Premier League Preview: Aston Villa v Crystal Palace

The Villains have looked brilliant on the road in recent weeks with wins over Leicester, Arsenal, Wolves and West Brom.

But at home they have struggled and Smith will need to change that…….and quick.

His team picked up no casualties in their win over the Baggies last time out and he could name an unchanged line up with Ross Barkley and Ezri Konsa back on the bench.

For Palace, things can’t really get much worse after they were whacked 7-0 by Liverpool last weekend and Roy Hodgson looks certain to change things up.

Christian Benteke is back in the squad after a one game ban with James Tomkins, Michy Batshuayi and James McCarthy all pushing for a starting spot

And Kick Off is set for a 3pm start on Boxing Day at Villa Park

Burnley 1-0 Crystal Palace: Turf Moor a happy place again as Clarets grab first win of Premier League season

The Eagles’ performance on the night suggested they were a side that lacked a cutting edge in Wilfried Zaha’s absence.

Palace manager Roy Hodgson revealed Zaha had been ruled out of the Turf Moor trip after testing positive for coronavirus and although they created enough chances to claim a point, it was clear they missed their talisman.

The decisive moment of the game came as early as the eighth minute when Wood found the back of the net after being put through by strike partner Jay Rodriguez, making his first league start in two months, as the Clarets won 1-0.

Burnley came into this fixture as the division’s lowest scorers and this was only their fourth goal in eight matches – and first in five games – but it was enough to move them out of the relegation zone.

Johann Berg Gudmundsson clattered the crossbar on his 100th Premier League appearance, which meant Burnley were hanging on as full-time approached.

But Nick Pope saved brilliantly from Michy Batshuayi – Zaha’s replacement – and substitute Christian Benteke in the second half to ensure the Clarets claimed their first league win since July 18.

Pope was called into action inside the first 90 seconds, his palms stung by Nathaniel Clyne’s effort from distance but Burnley then ended their long goalless stretch, scoring at home for the first time in the league this season.

Gudmundsson directed a hopeful ball towards the area but off-balance Palace defender Cheikhou Kouyate headed into the path of Rodriguez, whose clever backheel allowed Wood to steal in and slot home.

Palace responded well to going behind with Batshuayi making life difficult for the hosts, only just failing to get a final touch when the ball was rolled along the six-yard area by James McArthur.

After Burnley’s defenders sat back Batshuayi’s shot only just missed Pope’s right hand post while the goalkeeper had to be alert as he tipped over a curling and dipping effort from distance from Andros Townsend.

Pope’s opposite number Vicente Guaita was perhaps a touch fortunate a mistimed punch from an innocuous Dwight McNeil corner did not end up in the back of the net as the Clarets ended the half firmly on top.

Burnley boss Sean Dyche was left fuming on the touchline after a clumsy challenge by Kouyate prevented Rodriguez going clean through and went unpunished, but replays showed the coming together took place just outside the area.

It was nevertheless an encouraging start to the second half for Burnley and Gudmundsson should have doubled their lead when McNeil picked out his team-mate in plenty of space but a first-time effort cannoned back off the crossbar.

They were given a major let-off on the hour as an errant McNeil backpass put Batshuayi one-on-one with Pope, who was off his line quickly and was helped by the on-loan Chelsea striker scuffing his shot straight at him.

It was becoming an end-to-end affair and Guaita did brilliantly to palm away a Wood header after Kouyate had been unable to intercept an Ashley Westwood dink into the area.

As the game headed into added-on time, Benteke was denied from point-blank range by a left arm from a spread-eagled Pope and the Palace substitute then spurned another opportunity after taking a bad touch when put through.

That allowed James Tarkowski to nip in and snuff out the danger, enabling Burnley to celebrate an overdue victory.

Crystal Palace seal battling 2-1 Premier League win at Fulham

Jairo Reidewald and Wilf Zaha secured all three points for Roy Hodgson’s side and despite Tom Cairney’s late consolation the Eagles held on for the win.

Fulham bossed the opening stages but Scott Parker’s side struggled to carve out any clear cut chances.

And with the hosts unable to make their early pressure count Palace edged themselves in front through Reidewald.

Zaha led the Palace counterattack from inside his own half and after Alphonse Areola saved his driven effort, Riedewald reacted quickest to clip home the rebound.

Fulham reacted well to that setback but Alexander Mitrovic wasted an excellent chance to equalise.

Ademola Lookman’s strike rebound back off Vicente Guaita’s post but the Serbian made a mess of the ricochet to fire over the bar.

Parker’s side did look to tiptoe their way into the game after the break but their lack of cutting edge were ruthlessly punished by Zaha.

Andros Townsend’s pass in behind found Michy Batshuayi in space and his square ball was slid home by the Ivory Coast international.

And with Fulham heading for a sixth winless Premier League game substitute Aboubakar Kamara was shown a straight red card for a lunge at Eberechi Eze.

The Cottagers did salvage some pride in added time skipper Cairney fired past Guaita but there was no time for a late rally.

