Tuesday 13 December 2016

Match preview: Crystal Palace v United

The fixtures continue to come thick and fast as United travel to Selhurst Park looking to secure a third consecutive win.

The trip to south London marks the start of a season-defining schedule of five fixtures in 17 days four of which are against sides at the bottom end of the table - with a run of victories key to build momentum and keep up the pressure on the teams around us. 

It would be the first time since September we've enjoyed such a run but the task will not be made any easier by the absence of two key men.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan was stretchered off against Spurs and is ruled out of our next two matches, with a return pencilled in for a return against Sunderland on Boxing Day.

That could mean a recall for Juan Mata, but Antonio Valencia is suspended having collected a fifth booking of the season on Sunday. 

Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw remain sidelined but, other than Mkhitaryan, there are no other injury concerns.

The Eagles hold the unwanted record of the team with the lowest points total in 2016, a statistic hardly helped by a recent run of six consecutive defeats.

That torrid run included a remarkable 5-4 defeat at fellow strugglers Swansea, but the pressure has eased on Palace boss Alan Pardew after their 3-0 win over Southampton in their last home game.

A late equaliser rescued a draw at relegation-threatened Hull last time out, a result that leaves the hosts three places and three points above the drop zone. 

Despite their indifferent form, Palace are free-scoring and will pose a threat in the shape of talented trio Wilf Zaha, Christian Benteke and string-puller in chief Yohan Cabaye. 

Jose is anticipating another tough battle for his side, and said:

"The league position of them (Palace) perhaps does not show what a good team they are - they score a lot of goals and are always attacking, so for that reason it is a difficult game.
'They have good players and their supporters are fantastic, an incredible atmosphere, so it is not an easy place to get a result. 
"Valencia has been playing phenomenally and having a great season, he likes to attack and is happy with the way the team plays.
"But he's suspended and that's football, a feature of that, so we have to cope without him and we have to trust other players."

We picked up four points from the two leagues games with the Eagles last term, plus that memorable FA Cup final meeting at Wembley in May.

Form guide: Crystal Palace L L L L W D United W D W D W W 
Match odds: Crystal Palace 4/1 Draw 3/1 United 7/5
Referee: Craig Pawson 

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