These two sides meet at Selhurst Park on Boxing Day looking to reinvigorate their season – but in slightly different ways. Home side Crystal Palace haven’t won any of their last five games with their last victory coming against Liverpool over a month ago. Neil Warnock’s side are precariously hovering above the drop zone at the moment with the Eagles tied on 15 points with 18th placed Burnley. Southampton are also in need of another win despite their excellent 3-0 victory over Everton last weekend. Ronald Koeman’s side have seen something of a drop off in form that many predicted would come after Southampton’s blistering start to the season. The Saints currently sit in 5th place with just one win in five, which was preceded by four straight league losses – including a humbling 1-0 loss to lowly Burnley.
Amazingly, Palace have just the one confirmed injury heading into this Boxing Day clash with striker Marouane Chamakh suffering from a hamstring strain – not too shabby for the midway point in the season.
Southampton are a little bit worse for wear as they have five injuries currently affecting the squad – although three of those injuries could be okay come matchday. Dusan Tadic (groin), Simon Gallagher (knee) and Jake Hesketh (knee) could all be back before the Palace game, which would give the manager a massive boost heading into the busy Christmas schedule. The other two names on the Southampton injury list are attacker Jay Rodriguez, who is still sidelined with his ACL knee injury, and Jack Cork who is out until mid January with an ankle injury.
- Palace have lost just one of their five Premier League Boxing Day games (W2, D2, L1).
- Southampton have lost just one of their last six Premier League games played on Boxing Day (W2, D3, L1).
- Southampton have won their last five league games against Palace without the Eagles finding the net.
- Palace have never beaten Southampton in the Premier League (D4, L6).
- Only once have Palace enjoyed over 50% possession in a game this season (Sunderland 3rd Nov, 53.5%).
Julian Speroni has easily been one of Crystal Palace’s most consistent performers since the Eagles returned to the Premier League. At 35, Speroni has become a decent Premier League goalkeeper and could perhaps go beyond Palace if he wanted one last hurrah at another club. Speroni has agile reflexes and commands his penalty area pretty well – much like his opposite number from Southampton, Frazier Forster.
This season, Speroni hasn’t had the tight and well drilled defence ahead of him that Tony Pulis created in the second half of last season so goals are being conceded more regularly (1.57 per 90 minutes played to be exact) – clear to see with Palace struggling in 17th place after finishing 11th under Pulis. However, despite this, Speroni is still averaging 1.08 saves per goal conceded, which means he’s still doing the best job he can. His distribution could be higher but Palace are not well known for their smart, passing football from back to front so most passes are probably long ones from the goalkeeper. Speroni has continued to command his box this season which can compensate for the lacklustre defending somewhat – the Argentinian completes 2.35 catches p90.
No doubt the duel with Southampton’s key man will be a challenging and intriguing one.
Graziano Pelle has been nothing short of a success so far this season and the frontman’s form over the course of his debut Premier League season is a huge positive for Ronald Koeman.
So far this campaign, Pelle has bagged eight goals in 17 league appearances with his home form being particularly good – seven of his eight goals have come at the St. Mary’s. Pelle has also contributed 22 chances to the team’s creativity with two assists included.
Pelle is also a good focal point for the Saints’ attack with his height and strength a useful asset. This could be of particular importance against an aerially strong Palace side. Importantly, Pelle has won exactly 50% of his headed duels – a strong figure. However, Pelle is much more than a tall target man. The Italian has also completed 50% of his six attempted take ons – much better than Andy Carroll – this allows Southampton to play their best football on the ground.
My prediction for this game is 1-1. I’m sure Saints are 100% back on track despite their 3-0 win against Everton because the Merseyside team are very dodgy at the moment too. Palace will provide a stern test at Selhurst Park so if Saints are to win they might need a lift from Pelle who, as mentioned above, has only one away goal all season. 1-1 for me.