This week the struggling Eagles will host Newcastle at Selhurst Park.
The new decade certainly has not gotten off to the start that many Palace fans were expecting. Despite having a strong first half of the season, The Eagles have continuously slipped down the table and now sit a mere six points above the drop zone in fourteenth place. This poor run of form has seen them not win a match and only take three points from six games since the start of the calendar year, including losing their last three games.
Newcastle do not find themselves in a much better position than Palace. The Toons sit one point and one place above their opponents, but have been on better for recently. Last week’s hammering at the hands of Arsenal saw the end of a run of eight games unbeaten across all competitions. Pressure from the fans continues to grow over the style of owner Mike Ashley, and a slip closer to the relegation zone would only mount pressure on manager Steve Bruce.
One of the more interesting debates leading up to this match will be about what formation Roy Hodgson should deploy. With Christian Benteke netting his first goal of the season against Everton and Cenk Tosun returning from injury the case could be made for a 4-4-2. This would likely force James McCarthy too the bench in favor of keeping Zaha or Ayew on the bench. In defence expect former captain Scott Dann to start alongside Gary Cahill after replacing James Tomkins due to injury in the last match. The Englishman almost left the club in January but could find a new path to playing time if he takes advantage of this opportunity.
On paper Newcastle provide an even match to the talent of Crystal Palace, and are equally goal-shy. They have a solid overall squad with some above average players who stand out. Perhaps their best player is Slovakian keeper Martin Dúbravka who marshals a five man back line that has experienced great flux this season, as injury and form drops have kept the group ever unstuck. Former England international Jonjoe Shelvey will be missing from the middle of the park this week and the Toon midfield will miss his creative spark. This will likely see loan signing Nabil Bentaleb in the starting line-up once again, despite criticism of his play against Arsenal last week.
Despite a low goal return, Newcastle have some talent in the attacking areas. Attackers Miguel Almirón, Allan Saint-Maximin, and Joelinton are all young players who have all begun to flash the talent that attracted their massive transfer fees. They could be bolstered off the bench by Palace villain Andy Carroll, if he returns from injury in time for the match. This will put greater pressure on Scott Dann as he will likely be targeted by Newcastle, as he is making only his seventh appearance of the season.
In a game in which one goal could be the difference, Palace must ensure that they are not the side to concede it. As has been the case far too often this season, Palace will likely rely on a moment of magic to leave this match with three points. With Wilfried Zaha expected to remain the centre of the defence’s attention it could fall of Jordan Ayew, or perhaps Andros Townsend off the bench against his old club, to produce the moment that can deliver three points to the home fans.