‘The Opposition Opinion’ returns for the second time this week as we look ahead to today’s big game with a few intriguing insights from a Palace fan.
Here we’re looking to bring you a view from the other side before each and every game this season, interviewing an opposing fan to gain their opinions on NUFC, some insights into their own club and their thoughts on of our upcoming match.
This week we’ve been speaking to Crystal Palace fan Steve, whose had the following to say ahead of our visit to Selhurst Park.
1) What have you made of your season so far & what sort of shape do you feel you’re coming into today’s game? It’s a huge game for both of us!
“I don’t need to tell you this as you’ll already know, but the season started absolutely horribly under De Boer. Yes he wasn’t given long enough to implement his ‘philosophy’ onto the team, but the PL is a brutal game and it was lucking grim in all respects.
“I was initially underwhelmed by Hodgson but he’s done brilliantly. We’ve got a decent squad and he’s getting the best of most of them, although I’m frustrated by our lack of January activity.
“Aside from Hodgson’s home debut (loss), we’ve very rarely losetat home. Two of our 4 defeats at Selhurst came in De Boer’s first few games and we often seem to make it difficult for teams. I’ve probably cursed it now though..”
2) What have you made of Newcastle this season and our current side? Who do you see as our threats & is there any players/areas that you see as weak links in our team that you feel you can exploit?
“I’ve seen and heard more of NUFC than most Palace fans as a good mate of mine is a Geordie working in London.”
“I feel for Rafa. He’s a top class manager but you can’t polish a turd..”
“He’s not been given the tools to succeed at a big club like Newcastle and that must infuriate you boys.”
“Threats – Shelvey’s balls in behind (I rate his passing range), Merino (looks a proper player), Lascelles from set pieces, Diame’s power (we’ve got a small midfield) and Slimani if he’s ready to start? I saw a bit of him at Leicester and thought he looked like a monster in the air.
“He’s not a threat, but I think Dummett gets unfair flack from some NUFC fans I’ve spoken to. Always seemed a solid defender when I’ve seen him.
“Weaknesses – Yedlin/Manquillo (I have seen bits of both this season and think Zaha could tear them a new one), Darlow (we’re good from set pieces and he doesn’t seem a commanding presence) and Joselu (seems to go to pieces in front of goal – really hope he starts!)
“I’d mention Gayle, whose looks pretty lost and disinterested when I’ve watched you this season, although he had a knack of scoring at Selhurst when he was with us. He’ll probably come on from the bench and bag now!”
3) Likewise, where do the strengths & weaknesses lie in your Palace side? Any players for us to watch out for today for any particular reason?
“Zaha is our stat man – he’s got the pace, power, skill and pure unpredictability to cause problems for the best of them. He puts opposition defenders on egg shells in the box. He’s so difficult to deal with and has won so many penalties for us.
“Benteke is unplayable on his day but we’ve not seen that enough so far this season. Townsend is a consistent performer for us now after a dodgy start to his Palace career. Bakary Sako came in and was doing brilliantly, but he’s out for the season now after doing his ankle in this week! Shame.
“Sakho is a funny old footballer, being able to look like bamby on ice one minute and Paulo Maldini the next! That being said, his return is a big boost fo us and I’m hoping he starts today. But still, he’s one to watch – as is Hennessey whose either brilliant or dire.”
“Weakness – I don’t rate Van Aanholt defensively and find out midfield to be a little slow and un-mobile, especially now Loftus-Cheek is out for a while.
“We also rely on Zaha a little too much. With Sako out and Townsend a doubt, we need Zaha to perform and Benteke to step up.”
4) What sort of game do you think it’ll be & how do you see the match panning out? Score prediction?
“We usually play with a decent intensity and good attacking intent at home. I imagine Rafa will have you lot sit in and hope to try and take your chances on the counter.
“I’m hoping we’ll have too much for you in forward areas, but with Sako, Loftus Cheek and potentially Townsend all out then it may be difficult for us if Wilf doesn’t turn up (although he usually does).
“I’ll say we’ll sneak a 2-1 win, but wouldn’t be surprised to see you get a point.”
5) How do you think both sides will fare over the remainder of the season? Predictions for rough league position for both & your three teams to go down?!
“I think we’ll stay up as we have wins in us, however injuries and a lack of January spending have left me wondering just how comfortably we’ll manage. Today is key for us to create some breathing space from the bottom three.
“I reckon it’ll go down to the wire with you lads. If Slimani stays fit and does the business then I think you’ll have enough (especially with Rafa’s experience which will be key in the final stages), however I do worry that there’s only so much he can do. Time for some of your players to step up if you want to survive?
“I’ll say 16th for you lot and 13th for us.”
“Three to go down – Huddersfield (they look awful right now and have ran out of steam), West Brom (Currently bottom and big loss yesterday) and then either you, Swansea or Brighton (sorry!)”
6) Finally, if you could make the best possible combined XI out of our two squads, what would yours be?
“Quite biased in areas, but I do think we’ve got quite a few superior players – especially in attack:
“(4-2-3-1) Elliot – Fosu-Mensah, Lascelles, Sakho, Dummett – Shelvey, Merino – Townsend, Loftus-Cheek, Zaha, Benteke”
Some really interesting bits in this one from a Palace fan that seems to know a lot more about NUFC than most opposition fans we’ve spoke to this season.
Struggle to argue with this combined XI when it comes to attacking areas. That team of his proves just why we’re struggling to compete with some of the sides around us – what we’d give for that front 4!
Also interesting to see how much he feels they rely on Zaha. We’ll have a job containing him, but we might just be onto something if we do.
We’ll be back next week with the thoughts of a Man Utd fan ahead of their trip to St James’ on Sunday.
Big game at the bottom, this – HWTL!