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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.

Hodgson: Palace responsible for their own demise in latest loss

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Crystal Palace started slow, falling behind 1-0 inside the game’s first five minutes, but manager Roy Hodgson is plenty pleased with his side’s response during the ensuing 75 minutes and feels the Eagles should have come away with something.

[ MORE: Bournemouth strike last in back-and-forth battle with Palace ]

Soccer is a 90-minute game, though, and it was the final 10 minutes which ultimately saw Palace beat themselves in Monday’s 2-1 defeat away to Bournemouth. Still, Hodgson spoked of the many positives during his post-game interviews, while also lamenting the fact that “football isn’t a fair game”  — quotes from the BBC:

“We did enough in the second half to get back into the game. We played well so it’s disappointing to end up on the losing side for that penalty we gave away. It was errors on our part and we paid a price for it.

“It was such a good start from Bournemouth and we got ourselves back into it really well and looked dangerous. But I can’t say I’m particularly angry or disappointed with the team performance. On another day, we could have got something from it.”

“We are playing well enough but football isn’t a fair game. We could have had more points. We haven’t got them. We have to keep going and make certain that when points are there to be won, we get them. We have to make sure we don’t pass off future opportunities.”

As for the penalty which ultimately decided the outcome, Hodgson couldn’t muster a legitimate complaint and did very little to defend Mamadou Sakho for making contact with the head of Jefferson Lerma:

“We shouldn’t have given the free kick away. I don’t know if Mamadou deliberately tried to catch him. It looks as if he did. When people look at the replay they will see that he caught him with his arm and as a result the referee gives a penalty.”