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Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew says he feels the “weight of history” on his shoulders as he tries to lead the south London side to the first major trophy in their 111-year existence.

Palace have the chance to claim that long-awaited piece of silverware when they face Manchester United in Saturday’s FA Cup final at Wembley.

The match is a repeat of the 1990 final when a Palace side featuring then central defender Pardew were beaten by United in a replay after the first match finished 3-3 following extra-time.

“I feel the weight of the history of not winning something,” Pardew said Friday.

“We take one final which we lost into the game, so this group of players have an opportunity to put something permanent there — a first major trophy for Crystal Palace.

“One or two of these players will never play in a final again and this is an opportunity to get a winner’s medal, which is so hard.

“Like the Leicester players (who won the Premier League), winning the FA Cup would mean the same for us.”

Pardew completed an unwanted “double” in 2006 when he was manager of the West Ham side beaten in that year’s FA Cup final by Liverpool.

He has now turned to Steve Coppell and Alan Smith, Palace’s manager and assistant manager respectively back in 1990, for advice.

“Steve Coppell was here; I’ve leant on him in a couple of bits,” former Newcastle manager Pardew explained.

“I’ve spoken to Alan Smith, looked at the history of 1990 and of the history since. It’s a club with a certain DNA. It would be good for the club and for our history for us to win something.

“(There was a) great camaraderie in that (1990) group. I hope this group has that same ongoing history as we had. We’re all very close friends, it bonded us. It made this club to a degree, that cup final.

“Friendships — I’d prefer those friendships to have carried through as winners. That’s the message I’ll give to my players.”

United will start Saturday’s match as favourites and Pardew was in no doubt all the pressure was on Louis van Gaal’smen following their failure to qualify for the Champions League.

“The pressure is on them all the time,” Pardew said.

 

 

Relegated Aston Villa could be sold to a Chinese consortium by the end of the week, according to British media reports on Wednesday.

Villa crashed out of the Premier League after a miserable season that saw the Midlands club win just three of their 38 matches.

US-based owner Randy Lerner has been trying to sell Villa without success for two years, but it appears a deal is finally close to completion after he lowered his asking price.

The BBC reports Lerner, who bought Villa in 2006, is willing to sell for as little as £60 million ($86 million, 76 million euros), with the unnamed Chinese investors said to be looking over the Championship team’s financial records.

 

 

As the Olympic Games loom ever closer, Europe's best swimmers gather in London on one of the final stepping stones to Rio de Janeiro.

When the European Championships start on Monday at the London Aquatics Centre – which staged the swimming at the 2012 Olympics – there will be just 82 days before the Games start in Brazil.

Given the proximity, few who are competing in Rio will have rested before the London meet, but are instead in heavy training, eyes planted firmly on what lies ahead in August.

Two years ago in Berlin, Great Britain topped the medal table with a haul of 24.

Prominent was 19-year-old Adam Peaty, a fortnight after beating Olympic champion Cameron van der Burgh to second in the 100m breaststroke at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

 

 

Manuel Pellegrini has vowed to give Manchester City the perfect parting gift of a Champions League place at the expense of Manchester United, while champions Leicester will bring down the curtain on their astonishing season at Chelsea on Sunday.

With a memorable Premier League campaign coming to a conclusion with the final round of fixtures this weekend, the focus is split between the Manchester rivals’ battle for the last spot in Europe’s elite club competition and a fitting finale for Leicester as the fairytale champions bow out at the home of last year’s winners.

For City manager Pellegrini, his side’s trip to Swansea offers an opportunity to leave on a high note as the Chilean prepares to clear his desk ahead of the arrival of Pep Guardiola, who moves to Eastlands from Bayern Munich in the close-season.

Fourth placed City are two points clear of United and, with their goal difference at +30 compared to their fifth placed rivals’ +12, Pellegrini’s side need only to draw in south Wales to qualify for the Champions League and consign their neighbours to the drudgery of the Europa League.

After three years and three trophies with City, Pellegrini would love to say farewell in style.

“We have always been in the Champions League spots for 37 games, so I think we deserve to be there,” Pellegrini said.

“It’s about a style. For me it’s important to be the highest-scoring team for three seasons, to be always in the Champions League and to win three titles.”

United’s 3-2 defeat at West Ham in midweek took their European fate out of their own hands and Louis van Gaal’s men host Bournemouth knowing only a victory, combined with a City defeat at Swansea, will be enough to snatch a top four finish.

