After a comprehensive 0-4 away win at Dover Athletic in the 3rd round of the FA Cup, Alan Pardew will be looking forward to an old but now new challenge in the shape of Premier League and Crystal Palace as the Eagles host neighbors Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday evening. The former Palace midfielder returned to Selhurst Park as manager and has quite a task in hand now of saving Crystal Palace from a relegation scare, something Tony Pulis managed to achieve on a canter last season. The Eagles have just won 3 games so far and sit a lowly 18th in the league, one point away from safety. Alan Pardew looks rejuvenated nonetheless and praised the attitude of his players in training during his first press conference as Palace boss and also stressed on their immediate target – to avoid relegation. He said,
“Most important welcome was at training ground, everyone has been fabulous. The Players have tremendous attitude. We have a tough challenge. we are in bottom 3 with 18 games to go and out home form isn’t good. The players need a lift, hopefully with my arrival and hopefully a signing or two. Realistically one place above relegation this season will see the club being able to build again. You need between 35 and 40 – 40 is your marker in the Premier League. The players have an inner feeling they can do it.”
But the expectations at Tottenham Hotspur are very different, even more so after their statement victory against Chelsea at White Hart Lane. Spurs are on a good run at the moment, having accrued 14 points from the last 6 games, it seems like manager Mauricio Pochettino is slowly getting the team play his way that was largely successful at Southampton. They will travel to South London on the back of a 1-1 draw at Turf Moor in the 3rd round of the FA Cup with a replay at the Lane scheduled to be played 5 days after game-week 21. The visitors are just 3 points from 3rd spot and a win at Selhurst Park could see them move up a place into the fourth spot, with Southampton and Manchester United set to play each other a day after which could result in either of or both the teams drop points.
The two teams shared the spoils during their last meeting in the first week of December after a 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane.
Crystal Palace should be boosted by the return of Murray and McArthur for Alan Pardew’s first league game in charge at Selhurst Park and the pair will need late assessments prior to the fixture. While forward Chamakh is still on his road to recovery and certain to miss out on the Spurs fixture. But the side will also miss influential players in Mile Jedinak and Yannick Bolasie owing to their participation in the Asian Cup and AFCON respectively.
The visiting team have pretty much got a clean bill ahead of the Palace game. While the duo of Lamela & Mason though require a late fitness check and a decision on their availability will be taken come Friday.
Crystal Palace have had eight draws in the league so far. Only Sunderland have managed to draw more. (11)
Although Spurs sit 5th on the actual league table, they are only below Man City when recent form is considered as the Spurs have secured 14 points from a possible 18 in their last 6 games.
Wilfried Zaha – Crystal Palace
To put it bluntly, Zaha has been a disappointment so far. Once the darling of the Palace faithful, Wilfried Zaha earned his big money move to Man United where he was under-used for various reasons. A loan move back to Crystal Palace happened and he was expected to revive his career there but things have not panned out the way he would have liked. The 22-year old can still get back to his best and add a few million quid to his name with a change in management that saw the arrival of Alan Pardew who might be relying on the English winger to deliver the goods in the absence of Bolasie. Zaha has got a few tricks up his sleeve and injects a bit of pace to Palace’s wing play which will come in handy against Spurs with their full backs tending to press the opposition higher up the pitch. He’s managed to score once in his 13 appearances and created 6 chances from open play with a pass accuracy of 76%. If he can turn up on Saturday in front of the Holmesdale fanatics and get in behind the back four, he could pose a few problems to the visitors.
Hugo Lloris – Tottenham Hotspur
Lloris has been in great form of late, justifying his stature among the goalkeepers in the Premier League and European football in general. His statistics speak for themselves as he’s racked up 5 clean sheets so far in 20 games with 2.6 saves per game. He’s averaged a remarkable 95% success in claiming the ball but he’s been lacking in his distribution with only 65% of his passes, both long and short, reach a teammate. He punches 65% of the balls in the air but the French goalkeeper looks more settled now and exudes more confidence and command during set pieces. His vital saves have been keeping Tottenham in games and also contributed to some good results the club has had in the last few games. Tottenham on their day can score goals against any side but if they can keep it tight at the back with Lloris being their brick wall in front of goal, Pardew might have to suffer a poor start to his new venture.
Can Pardew mastermind a Palace victory? No. Not on Saturday. Spurs to edge it.
Crystal Palace 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur