This is, traditionally, more of a Championship fixture than a Premier League fixture. Only since 2013/14 have both Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion truly cemented their place among the elite, with the majority of meetings in the 21st Century coming in the second tier. That said, they do have some Premier League history. The more astute amongst you will remember Albion’s ‘Great Escape’ in 2005, where the Baggies defied the odds to survive at the expense of the Eagles on the final day. That’s not the only fond memory of Saturday’s opponents for Albion fans; a 2-0 victory in 2002 sealed their promotion to the Premier League for the first time.
With this Albion’s 6th consecutive season in the big-time, they seem to have finally shed their ‘yo-yo’ tag. However, the more cynical supporters will be anticipating yet another relegation dogfight in the coming year. For Palace, the outlook is not quite so bleak. After a summer of spending and a bright start, Alan Pardew’s troops have taken up the mantel of ‘Premier League surprise package’, and will have high hopes for the 2015/16 campaign.
The pair clash live on BT Sport at 12:45pm this Saturday.
Indeed, Monday night’s collapse against Everton was grossly out of character for a Tony Pulis side. Shipping 3 goals in 30 minutes, after 4 clean sheets in their previous 6 games, would seem a surprise to the casual observer. However, after an injury to Gareth MacAuley in the warm up, followed by Jonas Olsson’s departure in the first half, it was clear that the Baggies’ defence had lost their metal. Olsson’s replacement, James Chester, was dragged around like a rag doll by Romelu Lukaku. He was directly responsible for 2 of Everton’s 3 goals. Pulis will be sweating on the fitness of his first choice centre backs to avoid a leaky afternoon on Saturday.
At the other end of the pitch, Salomon Rondon was taken off after a knock. If fit, he will lead the line with Saido Berahino, who has scored twice since threatening to go on strike. James McClean, ‘Man of the Match’ on MNF, should occupy the other flank. His work rate away from home has served his side well this season.
Alan Pardew has confirmed that Damien Delaney, Mile Jedinak, Joel Ward and Conor Wickham will all miss out this weekend through injury. You never can tell if managers mean exactly what they say, but I hardly think there will be too many mind games in play for Crystal Palace v West Brom.
Wilfried Zaha, left on the bench for the game at Watford, could return to the starting XI after winning the decisive penalty at Vicarage Road.
The fledgling Premier League rankings make pleasant reading for Crystal Palace fans. Their side sit 7th on 12 points, 8 places higher than West Brom. However, only 7 games in, the table has not yet taken its true form. In fact, it is so tight that a win for the away side on Saturday will reduce the gap between the two to just one point.
Logic would dictate that Albion are a shoo-in this weekend. Palace are the undisputed kings of the road, winning 9 out of their 12 away games under Alan Pardew, but their home form has not been quite so impressive. Albion have won 7 of their 8 points this season away from the Hawthorns, with 1-0 wins at Stoke and Aston Villa. They are yet to concede away from home this year, and, after a 2-0 win at Selhurst Park last year, Albion fans will be hoping for another fruitful afternoon.
The head to head record since Palace’s top flight return is dead even (2-2-2).
‘The Pulis Effect’ is no myth. West Brom have scored 13 set-piece goals since the Welshman took over. Only Crystal Palace, Pulis’ former side, have more in the same period (14). Old habits die hard.
Yohan Cabaye – Everybody knew what a coup it was when Crystal Palace signed Yohan Cabaye from PSG for £12.8m. A tried, tested, Premier League star. Too many sides, Cabaye’s former club Newcastle United included, spend big bucks on unproven players. It’s a risk, and it doesn’t always pay off. It’s much wiser to invest your money in what you know. Pardew knew Cabaye, and knew he would bring that added guile and quality to his squad. The Frenchman has not disappointed. With 2 goals already, the midfielder has oozed class from the opening day. He will undoubtedly become a fan favourite, and will be pulling the strings this weekend.
Jonny Evans – For me, Albion’s acquisition of Jonny Evans is one of the signings of the summer. With plenty of veteran defenders such as Joleon Lescott, Younes Kaboul and Sylvain Distin on the move in the transfer window, Evans’ £6m move from Manchester to the West Midlands in August slipped under the radar. It is, by far, the most convincing of the lot. The 27-year-old has almost 200 appearances for United and 3 Premier League titles. Pedigree indeed. He has made an instant impact at the Hawthorns, providing experience, composure and ability in a back-line that has been lacking in all three departments in recent seasons. Put simply, he’s a Tony Pulis kind of player. He will be hoping to continue his good form at Selhurst Park.
I can’t see this being a high scoring affair. Mind you, I also said Man City would win at Tottenham. Albion are likely to come and play for the draw, hoping to nick a goal on the break or from a set-piece. Palace will be their usual, attacking selves, which could make for a decent game. I think a score draw is the most likely outcome.
Crystal Palace 1-1 West Bromwich Albion
The home side are the favourites with Betfred at 5/6.
For a repeat of last year’s success, Albion can be backed at 22/5 with BetVictor
The draw is 27/10 with Sportingbet.