the game.

3. Pep Guardiola, Manchester City (37 matches, 88 points) — City’s second half of the season completed a record-smashing title campaign with all the accompanying pressure.

2. Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool (37 matches, 88 points) — The tiebreaker? Klopp’s Reds went 3W-1D against Guardiola’s Citizens in 2018.

  1. Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham Hotspur (38 matches, 85 points) — City spent about $160m from Jan. 2018 to date; Liverpool spent about $298m; Spurs spent just under $33 million, and their wage bill was sixth in the Premier League.

Hodgson hails ‘magnificent’ Townsend goal, says Palace win not about ‘magic wand’

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Crystal Palace broke out of its funk with a win over Leicester City last week, but if that was a first step, beating Man City at the Etihad might be the second, third, and fourth.

[ RECAP: Man City 2-3 Palace ]

Palace boss Roy Hodgson was very careful to note that the result was just one moment in time for his side — comparing it to winning a stage of the Tour de France — but was also ready to praise the preparation that went into the victory.

“You don’t produce that sort of performance by waving a magic wand or having a five-minute team talk,” he said, from the BBC. “There’s a lot of work that goes into that structure and we were excellent. We are playing against a team with enormous skill levels and their focus, their ability to sustain attacks, is an example to us all.”

The win was aided by a simply marvelous volleyed goal from Andros Townsend, who is making a habit of scoring wonder goals.

Hodgson called it magnificent, and Townsend doubts he’s done better:

“It sat up perfectly for me, I knew I couldn’t take a touch as City would have been on me and on the counter. And as soon as it left my foot I knew it had a good chance. It’s definitely the best goal of my career, against the best side I’ve ever played.”

Now in 14th, Palace eyes up a Chelsea visit on Boxing Day before facing Wolves at the Molineux three days later.

Premier League Preview: Manchester United vs. Crystal Palace

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  • Man Utd 10W-1D in last 11 vs. Palace
  • Palace’s last win at Old Trafford came in 2011 League Cup
  • Man Utd leads all-time 36W-10D-7L

Will Manchester United’s young players respond to the latest hail of public criticism from boss Jose Mourinho when the Red Devils host Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold, online via NBCSports.com)?

The United manager used part of his prematch press conference to question the character of and rip into the “spoilt” nature of young players like Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, and Marcus Rashford.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

United lost its last match before the break, a two-goal defeat in the Manchester Derby no less, and will be itching to get back in the win column after slipping seven points back of the Top Four.

Palace has earned just one point from the last 18 available, though plenty of that is aided by a fixture list which sees United at the end of Arsenal, Chelsea, and Spurs.

What they’re saying

Manchester United’s Juan Mata on Palace“When they play away also because they defend quite compact and they go for the counter-attack, so we need to be ready for that and we need to know what we’re going to face. We need to try to score, try to win and try to enjoy it. Obviously, we’re always respecting the opponent, and Crystal Palace deserves that respect.”

Crystal Palace’s Roy Hodgson on Wilfried Zaha“I think that his attitude to each and every game, be it a home game here at Selhurst Park against a team lower in the league or whether it’s a top match against the Manchester Uniteds, Cities and Liverpools is that he goes out each time to give a performance, to go and do what he knows he’s good at doing. We try to profit from that as best we can by getting the ball to him and hoping he can weave that magic which he’s capable of and win us the matches. I believe in his abilities.”

Prediction

Who knows what Mourinho is doing with his comments, but United is facing a wounded Palace? The Eagles would be forgiven for looking ahead to Burnley and Brighton, but might Zaha have enough magic to get them a result at Old Trafford? We’ll hand a 3-1 to United.