Huddersfield Town vs Crystal Palace
K/O: 15:00 hours
Venue: John Smith Stadium
Referee: Graham Scott
Huddersfield Town travel to South London on Saturday afternoon looking to build on their second draw of the season as they come up against a Crystal Palace side equipped with the returning Wilfred Zaha.
The Terriers finally got their first goal of the season before the international break through a Phillip Billing header in a stalemate draw against the Toffees. Wagner’s side dug in deep and produced a dogged performance to earn a tough point at Goodison Park. Hodgson’s side however, fell short of standards in the south as they were sunk by goals from Danny Ings and Højbjerg in a disappointing home performance. The Terriers and the Eagles are now just a point apart at the rear end of the Premier League table with the latter being in the slight ascendancy.
Huddersfield have been thumped twice already this season conceding three at home to Chelsea before being hit for six by reigning champions Manchester City. Yet Wagner’s side have improved since their shambolic start, back to back draws against Cardiff and Everton have produced their points, and the addition of more contested performances has yielded some momentum. The Terriers will no doubt be looking for some fresh impetus this weekend as they look to pick up their first three points of the campaign, and climb above this weekends opposition.
If this is to be the case, the goals will need to come sooner rather than later. Scoring has never been the Terriers strong point; last season they were joint lowest goalscorers with relegated Swansea City on just 28 goals – a goal every 1.36 games. Town strikers Laurent Depoitre and Steve Mounie, who some are blaming for the lack of goals, had a total of 13 goals combined last year, meaning that over half their strike force came from elsewhere on the pitch. After a very solid 17/18 debut season the key man in the middle, Aaron Mooy, has yet to display his full potential. When the goals come, which they will, Mooy will likely be amongst them. Either scoring or assisting he seems to be the architect in the middle pulling the strings for Huddersfield and will be crucial in their season.
The South London side started the 17/18 season with seven straight defeats and seemed certain for relegation. However their start with Hodgson seemed to have brought some optimism into their team, but once more the Eagles are beginning to collect an unwanted tally of defeats, having failed to win their previous three games. Their only source of points came from the opening day following the all London clash against the newly promoted Fulham. Hodgson will be very optimistic of claiming all three points this Saturday, as his side faces a less threatening opposition than usual in a game which they should win.
The big news for Palace this week is that their talisman, Wilfried Zaha, has returned to training and is set to start against the Terriers. The forward was left out of the Ivory Coast squad and has spent the week in South London training, where he stepped up his return to fitness. Zaha previously had an issue with his left abductor just before the Southampton game which ruled him out, much to the fans concern. Without Zaha, Christian Benteke looks ineffective and isolated but more worryingly, without Zaha, Crystal Palace lack quality. The Eagles have failed to win a Premier League match without Zaha since September 2016 so his return is certainly good news for the Eagles and greeted by Hodgson and fans alike.
Jonathon Hogg is suspended and will watch on from the sidelines after picking up a red card against Cardiff City last time out. New singing Sohbi, who has been sidelined from the Cardiff City, Stoke and Everton fixtures, is likely to miss this weekend’s clash. After being called up for his international side, Egypt boss Javier Aguirre allowed him to complete his recovery with the Terriers’ medical team.
Goalkeeper Ben Hamer, who has conceded nine in two games (albeit against significantly stronger opposition), could feature after being substituted with a knee issue against Cardiff. Despite this, the most popular choice will be last seasons number one, Jonas Lossl.
After 16 months out Danny Williams is fit to play and admits he is, “Happy to be back with the team”.
Long-term ligament injuries rule out both Conor Wickham and Scott Dann. Tomkins could return after a calf injury ruled him out against Southampton whilst Wilfried Zaha has been training and is set to make his return. Papa Souare may also feature after having issues with his calf.
Benteke will most likely partner Zaha up front despite a slight concern over a knee injury.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Huddersfield Town: Lössl; Hadergjonaj, Zanka, Schindler, Kongolo; Mooy, Billing; Diakhaby, Pritchard, Van la Parra; Mounie
Crystal Palace: Hennessey; Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, Van Aanholt; Townsend, Milivojevic, Mcarthur, Schlupp; Benteke, Zaha
Score Prediction – Huddersfield Town 1 Crystal Palace 2
The last six meetings between the two sides have seen two wins each and two draws suggesting there is little between them. The game will most likely be decided on whether Wilfried Zaha is kept quiet, having scored twice already this season he will be the main attacking impetus in this game. Despite losing three in a row I’m backing the away team to snatch a win. Huddersfield look short of goals and they’ll have enough problems with Zaha.