Crystal Place vs West Ham United
Venue: Selhurst Park
Referee: Craig Pawson
Crystal Palace host their second London derby in a week as they welcome West Ham United to Selhurst Park on Saturday – a side they haven’t beaten in any of the last seven meetings. In fact, they have only beaten the Hammers once at home since their return to the Premier League in 2013 and that was the first meeting, in December of that same year.
The Eagles are coming off the back of a 2-0 win over West London rivals Fulham, their first win in the league since the away win at Wolverhampton Wanderers at the turn of the year and their first win at Selhurst Park since the 15th December. West Ham make the short trip south of the river off the back of impressively restricting the league leaders Liverpool to a 1-1 draw, although it still leaves them with just one victory in the last six league games, and winless in the last three.
West Ham currently sit comfortably in 12th place in the Premier League, level on points with Leicester City, five points ahead of nearest rivals Brighton and six ahead of their opponents on the weekend. If the sides above them drop points, then the Hammers could see themselves climb back into the top half of the table if they were to come away from South Norwood with all three points. Palace on the other hand can only potentially move above Brighton with a win but could fall as far as 17th with a loss depending on results around them.
In their last meeting at the start of December, it was a 20 minute period at the start of the second half where goals from Robert Snodgrass, Javier Hernández and Felipe Anderson, gave West Ham a 3-1 lead after being behind at half time thanks to a James McArthur strike. The Hammers went onto win 3-2, after Jeffrey Schlupp scored a consolation goal for the away side on the day.
The biggest concern for the home side is the fitness of midfielder Cheikhou Kouyaté, who was ruled out of the win over Fulham with an ankle injury he sustained in the game prior to that against Southampton. He will have a late fitness check, but if he does not pass it, it will likely mean a rare start for German Max Meyer, or Jefferey Schlupp playing a more central role.
Michy Batshuayi should make his first start for the South London club after making an immediate impact in his debut, coming off the bench and seeing his snapshot saved only for Schlupp to score the follow-up. The question will be whether Hodgson returns to his favoured 4-3-3 formation with Batshuayi as the lone striker flanked by Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha, who returns after serving his one-match suspension. Or Hodgson could stick with the 4-4-2 formation he used against Fulham, and partner Batshuayi with either Jordan Ayew or the recently returned Christian Benteke, meaning Zaha and Townsend move into midfield, either side of James McArthur and captain Luka Milivojević in central midfield.
Others that are ruled out are defender Pape Souaré who will be out until the start of March after suffering a dislocated shoulder in Palace’s FA Cup third-round game against Grimsby Town, and Alexander Sørloth who was loaned out to KAA Gent for the remainder of the season.
West Ham United
The Hammers have the busiest treatment room in the league at the moment, with eight players currently out injured with a mixture of short and long term complaints. Two who should be back in contention for the weekend are Marko Arnautovic and Samir Nasri, who both missed out on the 1-1 draw with Liverpool last time out. Both men were withdrawn during the defeat to Wolves on the 29th January with Nasri suffering a minor calf injury, and Arnautovic leaving with a protective boot on after injuring his foot.
They are the only two who have not been ruled out completely, unlike the rest of the physio room occupants. One of the most missed is Paraguayan centre-back Fabián Balbuena, who has been out since before Christmas with a knee injury. On the 10th January, manager Manuel Pellegrini stated that he would be out for a further six to eight weeks after having surgery on the meniscus on his left knee, which would mean a return around the end of February.
Long term injuries continue to keep the likes of Andriy Yarmalenko, Jack Wilshere, Carlos Sánchez, Winston Reid and Manuel Lanzini on the shelf, although Lanzini has returned to training as of the 24th January, but is still said to be three to four weeks off a playing return. Youngster Reece Oxford is not available for selection as he has been loaned out to German side Augsburg until the end of the season.
Predicted Starting XIs
Crystal Palace (4-3-3): Guita; Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, van Aanholt; McArthur, Milivojević, Meyer; Townsend, Batushuayi, Zaha
West Ham United (4-5-1): Fabianski; Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Rice, Antonio, Noble, Snodgrass, Anderson; Hernandez
Score Prediction: Crystal Palace 2 West Ham United 1
It will be a close affair between the fairly evenly matched sides and it could come down to the personnel that both sides are able to put out. If Arnautovic and Nasri both miss out, then Palace should nick it by the single goal.