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Crystal Palace vs West Bromwich Albion: 13/03/2021 – match preview and predicted starting XIs

Crystal Palace vs West Bromwich Albion

Date: 13/03/2021

K/O: 15:00

Venue: Selhurst Park

Referee: Simon Hooper

TV: Sky Sports

At Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace will attempt to complete their first-ever league double over West Bromwich Albion this weekend.

This is a league where fans are quenched with tactical spectacles masterminded by some of the greatest managers to ever live, including Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho to name a couple.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, this match features two men who will long be remembered similarly, but not in the same glory. Between them, Sam Allardyce, manager of West Brom, and Roy Hodgson, at the helm of Palace, have taken charge of the fate of 12 Premier League clubs without ever being relegated. That in itself is a glorious achievement that has created so many long-lasting memories for various sets of fans. But could this be the last time we see these two managers face-off, could this be the end of a generation?

Earlier in the season, Palace swept aside the Baggies 1-5 following a contentious 34th minute Matheus Pereira red card, who was sent off for serious foul play. It was Palace’s highest goal tally away from home in the Premier League, but it came just two weeks before their biggest ever league loss, 0-7 at home to Liverpool. Such have been the inconsistencies of Hodgson’s team this season; the predictability in their play and unpredictability in their results has been torturous for Palace fans this season.

This weekend they face West Brom, who will need the ‘Sam Allardyce’ miracle to stave off relegation. This match represents just one of a few remaining opportunities they have to steal points off ‘beatable’ opposition for Allardyce and the club.

Their recent defensive form – just two goals conceded in their last five appearances – will give them some confidence going into the match. This has helped them produce three draws and a win over this stretch of form. Although, for them to survive the drop, more than a draw will be needed against Palace.

However, this is a Palace side that will present as a more difficult task to defend against than they have recently. Without their talisman, Wilfried Zaha, there has been a distinct lack of attacking endeavour that has been almost non-existent since he left the field injured during their 2-1 win against Newcastle United in February. His return against Tottenham in matchweek 27 was welcomed by the team shipping another three goals after he was introduced at half-time.

With a plethora of fanciful and skilled attacking players, Zaha’s return as the second-striker will usher in a greater intent going forward. For the entirety of his absence, Hodgson almost refused to risk watching his side attack, in favour of defensive solidity – something, admittedly, the club had lost in preceding times. Now with this season’s top goal scorer back in business, the hope is that Zaha will be able to spearhead an attack lacking nous, movement and spontaneity.

West Brom’s aforementioned defensive record will render this difficult. Especially considering that the majority of Palace’s starting side will have been managed by Allardyce just three years ago. This means that the West Brom manager will have a clearer idea of the strengths and weaknesses of his opposition than most.

The fate of this tie remains a mystery as much as – and more than – any other this weekend. These are the two bottom sides for expected goals for and both are in the bottom four for expected goals against, as per fbref.com. This could be a typically turgid bottom-half of the table clash or a match filled with unfashionable, yet still enjoyable goals. Who knows.

Teams News

Crystal Palace

Zaha will return to the starting XI. As could Jeffrey Schlupp, who has made two substitute appearances over the last two matches following his return from injury. No one else from the injury list is fit to return but, at the same time, no one new has been added to the rehab room which is a positive.

After this weekend, Palace have a three-week break which could see the return of two academy full-backs, Nathaniel Clyne and Tyrick Mitchell. While the two James’s in midfield, McCarthy and McCarthur, should also return following the break.

Another piece of positive news for the club is that 18-year-old striker, David Omilabu, has signed his first professional contract after scoring 11 goals, with an assist, in 14 combined under-18 and under-23 appearances this season.

West Bromwich Albion

Grady Diangana appeared briefly, contributing a goal for the under-23s over this past weekend. His ingenuity and flare could be a useful addition to the team for the run home. His return may offset the abrupt absence of Robert Snodgrass, who collected an unspecified injury during training this past week.

Predicted Starting XIs

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Guaita; Ward, Kouyaté, Cahill, van Aanholt; Schlupp, Milivojevic, Riedewald, Eze; Benteke, Zaha

West Brom (4-1-4-1): Johnstone; Furlong, O’Shea, Bartley, Townsend; Yokuslu; Pereira, Gallagher, Maitland-Niles, Phillips; Diagne

Score Prediction: Crystal Palace 2–0 West Bromwich Albion

The return of both Zaha and Schlupp to the starting XI cannot be understated for Palace. They will undoubtedly breathe new life into a tiring attack. However, Mbaye Diagne has caused some significant issues for opposition defences recently without too much end product. Will his, and West Brom’s duck, finally break?

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