Crystal Palace entertain champions Manchester United on Saturday in the day’s evening kick-off. The Eagles go into the fixture without having played a game for two weeks due to their game against Everton being postponed and a round of FA Cup fixtures last week.
The Eagles are in great form under Tony Pulis, and they have only lost one game at home since the Welshman took charge. United have only won two of their last six games and a spot in the top four is beginning to look increasingly unlikely. The Red Devils sit two places behind Palace in the form guide, as the Eagles have won three of their last six games. United are without an away win in three games, something they will hope to change against a resolute Palace side.
Crystal Palace go into this fixture with only one injury concern. Winger Jerome Thomas faces a late fitness test after suffering from a back injury. Joe Ledley, Thomas Ince and Scott Dann are likely to retain their places in the starting line-up. Jonathan Parr could earn his place back in the team at left back with Joe Ledley moving into midfield. Manchester United have a few injured players who will miss the fixture: Danny Welbeck (Knee), Rafael (Concussion), Johnny Evans (Calf) and Nani (Hamstring) will all miss the game. Phil Jones could be back in the squad after suffering a concussion in the game against Stoke.
When the two teams met in September, Palace lost 2-0 after a controversial penalty and sending off for Kagisho Dikgacoi after a foul on Ashley Young. This was the first meeting between the teams in the Premier League for nine years. The last time the two teams met at Selhurst Park in the league, the game ended 0-0. Only Julian Speroni remains from the Crystal Palace squad from that day where he was an unused substitute. Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs are United’s survivors from that fixture nearly ten years on. Crystal Palace’s last victory against United came in the League Cup in 2001 when they triumphed 2-1. Their last league win came over twenty years ago at Selhurst Park in 1991 – they won 3-1.
Thomas Ince arrived at Palace on loan until the end of the season on transfer deadline day. With his contract up in the summer, the forward is looking to show the Premier League what he is capable of. Ince had a great start on his debut, grabbing the opening goal and contributing an assist for fellow debutant Joe Ledley. The former Blackpool man created two chances, one of which was clear-cut for his teammate. He also managed a 100% shot accuracy with both of his two shots landing on target. After such a good start to his Palace career, Ince will want to impress against a Manchester United team who aren’t in the best of form. Ince managed 18 league goals last season, and has scored 7 this season for Blackpool before leaving for Palace. If he can make the step up to Premier League football and continue those goal scoring exploits, he will make a great contribution to Palace’s survival bid.
Robin Van Persie’s season has been hampered by injury. Despite this, when he has played, the Dutchman has been in fantastic form for United. Van Persie has 10 goals in 14 starts this season. One of those goals came against Palace at Old Trafford and so he will feel confident that he can get on the score sheet this Saturday. Despite all of his injuries, Van Persie has managed a goal every 123 minutes. Despite this not being the best record in the league due to the exploits of Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero, it is still a very good return. Van Persie has also managed two assists this season, meaning he has contributed directly to 12 United goals this season. Van Persie has managed to score in 3 of his last 4 league games, showing that he is a very important cog in the United machine. With 6 of his 10 goals coming against teams in the bottom half, David Moyes will be confident that Van Persie can lead his team to victory.
Taking both teams’ form into account, a Crystal Palace win would not be a great surprise to many. Despite their great home form, Palace are yet to beat a team in the top half this season. If United are able to put in a good performance, they should be too strong for the Eagles. Both teams have had a long break and should be fresh going into the fixture. It is certain to be a good game. I predict a 2-1 United win.