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Preview: Crystal Palace vs Newcastle Utd – 21/12/13

Match preview by TJR, click here to go the our match discussion thread

Team News

Newcastle United: Yohan Cabaye returns after serving a one match ban. This will be his first game since scoring a historic goal in the 1-0 thrashing of Man Utd at Old Trafford. Sissoko and Tioté will be looking to behave, each being only a booking away from a ban. Long term absentee Ryan Taylor is the only first team player injured. Forgotten men Sylvain Marveaux, Steven Taylor and Jonás Gutiérrez will all be hoping for a return to the bench. However despite being fit for some time (or back in the country in the case of Jonas), all three are still unlikely to make the match day squad due to our current form.

Crystal Palace: The injury list contains club captain Paddy McCarthy along with Jack Hunt, Glenn Murray, Jerome Thomas and Adlene Guedioura. Dean Moxey is doubtful. Gouffran’s former Bordeaux team mate Marouane Chamakh is the main Palace goal threat having scored in all of his last 3 games. Palace are swiftly adapting to the hoofballing tactics of Pulis and have already seen an improvement in terms of results.

A Word from the Gaffers

Alan Pardew:

“We’ve proved our consistency, that we’re a good side. Whether we can be a great side, we’ll have to wait and see. We already have one more point than we did at this stage of the season two years ago when we ended up finishing fifth. We spread them (goals) around reasonably well but it would be nice to have goals from all areas of the pitch.

I don’t think we are over-reliant on Rémy – it’s just that he’s the one at the pinnacle of our attacks. And being a natural scorer, he gets the bulk of our chances. But if we are to do well this season, it’s vital others score their fair share.”

Tony Pulis:

“We have got Newcastle on Saturday and then two very tough away games, before another game in the new year and then another journey for an away game in the FA Cup. It is relentless and it is going to be a busy period, but that is why this is such a great, challenging league.

The fans have been outstanding since I have been here. They are very important to us, particularly at home, where every game is a cup final. Newcastle are a great club and their away support is fantastic. Our support has been outstanding and we will need them to be that again, because they are very important to us.”

Expert Opinion

Lawro:

Crystal Palace lost at Stamford Bridge last time out, but they had a good go at Chelsea and it was a spirited display. In all honesty, they could have pinched a point.

At the start of the season, they were getting rolled over far too easily but their performances are undoubtedly improving under Tony Pulis. He has got them very well organised and, individually, they are making fewer mistakes and playing well too.

Because of all that, I think Palace will make things difficult for Newcastle and I can see them picking up another point.

The Magpies were held at home by Southampton last week but they still look like they are going to finish somewhere in the top half, which is great for them.

In a season where there have been five top-flight sackings already, it makes a nice change that we are not talking about Alan Pardew’s situation.

We already know that the Magpies are a club prone to problems behind the scenes, and I think everyone is aware and appreciates that Pardew has done a really good job.

Some Statistics:

  • Crystal Palace have failed to score in their last five meetings with Newcastle in all competitions.
  • Newcastle United have won their last four league trips to Selhurst Park to play Palace.
  • The Eagles have lost four of the last five matches against Newcastle in all competitions all by a 2-0 scoreline (W0 D1 L4).
  • Newcastle’s total of 27 points from 16 games is the same as they managed in 2011-12 when they eventually finished fifth.
  • 20 of Newcastle’s 21 league goals this season have been scored by Frenchmen. The only team in Europe’s top five leagues to benefit from more French goals this season are Lyon (26).
  • Despite conceding only two goals more than Newcastle (22), Crystal Palace (24) have 14 points fewer.
  • Marouane Chamakh has scored in three successive Premier League games for the first time in his career.
  • Only Fulham have drawn as few games in the Premier League as Crystal Palace this season (1).
  • Palace have been shown fewer yellow cards than any other Barclays Premier League side this season (16).
  • Palace have the lowest pass completion in the Premier League this season (73%) and it has been only 66% in the period since Tony Pulis took charge.

The Referee

Saturday’s 3pm kick off at Selhurst Park will be Swarbrick’s second Newcastle fixture of the season. His previous game was the 2-0 extra time defeat at home to Man City in the League Cup. On that evening, Swarbrick booked five players including Cheick Tioté, Mathieu Debuchy and Yohan Cabaye.

