On January 28th, Hull City travel to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace. This is a battle of two of the promoted clubs who, for the moment, are out of the relegation zone. After being in the relegation zone for a long part of this season, Crystal Palace have done well under Tony Pulis to get out of the drop zone, now finding themselves in 16th. Hull have been able to stay out of the relegation zone for most of the season and find themselves higher than most would have anticipated in 11th. This is a classic six pointer and, while it may not be the most glamorous game, it will be a very important game in the relegation race.
Both teams will have to contend with some injuries to some key players. Palace will be missing last season’s leading scorer Glenn Murray, who is still yet to return from a torn ACL. Palace will have Jerome Thomas, Jack Hunt, and Kagisho Dikgacoi all take late fitness tests as they are all questionable to return.
Hull will be without James Chester, Sone Aluko, and Joe Dudgeon. They may get some boost from leading scorer Robbie Brady as he made his return in the FA cup tie vs Southend over the weekend.
This is only the second time the two teams have met in the Premier League and the first time at Selhurst Park. Since the Premier League was created, Crystal Palace have never finished outside of the relegation zone. Hull City are tied with Stoke City for the worst away record in the Premier League, grabbing only five points away from home. When this fixture was played last season in the Championship it ended in a thrilling 4-2 Palace win. In the reverse fixture this season, Palace became the first team to win at the KC stadium with a 1-0 late winner by Barry Bannan.
Hull City have had trouble scoring this season and will try to fix that with new signing Shane Long. Long is lined up to make his Hull debut after sitting out their FA Cup match vs Southend United on Saturday. Hull have scored only seven goals away from the KC stadium and have addressed their lack of goals by bringing in Long and Nikita Jelevic. Long is arriving from West Bromwich Albion where he was the second leading scorer with three league goals. Long will bring pace to run in behind, something Hull have lacked since Sone Aluko got injured. Long is a constant pest to defences and never stops running to chase balls down and pressure center backs on the ball. Long’s three goals at West Brom would make him Hull’s joint top scorer with Robbie Brady and will hope to bring some goals to the goal-thirsty Hull City.
Palace’s main man this season has been Marouane Chamakh and he will need to continue to be the main man against Hull. Chamakh is Palace’s leading scorer with four league goals and has been a major signing for Palace. After Ian Holloway stepped down, Palace brought in Tony Pulis. Pulis plays a certain brand of football and for that to work he needs his strikers to win balls in the air and run tirelessly for second balls. Chamakh can do both of those things and has done well under Pulis. The stats show just that as Chamakh has attempted the most aerial duels in the league and has won possession back every 21 minutes. As far as goals go, Chamakh’s conversion rate of 33% is actually the best in the league, among strikers to play at least 900 minutes. This can be a bit deceiving as he has only taken 12 shots all season but it is still not a bad record this far into the season. Chamakh is key to the Palace system and, while he doesn’t necessarily have to come up with a goal, will have to play well for Palace to grab the three points.
Palace are the second lowest scoring home team and Hull are the second lowest scoring road team. In all likelihood, this will be a low scoring affair. This is a game neither team can afford to lose and both will be going for three points. I’m predicting a drab draw in this one.