Monday, 5 March 2018

Match preview: Crystal Palace v United

The Reds are back on the road for the fourth time in five fixtures as we face the ever-tricky trip to Selhurst Park and Roy Hodgson's lowly but much improved Crystal Palace side. Having suffered back-to-back away defeats to Tottenham and Newcastle, the Reds come into this one third in the table but buoyed by that excellent win over Chelsea last time out. Another victory in this one would not only build momentum ahead of two massive home ties, but would also take us back above Liverpool and into second place in the table. 

United will be without six players in south London, with Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Daley Blind, Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera (muscle) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all sidelined. Palace will be missing Timothy Fosu - Mensah, on loan from us and therefore ineligible. The Eagles star man and former Reds winger Wilfried Zaha remains absent with a knee injury, whilst Scott Dann, Mamadou Sakho, Jason Puncheon and Ruben Loftus - Cheek all miss out. 
Martin Kelly and Jeffrey Schlupp could return for the hosts, however. 

A dreadful start to the season saw Palace set an unwanted 129-year old record when they lost their first seven games without scoring, including a 4-0 loss at Old Trafford in September. Frank de Boer was sacked after only four matches at the helm, and eyebrows were raised when he was replaced by veteran Hodgson. To his credit, the much-travelled former England boss has managed to steer Palace out of the bottom three and they will be a vastly different proposition for us this time. They sat as high as 12th at the turn of the year, but a five match winless run has seen them slip back into trouble again. Other results didn't go their way over the weekend, so they come into this one having dropped into the relegation zone once more, albeit only a point behind fourth-from-bottom Southampton.

The title may be gone, but Reds manager Jose Mourinho said the side will fight for the best possible league finish with ten games to go. He said: "The gap is very short - six points between the second and fifth teams is not much and really open for everybody. But all four are in the Champions League still, so we have other focuses and targets - all of us. There will be four very good teams and one out of the Champions League. If you ask me second or fourth, it doesn't make a difference financially or for the prestige, but from the personal point of view if you can finish third, we are not going to be fourth. If we can finish second, we are not going to be third. The top four is very difficult - but we will do everything to finish strong and finish as high as possible." 

Form guide: Crystal Palace W L D D L L United L W L W D W
Match odds: Crystal Palace 6/1 Draw 10/3 United 4/7
Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire) 
 

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