Despite this, Neil Swarbrick is Newcastle’s most favourable official, awarding us an average of five free-kicks per game, more than any other referee does. Also, Swarbrick awards an average of 9 free kicks per game against Newcastle with only Chris Foy awarding less. He gives United an average of 1.55 booking per game. On Saturday Swarbrick will be assisted by Simon Long and Scott Ledger, with Chris Foy the game’s fourth official.

Possible Palace Line-up

Speroni
Mariappa – Delaney – Gabbidon – Ward
Puncheon – Dikgacoi – Jedinak – Bannan
Jerome – Chamakh

This is how Palace lined up in the 2-1 defeat to Chelsea last time out. Having suffered no injuries or suspensions the team is likely to remain unchanged, especially as Pulis is renowned for liking a settled side.

Possible Newcastle Line-up

<krul>
<debuchy> <willo> <colo> <haidara>
<anita> <tiote>
<sissoko> <cabaye> <gouff>
<remy>

That is how I would line up. Krul, Debuchy and Iron Mike pick themselves. Colo just edges Mapou out for me. I’d drop Santon, he threw the 3 points away against Southampton in a moment of pure stupidity and has been off form all season, while Haïdara has impressed when he has featured and deserves the start. Cabaye comes back into the three man midfield after his suspension.

I’d keep rest of the team unchanged from the one that beat Man Utd, with Sissoko just edging out Ben Arfa who is challenging for a place after his sub appearance injected some life in the team last time out. Gouffran and Remy keep their places. I have a feeling Pardew may revert to 4-4-2 again though, dropping Anita for Shola, he’ll no doubt start Santon over Haïdara as well.

Final Words and Prediction

Crystal Palace sit 18th in the table with only Fulham and the mackems below them, having acquired a total of 13 points from their 16 games played. Newcastle, meanwhile, sit happily in 6th with 27 points from the same number of games. Palace have only won 3 home games this season, those coming against the mackems, Cardiff and West Ham. Despite this, Selhurst Park is still a tough place to go; 5th place Everton only came away with 1 point. Since Pulis took over the home side they have been on the up, they are no longer planted rock bottom of the table and have even managed to find a few goals in recent weeks.

One thing Pardew will know is exactly what sort of tactics Pulis will be approaching the game with. Pards has a tough decision to make; will he pack the midfield out and look to get the ball down and control the game or will he fight fire with fire and go 4-4-2 with Shola in a bid to out-play Pulis at his own game?

Pardew will be looking forward to a return to his old club, at Palace has hero status and is loved by all. He will, however, be looking to upset his worshippers and get the 3 points for Newcastle in London, which is our 2nd of 6 trips to the capital this season, the other being against another of Pards’ former clubs; Spurs. We ran out 1-0 winners that day thanks to a goal from Rémy and a heroic effort from Tim Krul.

Iron Mike goes into this fixture looking for his first goal for the club. Last time out, at home to Southampton, he made a magnificent assist which he will be looking to build on. Now fully established as a fan favourite, Iron Mike has been in a rich vein of form but he’ll have his work cut out against Palace. They will launch long ball after long ball so Newcastle will be thankful for the ever dependability of Iron Mike to deal with everything in the air.

Newcastle were unbeaten all through November and look to have carried that form into December, apart from a minor blip at Swansea. The momentum is still very much with the Toon though, having recorded a historic victory at Man Utd followed by a draw against league rivals Southampton. We now enter the festive period where the fixtures come thick and fast and maintaining said momentum is everything.

This should be a routine win for United; however nothing is ever routine for us. We love spicing things up and doing it the hard way and I believe Saturday will be no exception. I predict a 2-1 win, with Cabaye scoring a long range effort to put us 1-0 up in the first half, before we concede during a typical second half collapse. We’ll recover from it this time though and Iron Mike will be the man to win it for us with a bullet header from a set play.

Memorable Moment

Where to Watch/Listen

There is no domestic televised coverage. Radio commentary will be on BBC Newcastle (local) and talkSPORT (international).

Do you share TJR’s love of “Iron Mike” Williamson and his belief that he’ll be instrumental in another Newcastle victory? Have your say in our match discussion thread here.