Following an up and down week The Eagles host Aston Villa at Selhurst Park.
It certainly was a stellar away day for Palace fans last week as the team left Old Trafford with a historic three points and a resolute team performance. The Eagles did not create many chances but fans should be encouraged by the clinical display that saw them not waste their precious few. Of course in typical Palace fashion The Eagles followed up this up by losing on penalties to League Two side Colchester United at home in the League Cup. Although it was a mostly second choice team that lined up in the Cup the lack of chances created despite the involvement of first team attackers is concerning. Last week’s result bumped Palace to tenth place and they sit on four points, even with places five through fourteen in the table.
Aston Villa have returned to the top flight following a rare three year spell in the Championship having defeated Derby County in the playoff final last season. This incurred a summer of big spending and big changes at Villa Park as twelve new players came into the club with many older players departing including Palace legend Mile Jedinak. Like Palace, Aston Villa endured a slow start to the season but got back on track with a home victory against Everton last weekend. The Lions enter this game six places, but only one point, behind Palace in sixteenth.
Palace boss Roy Hodgson is likely to stay as close as he can to the side that emerged victorious against The Red Devils but could opt for a less defensive approach at home. This could potentially see the reintroduction of players such as Max Meyer or Andros Townsend in favor of a player like Cheikhou Kouyaté. Expect the same front two to feature again as it was Jordan Ayew’s cool finish that gave Palace the lead in Manchester and Zaha is basically not droppable for this team. One of the few players who at least looked dangerous on the attack against Colchester was Victor Camarasa who made his case for at least a bench spot on Saturday.
It is in defence that Hodgson could face the toughest decisions as he stated midweek that Patrick van Aanholt, Joel Ward, and Jeffery Schlupp were all unavailable for the cup clash. If none of these players recover for the match this weekend it could force Martin Kelly, Sam Woods, or Jaïro Riedewaldout of position at fullback. While none of these are terrible options it is a far from ideal situation as these options are clear downgrades. If Martin Kelly were to be deployed at right-back it would likely mean a reintroduction of the recently benched Scott Dann to the side.
Even with the amount of transfers in at the club it is still shocking to see the amount of change in the team as only four players in the starting line-up against Everton last week were with the team last season. One of the early stars of the season for Villa has been centre-back Tyrone Mings who was recently rewarded for his form with a call-up to the England National team. One of the players that Palace will really have to keep an eye on is Brazilian forward Wesley, the most expensive of the summer signings. The powerful forward opened his Aston Villa account last weekend and will be hungry for more to establish himself as the man to lead the attack for seasons to come.
Of course one cannot talk about Aston Villa without mentioning their dynamic young midfield. The trio includes Manchester City youth product Douglas Luiz who joined talented Scotsman John McGinn and talisman Jack Grealish this summer. Grealish is the star and lifeblood of this Villa team and it is not a stretch to compare him to Wilfried Zaha in terms of the impact that he can have upon a team. The Palace midfield and defence will have to be on top of their game in order to control threat posed by these three, a fact that will be especially important in front of the home crowd.
This has the look of a tough game for Palace and not made easier by their up and down record, think drawing with Cardiff at home last season after winning at Manchester City. Aston Villa will be eager to build on the momentum that they began with their first Premier League win in years and were likely further energized by crushing League Two side Crewe Alexandra 6-1. This is winnable game for The Eagles and starts a run of winnable games before the schedule gets really tough in October, so a win to energize the home fans and build on last week would be ideal for the boys in Red and Blue.