Crystal Palace vs Newcastle United
Venue: Selhurst Park
Referee: Andre Marriner
Newcastle make the long journey down south to the capital in pursuit of extending their three-game unbeaten run over Crystal Palace, and in the process, getting their first win of the season.
The Magpies go into the game off the back of four 2-1 defeats out of their five league games this season; a scoreless draw with Cardiff providing their only point so far. Palace on the other hand, will be trying to win back to back games for the first time this campaign after battling through a tough 1-0 victory at Huddersfield. Wilfried Zaha once again proved to be the difference between the sides, a wonderful solo goal giving the South Londoners their first three points since the opening weekend.
However, contrary to current form, the history of the fixture is against the hosts, as they have only beaten the Tyneside club twice since the inception of the Premier League in 1992; the most recent of which was a 5-1 home win in November 2015. Newcastle won the following two games, both by the score 1-0, and the side shared the honours in the latest meeting, a 1-1 draw at Selhurst in February.
The Geordies currently reside in the relegation zone, with only Burnley propping them up with a worse goal difference. They have had one of, if not the most difficult starts with the fixtures, having to face Tottenham, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Arsenal in their first five. With a series of more favourable fixtures now on the horizon, three points on Saturday would be the kickstart their season truly needs.
Palace were buoyed by the welcome return to the starting line-up of James Tomkins and Wilfried Zaha, with the latter getting on the scoresheet with the winner against Huddersfield. These returns are massive positives for the South London side, as they have still only lost the once whilst having the partnership of Tomkins and Sakho in the heart of the defence, and they always struggle to pick up any points without talisman Zaha.
Pape Souaré is a doubt for the squad with a muscle injury sustained before the Watford game, but he would not trouble the first team selection if he was fully fit. There is still no return for long-term absentees Scott Dann and Connor Wickham.
Hodgson swapped up the formation for the trip to the John Smith’s last time out, moving from the 4-4-2 he had used in the first four games, to a 4-3-3 that Palace fans had been more accustomed to in previous seasons. It saw summer signing Kouyaté making his full debut in the midfield alongside McArthur and Milivojevic. It looks like Roy will go the same way this weekend, and keep Ayew in his place in the attack ahead of Sørloth in Benteke’s absence, as he said after the game that he thought the Ghanian was “excellent; really really good”.
Rafa Benitez should have the choice of a near enough fully fit squad, with returns to full fitness for Jonjo Shelvey and Kenedy. The Brazilian did come on as a second-half substitute, replacing Jacob Murphy, but failed to impress. Shelvey spent the whole game watching from the sidelines, but the Newcastle fans will be hoping he returns to the starting eleven, as he is their most creative player when bridging the gap between the midfield and attack.
The only exceptions are Florian Lejeune, who is out long-term with a knee injury, and club captain Jamaal Lascelles. Lascelles is the bigger headache, of course, being the leader of the team and a physical presence in the backline.
He came back into the side after patching things up with the manager, but sustained an injury in the warm-up, and although he started the game, Benitez withdrew him during halftime. Rafa said after the game that it was a twisted ankle, and will have to see what the doctors say in terms of whether he’ll be available for Sunday.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Crystal Palace: Hennessey; Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, van Aanholt; Kouyaté, Milivojević, McArthur; Townsend, Ayew, Zaha.
Newcastle United: Dúbravka; Yedlin, Lascelles, Fernández, Dummett; Ritchie, Shelvey, Diamé, Kenedy; Pérez, Rondón.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1 Newcastle United 1
With only four goals being scored in the last three meetings, and both sides struggling to score multiple goals a game this season, it looks certain to be a low scoring affair. Jordan Ayew will be looking to get onto the scoresheet for the first time as a Palace player, having scored two and grabbed an assist in his five games against Newcastle.