It will be a bittersweet reunion for Tony Pulis and his old club this weekend as Stoke City travel to London to take on his Crystal Palace side.
Both sides are coming into this game on the back of defeats. Crystal Palace were defeated 2-0 by Tottenham in a game that provided us with a definitive example of how not to take a penalty (ahem, Jason Puncheon), and Stoke lost 5-3 at home to Liverpool.
This fixture is an interesting one as it is the first time Stoke will come up against their former manager and the strong arm tactics that he made them famous for. If Palace were to win, then Pulis would undoubtedly feel vindicated about how well he did his job at the Potters. If Stoke win, then fans will only feel better about the club relieving Pulis of his duties in the first place.
Crystal Palace have a number of players who are unavailable for selection. Kagisho Dikgachoi and Jerome Thomas are out of action for a while yet, while Yannick Bolasie may make an appearance if he can get through a late fitness test.
Meanwhile at Stoke, Asmir Begovic is still unavailable due to a broken finger and Robert Huth is still recovering from a knee injury. Oussama Assaidi can also return to the squad after being unavailable against Liverpool.
- Palace have only scored 13 goals from 21 games, meaning only four teams in Premier League history have had fewer at this point in the season.
- There have been five penalties scored Selhurst Park this season, more than at any other stadium in the Premier League.
- Palace have the worst conversion rate in the league at just 7%.
- Stoke have conceded 14 goals in their last four league games.
- They have also failed to win any of their last eight away games in the league.
Palace have found it hard in front of goal this season and it certainly isn’t easy to choose a key player but Dwight Gayle is probably one of their better players. The striker has scored three goals so far in 18 appearances, which is only made better when you note that he has only spent a similar amount of time on the pitch as Assaidi (733 minutes). He has had five shots on target but has fired nine shots wide of the mark, meaning he has a fairly disappointing shooting accuracy of 36%. Creatively, he has only created five chances for his team mates and has no assists to his name. As I said, it isn’t easy to choose a key player for Palace but seeing as goals have been hard to come by, Gayle is more likely to change this than other players in my opinion.
The on-loan Liverpool player will be available once again after having to sit on the sidelines when his employers visited the Britannia last weekend. Assaidi has scored three goals despite playing on the wing and making only 11 appearances. Against Chelsea, he showed just how dangerous he can be and has provided a good attacking threat for Stoke in the games since. He has scored his three goals from five shots on target, missing only three. This gives him a shooting accuracy of 63%. Creatively, he has made 10 chances from open play and created a further three from set pieces. This means he is creating a chance every 55 minutes, although he has no assists to his name yet. His passing ability also provides a threat. In his games so far, 62 of Assaidi’s 71 attempted passes in the final third have found a team mate, giving him an accuracy of 87%. If Assaidi can play at this level again this weekend, then Palace will certainly have their hands full.
Tony Pulis will be desperate to get one over on his former employers and will know that a win could take his side off the bottom of the table, depending on results elsewhere. Of course, Stoke will want to show that they’re better off without Pulis and will know that a defeat will leave them perilously close to the relegation places. Unfortunately for the neutrals, I can’t see this being the most interesting game to watch and I think it will end in a 1-1 draw.