The Nations League might have brought back some interest in international football breaks, but we can’t lie – we’re delighted that real football is back. Town’s hard-fought and well deserved point away to Everton made the interlull a little more bearable, but we’re all chomping at the bit for a positive result against Crystal Palace now.
However, it will be a tough ask to beat the Eagles, we haven’t beaten them at home since 30th January 2013 – when a James Vaughan strike sealed the points for Mark Lillis’ side. In this preview we look ahead at where the game will be won and lost and proffer our predictions for Saturday’s showdown.
The big question
The question on everyone’s lips at the moment is, ‘Will Zaha start against Town?’ The Ivorian is a vital cog in Roy Hodgson’s side and it’s no secret that Palace struggle without his presence; they have lost their last 12 games without Zaha.
According to Roy Hodgson, Zaha returned to training along with James Tomkins on Thursday and the pair are both in contention to start on Saturday. Earlier in the week it was reported that Zaha would miss the game through injury, but it looks like Hodgson may be prepared to risk him at the John Smith’s.
The former England manager is beginning to feel the pressure at Palace having lost their last 4 games, and may rush back an injured Zaha out of desperation. If he does, then that will be good news for the Terriers.
You’ll undoubtedly remember how we physically targeted Zaha on the opening day of last season as we won 3-0 at Selhurst Park. This approach mitigated his impact on the game and in fact left him on the sidelines for a considerable time.
If the Ivorian show-boater is carrying a knock, he’ll be wary on the ball and a repeat physical showing from Town could dwarf his impact on the game.
Where Town must improve
It’s obvious really isn’t it? Town need to improve offensively to have any chance of winning this encounter. David Wagner’s side have only won 1 of their last 14 Premier League games, scoring just 5 goals in that period.
Added to that, we are on our second-worst run of games without a goal since March 1972 (nope we’re not counting Bacuna’s OG), and we were relegated in that season. In Dean Hoyle’s midweek interview with BBC Radio Leeds he made reference to Swansea’s negative football last season and pinpointed it as the reason the Welsh side dropped out of the league.
To us here at TerrierBlog it sounded like a subtle hint to David Wagner that his chairman wants to see more exciting football from his team. Whether that’s the case or not remains to be seen, but Town do need to take this game by the scruff of the neck and attack Palace
whilst they’re vulnerable.
Palace’s danger man
If Zaha starts tomorrow, he will obviously be the danger man for Crystal Palace, however it’s still unclear as to whether or not he’ll start. Christian Benteke has been ruled out of contention for this clash, so the visitors could end up playing a defensive 4-5-1 formation.
If this is the case then Paddy (we prefer Paddy to Patrick) Van Aanholt will be the visitor’s biggest threat. The dynamic Dutchmans pace, thrust and creativity from full-back have caused much concern for Premier League defences over the past two years.
Last season in Town’s 0-2 loss to Palace, Van Aanholt had Hadergjonaj on toast and consistently pushed the Swiss full-back into uncomfortable positions. Not only did this pose Town defensive problems but it also mitigate our ability to attack down the flanks with Hadergjonaj. A repeat of this issue on Saturday could see Town encounter serious issues.
Who to look out for
Palace’s new signings Max Meyer and Cheikhou Kouyate are both available for selection tomorrow and Palace gaffer Roy Hodgson has hinted to their inclusion in his pre-match interview this week.
Kouyate is a dominating midfield destroyer and could really impose himself on the inexperienced Phil Billing and the physically slight Aaron Mooy. Max Meyer however seems to be a strange signing for the Eagles.
In the Bundesliga last term he was one of the best passers of the ball in the division, and was well-suited to a fluid, attacking team. Palace seem to be the complete antithesis to Meyer’s playing style, so his inclusion could lead to a disjointed performance from the visitors.
This week we’ve taken a different approach to our match predictions. Usually John takes the lead and sticks his neck on the line with his prediction, but this time we’ve thrown it up for debate amongst the three lead TerrierBlog contributors. Who do you think will be right?
John – I’m going for a 4-1 win to Town. After the impressive point at Goodison Park I think confidence will be high in the Town camp. Most of our players haven’t been involved in international duty, so David Wagner will have had a full fortnight to prepare for this game.
I reckon we’ll smell blood before kick-off and go for the jugular right from the first minute against Palace. Mounie will grab a brace, Billing will slot one from long-distance and Diakhaby will poke one in towards the end, you heard it here first!
Daniel – John’s prediction is absolute bull sh*t! Town are going to lose this game 4-0, and that’s because Wagner will pick another baffling team, leaving out new signings in favour of mediocre players.
We can’t score a bloody goal and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wagner start with Quaner up front, that’s how baffling his recent line-ups have been.
Stephan – Okay so Daniel seems to think he’s Paul Merson all of a sudden, and I bet him a pie and a pint that his prediction is absolute b*llocks. I don’t think Zaha will start and I reckon Town will bring it home, 1-0. Pritchard’s playing style works against sides like Palace and I can see him getting on the score sheet.
What do you think? Are our predictions miles off or spot-on? Log-in and comment your predictions below to challenge John, Daniel and Steph.