Despite the unpromising situation, United midfielder Michael Carrick, whose side face Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final on May 21, urged his team-mates not to coast through the Bournemouth game.

 

Saracens boss Mark McCall praised the performance of England full-back Alex Goode as the Premiership leaders warmed up for next week's European Champions Cup final with a 43-19 win away to Worcester on Saturday.

Victory saw the London club, bidding for a domestic and continental double, finish top of the Premiership regular season standings and set up a home semi-final against fourth-placed Leicester.

Saracens were 14-7 down against Worcester but, inspired by Goode, scored three first-half tries.

"Alex was rested last week but he was outstanding today and he's been the best full-back in England for some time," said McCall, whose side scored six tries in all including a hat-trick for wing Chris Ashton.

Several Saracens stars spent much of the season on international duty helping England win the Six Nations, with goalkicker Owen Farrell, the Vunipola brothers, Billy and Mako, plus locks George Kruis and Maro Itoje all key members of Eddie Jones's grand slam-winning side.

"To get 80 points, without our internationals (who were) away for such a long period is a tremendous achievement but the best is yet to come as we have a young squad," said McCall.

 

 

 

Syria's army said Wednesday it will abide by a two-day ceasefire in second city Aleppo agreed between the United States and Russia.

"A truce will be in place in Aleppo for 48 hours from 1:00 am on Thursday (2200 GMT on Wednesday)," a statement from Damascus's army command said, according to the official SANA news agency and state television.

Washington and Moscow agreed earlier Wednesday to work with Syria's warring parties to extend a shaky truce to Aleppo, which has seen more than 280 civilians killed in fighting since April 22.

 

 

 

Mercedes released an open letter to fans on Wednesday in which they dismissed social media claims that the German team are deliberately favouring Nico Rosberg over world champion Lewis Hamilton.

 

 

While Rosberg has won the first four races of the season, Hamilton has been bedevilled by mechanical problems and currently lies 43 points behind his German team-mate in second place in the drivers' championship.

 

 

Team boss Toto Wolff said after Sunday's Russian Grand Prix in Sochi that the conspiracy theorists were a "bunch of lunatics lying in their beds with their laptops on their chests".

 

 

And in a 1,100-word letter published on their website, Mercedes said: "To paraphrase Mr Toto Wolff, we have worked our a**es off to get where we are today -- and we have done so as a team.

 

 

Britain's Anthony Joshua could yet defend his International Boxing Federation world heavyweight title at Beijing's Bird's Nest Stadium, promoter Barry Hearn said Monday.

Hearn said he was talking to Chinese officials about a contest involving the 26-year-old Joshua, who won his version of the heavyweight crown when he defeated previous title-holder Charles Martin in London last month.

If the plans become reality it would mean Joshua, a gold medallist at the London 2012 Olympics, fighting in the stadium that was the centrepiece of the 2008 Games.

"When you plan someone's career like Joshua you tend to plan in advance and I think we're two years away from saying we can sell out the Bird's Nest in China," explained Hearn.

 

 

China's Ding Junhui became the first player to reach the semi-finals of this year's World Snooker Championship after thrashing Mark Williams 13-3 inside two sessions on Tuesday.

 

 

Williams, world champion in 2000 and 2003, was largely reduced to the role of a spectator, as Ding -- who had to come through qualifying -- made short work of seeing off the Welshman.

 

 

Ding scored at least a half-century in every frame he won as he increased his first-session lead from 6-2 to 10-2 at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre in northern England.

 

 

Williams potted a mere two balls before the mid-session interval and, although he won the 13th frame, the two-time champion could not stop Ding's march to victory.

 

 

Eliud Kipchoge and Jemima Sumgong gave a timely boost to the tarnished reputation of Kenyan athletics on Sunday with courageous wins in the men's and women's London Marathons.

Kipchoge set a new course record for the men in winning the full-distance London race for the second straight year.

The 31-year-old former track star clocked an official time of 2hrs 03mins 04secs, the second fastest run in history over the distance, just seven seconds shy of the world record set by fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto at the Berlin Marathon in September 2014.

Kipchoge broke clear of another Kenyan, Stanley Biwott, with about three kilometres to go and sprinted home well ahead of Biwott with track legend Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia in third.

He celebrated by raising his finger as he made the final turn but appeared to realise just before the line that he could have broken Kimetto's world best time.