Full time at Craven Cottage it’s Fulham 1 Crystal Palace 2

Brighton secure late 1-1 Premier League draw at Crystal Palace

Wilf Zaha’s first half penalty looked to have decided a dull M23 derby, but Alexis MacAllister’s late strike nicked a valuable point for the Seagulls.

Neither side were to create much too in scrappy opening quarter with Brighton working hard to keep dangerman Zaha off the ball.

But despite managing to shackle him in open play, there was nothing the visitors could do to stop him scoring from the spot on 17 minutes.

Tariq Lamptey nudged over Michy Batshuayi inside the box and the Ivory Coast international calmly tucked past Mat Ryan.

That setback disrupted Brighton’s confidence with Neil Maupay wasting a pair of half chances either side of the break.

With Graham Potter’s side struggling to breakthrough Palace’s military style defence they needing a late slice of luck.

Palace defender Joel Ward gifted possession to Maupay inside the box and he squared for substitute MacAllister to force home.

Brighton’s late rally was almost undone by a red card for skipper Lewis Dunk but in the end Potter’s visitors just held out.

FULL TIME AT SELHURST PARK IT’S CRYSTAL PALACE 1 BRIGHTON 1

Honours even between Batshuayi and Zaha on international stage

Zaha’s Ivory Coast played Batshuayi’s Belgium, with both players featuring heavily in the 1-1 draw.

Belgium are currently ranked as the best International side in the world according to FIFA, and the Red Devils took the lead on 53 minutes through Batshuayi.

Ivory Coast would find a route back in to the game through Zaha though, who was fouled in the box before Franck Kessie converted the resulting spot kick.

Christian Benteke also played as he replaced goalscorer Batshuayi in the 68th-minute for Belgium, taking the captain’s armband in doing so.

Crystal Palace nearing Batshuayi loan move

The Belgian striker is out of favour at Stamford Bridge, having fallen behind Tammy Abraham, Olivier Giroud and new signing Timo Werner.

And with the delayed Euro 2020 next summer, Batshuayi is keen to get first-team football to ensure he makes it into Roberto Martinez’s Belgium squad when the time comes.

The 26-year-old has signed a one-year contract extension at Stamford Bridge, and will join Palace for the second loan spell in two years, having spent six months at Selhurst Park in the second half of the 2018-19 season.

During that time, the former Marseille striker scored five goals in 11 Premier League appearances and will be hoping to have a similar impact when he completes this move.

Palace are in need of strikers having struggled to find the net last season, and are set to lose Alexander Sorloth thanks to a clause in his contract that seems to have backfired on the Eagles.

The Norwegian striker scored 32 goals for Trabzonspor last season after joining on a two-year loan, and the move can be made permanent for a fee of £5.5m.

The Turkish side are expected to trigger that clause as they have qualified for the Champions League next season after finishing second in the league, but could also turn a quick profit on the forward, with RB Leipzig interested.

World Cup Winner Kante targeted by Inter Milan

N’Golo Kante and Emerson Palmieri are being linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge to join Antonio Conte at Inter, who signed both while in charge of Chelsea between 2016 and 2018.

Michy Batshuayi could also be on the move – the Belgian has just one year remaining on his contract at Stamford Bridge, meaning that the Blues are likely to be looking to sell him this summer. Leeds United and Crystal Palace are said to be interested in the striker, with Chelsea looking for a fee of around £25 million.

Chelsea will hold contract talks with midfielder Conor Gallagher amid interest from Newcastle and Crystal Palace. The 22-year-old spent last season on loan at Swansea.

As for coming into the Bridge, there is increasing speculation surrounding Brighton captain Lewis Dunk, who has been linked with a move. One deal that is almost certain to go through is for Bayer Leverkusen playmaker Kai Havertz, who is expected to sign a five-year deal within the coming week.

Chelsea facing summer overhaul, Kante for sale claim reports

The Blues’ domestic season ended in disappointment on Saturday, losing the FA Cup final to Arsenal at Wembley.

Despite cup final heartache, the future looks bright for Frank Lampard’s side with additions such as Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech to feature next season.

Chelsea are also closing in on a deal for Bayern Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz, who has been outstanding in the German Bundesliga this season.

However, additions to the squad means that some players will need to depart Stamford Bridge, and The Times claim that as many as 8 first team stars could leave the club.

The names mentioned include Tiemoue Bakayoko, who has spent the season on loan at Monaco, Ross Barkley, Marcos Alonso, Emerson, Kurt Zouma, Andreas Christensen and Michy Batshuayi.

Unsurprisingly, Willian and Pedro are also doubts to be involved in 2020/21, with Lampard claiming in Willian’s case the ball is in his court.

Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga may also be shown the Stamford Bridge exit door after just two seasons at the club and a world-record price tag.

Perhaps the most surprising inclusion on The Times’ list of Chelsea players available for transfer is N’Golo Kante.

The France international has struggled with injuries this season, and arguably hasn’t performed as consistently for the Blues since before Maurizio Sarri was Chelsea manager.

Despite this, Kante is world class on his day, and it would take a decent offer to prise him away from the Bridge.