The season is fast approaching its climax, but this fixture is far more important for the away side as Crystal Palace are deep in the relegation fight. Newcastle are sitting in mid table and their season is all but over. The only motivating factor left for the home side is that the World Cup is on the horizon and several players have a good chance of traveling to Brazil if they perform well for Newcastle. Both of these sides have struggled to find the net over the past ten games, therefore goals will not be flowing on Saturday. The home side have scored eight goals in their last ten matches, while Palace have one fewer over the same period. Considering their safe position in the league, Newcastle can afford their current slump in front of goal, but Palace need to start scoring soon, or they could see themselves fall into the bottom three.
Unfortunately for Newcastle fans, their season looks set to fizzle out as they appear to be set for either an 8th or 9th place finish. They are currently in 9th place, but if they win their game in hand, they will overtake Southampton. Alan Pardew has another two matches of his stadium ban to serve, before he starts his four match touchline ban. Although his side lost to bottom placed Fulham last weekend, it was the absence of top scorer Loic Remy and full back Mathieu Debuchy that proved costly rather than that of their manager. The final nine games will see Pardew and his coaching staff experiment with the squad to see which players have a long term future at the club. A major summer restructuring is expected and the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa, Luuk de Jong and Papiss Cisse need to prove they deserve a place in Pardew’s squad next season. There has also been a lot of talk about the club’s youngsters over the past couple of weeks, which hints at some of them getting a chance to play first team football before the end of the season.
Unlike their opponents, Crystal Palace are entering into their final nine games with plenty to play for. They are currently just one place and three points above the relegation zone. Tony Pulis has revitalised the club since coming in as manager, but results have started to decline recently, taking two points from four games. Although this is only a minor blip, if they go many more matches without a win, they could find themselves cut adrift as many of their rivals are starting to pick up positive results. Every week will see twists and turns at the bottom, which makes this fixture even more important for Palace as they have a great chance to pick up three points given Newcastle’s injury problems and their relatively safe position in the league. Pulis has brought defensive solidarity to Selhurst Park, which is shown by Palace conceding the least goals in the bottom seven, but they need to start scoring goals. Their goal tally of 19 is the lowest in the league and they need to improve on that very quickly, as their defensive record won’t be enough to keep them up.
The two sides met in December, with Newcastle winning comfortably 3-0 in one of their best performances of the season. They passed the ball at pace and opened Crystal Palace up on a number of occasions, becoming the first side to win at Selhurst Park after Pulis’ appointment. Yohan Cabaye, Daniel Gabbidon (og) and Hatem Ben Arfa (pen) were on the scoresheet for Alan Pardew’s men on that occasion. Their previous meeting at St James’ Park came during the 2009/10 campaign in the Championship with Shaun Derry (og) and Nile Ranger scoring on that occasion in a 2-0 home win. Crystal Palace have only won one of their last 12 meetings with Newcastle in all competitions, that came at St James’ Park in the 1997/8 season.
Newcastle have failed to score in 8 of their last 11 league matches. This highlights the problems that the club is having in front of goal. They have also failed to score when Loic Remy hasn’t been on the pitch this season and the striker will be missing again this weekend.
Crystal Palace have been very poor on the road, taking only 8 points from matches away from Selhurst Park this season. They are even worse in front of goal on their travels, scoring just six goals away from home this campaign.
This season has not been one to remember for Papiss Cisse after he lost his starting place for the first time since joining the club. Everybody remembers the striker’s incredible start to his Newcastle career scoring 13 goals in his first 12 matches, but he has failed to reach this form since, despite threatening to do so at times last season. The Senegalese international has only scored once this season and that came from the spot against Stoke. His shooting accuracy of 50% is still good, but his chance conversion of 4% is awful for a Premier League striker. However, a player of Cisse’s quality has to return to scoring ways at some point and he is still getting into the right positions as was seen last weekend against Fulham.
Assistant manager John Carver said in the press that Cisse was working hard in training to get back to scoring ways, while he also confirmed he would be starting for the next couple of matches. He will be key for Newcastle on Saturday as he tries to take the goal scoring burden from Loic Remy, but he can also cost his side the points as was seen last weekend. Cisse missed a guilt edged chance one-on-one with David Stockdale, before Fulham went straight up the other end and scored. The striker will be hoping he decides the match in a positive manner this weekend.
Tom Ince has started well since making the loan move to Crystal Palace scoring one goal and getting one assist, but he still has plenty more to give over the next nine matches. He will want to impress in the run in as he has yet to decide where he will be playing next season and good performances in the top flight will only see interest increase in the winger. Crystal Palace will be hoping that they will be able to hold onto the promising youngster if they are to remain in the Premier League, but that may prove difficult as Ince won’t be short of offers in the summer.
He has created a chance every 53 minutes since moving to Palace, which highlights that he has the quality to play in the top flight. Newcastle have problems at full back with Mathieu Debuchy injured and Davide Santon only just coming back from injury, therefore Palace will be hoping Ince can create chances this weekend as his pace and direct running will cause the Newcastle defence all sorts of problems. Pardew will need to give orders to the likes of Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran to track back to help the full backs, otherwise Ince and Yannick Bolasie may win the match on their own.
Influential striker Loic Remy will still be missing with a calf injury, while fellow French international Mathieu Debuchy will also miss out with a groin problem. Davide Santon was expected to return this week, but he has contracted tonsillitis, therefore he won’t feature on Saturday. In better news, Sammy Ameobi, Hatem Ben Arfa and Rob Elliot are all on the comeback trail and could feature this weekend. Gael Bigirimana has made his return for the under 21 team and could feature in the Premier League before the end of the season. Newcastle are likely to blood some of their youngsters over the final nine games and Adam Armstrong could feature again after making his debut at Fulham. Rolando Aarons is another youngster who could be involved on Saturday.
Tony Pulis has confirmed that Marouane Chamakh won’t return in time to play at St James’ Park. Dwight Gayle will also be missing with a muscle injury. Danny Gabbidon and Barry Bannen are also doubts, but they were not likely to start anyway. Glenn Murray may continue as the lone striker, or Pulis may opt to pair him with Cameron Jerome as the need for goals increases. Scott Dann and Damien Delaney have formed an impressive partnership at the back, since the former arrived in January, while fellow new signings Ince and Joe Ledley are also likely to start on Saturday. Yannick Bolasie started last week, but he is facing increased competition from Jason Puncheon for his place.
It would be a huge surprise if there is a glut of goals at St James’ Park this weekend, with the match likely to be decided by one goal. Crystal Palace need the result more, which may bring an extra 10% out of the players, therefore I expect them to come out with the three points, but it won’t be pretty. Their wingers will cause Newcastle damage, as the home side will continue to miss Debuchy at right back. The home side need to show something that they have yet to show all season and that is the ability to score without Remy on the pitch. Papiss Cisse and Luuk de Jong both desperately need a goal, but neither have looked likely to find the net in recent weeks. I think this match will see Palace gain a vital three points in their survival fight.
Newcastle 0-1 Crystal Palace