After cocking up a game we should have won on Wednesday, this one feels all the more important – especially against a side who we could leapfrog in the league with a win but could go FIVE points behind with a defeat.
Results have been mixed for us today too. Swansea getting another great result with a point at Leicester, Brighton beating West Ham (although that does keep Moyes’ men well and truly in the mix) and Southampton beating West Brom (however that result means we could go SEVEN points clear of Pardew with a win tomorrow..).
At the end of the day, we can look at other results as much as we like, but ultimately it all depends on us. Palace have been much improved under Hodgson and have some dangerous in their side (Zaha being by far the most threatening one), but these are the sort of games that could define our destiny this season.
Given some results today, our lack of ‘winnable’ fixtures to come and the prospect of facing Man Utd next, this is a game we really need to be taking points from.
Three points would be HUGE and perhaps even bigger than recent away wins at Stoke and West Ham in the circumstances. Both of those recent away victories should give us real confidence, as should the fact that a win would send us up to 12th! I’m getting greedy now, but winning by more than 1 would see us up to 11th, leapfrogging Watford, showing just how tight it all is in the bottom half of the table this season.
The Team I’d like to see start
It’s highly unlikely, but Rafa has confirmed that Slimani’s injury isn’t as bad as initially suggested and he’s been in training yesterday. He’ll most likely start on the bench, but it would be a huge boost to have him in from the off – especially given Joselu and Gayle’s current form.
Regardless of who starts up top, I’d have Kenedy and Murphy on the wings. The former was one of the best players on the pitch on Wednesday and the latter has been our top performing winger in recent weeks and deserves a run in the team. Ritchie and Atsu need to pull their finger out to earn a start in my opinion. Atsu was very poor against Burnley and offered next to nothing. He’s been good in spells this season, but there can be no passengers allowed at this stage.
Merino and Diame deserve another shot at it in midfield, however I think Shelvey will come in for Merino if I had to guess (two games in just over 4 days).
At the back it’s as you’d expect. I have little faith in Yedlin given Palace’s threats out wide, however I have even less faith in Manquillo.
Ones to watch..
Wilfried Zaha – The most obvious one and one of the best players outside the top 6 for me. He’s their match winner and an explosive talent who is so hard to keep quite. Stopping him will be the key tomorrow – especially with Sako and Townsend set to miss out.
Christian Benteke – Hasn’t been at his best this season but is a real handful in the air. I would fancy Clark against him in an aerial duel, so hope Lascelles can do a job on him tomorrow.
Mamadou Sakho – Their best defender and a player who could return to their back line after a spell out. He’s unpredictable and unconventional in his style, but he’s a big player for them when fit. Joselu had little joy against him in the air at St James’ (and that’s one thing he actually is good at).
For an inside look into today’s opponents, take a look at this week’s edition of the ‘Opposition Opinion’ which can be found on the home page. A great insight into tomorrow’s opponents from a Palace fan.
Newcastle – 16th (24 pts) – Last 5 in the league – Won: 1 / Drawn: 3 / Lost: 1
Burnley – 15th (26 pts) – Last 5 in the league – Won: 2 / Drawn: 2 / Lost: 1
Rafa has hinted that both Slimani and Dubravka could make the squad after training this week, however it’s unlikely either start.
Aside from Gamez (who seems to be constantly AWOL/injured at NUFC), it seems we’re pretty much full fit.
Former Mag Townsend could miss out, however Bakary Sako, Schlupp, Dann, Loftus-Cheek, Puncheon and Wickham.
Predicted NUFC XI – (4-2-3-1) – Darlow – Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett – Diame, Shelvey – Ritchie, Perez, Kenedy– Gayle
Predicted Palace XI – (4-3-3) – Hennessey – Fosu-Mensah, Tomkins, Sako, Van Aanholt – Cabaye, Milivoyevic, McCarthur – Townsend, Benteke, Zaha.
Pre-Burnley I said my head expected a draw and my heart a win. For this one my head’s telling me we might struggle, but as I alluded to above, stopping Wilfried Zaha will be massive. On our side, it’s also important (for me) that Rafa makes some positive changes. We were good against Burnley and deserved to win, but Murphy and Slimani (if fit) could give us a real boost.
If we can deal with Benteke’s aerial threat, keep Zaha quiet and pack more of a punch in attack (Slimani, Murphy and Kenedy could help with that no end) then I don’t see why we couldn’t win, however I expect another draw.
Wouldn’t be the worst result in the world, but wins really are gold dust at this stage – especially when we face Man Utd next weekend.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-1 Newcastle
Howay the lads!