Key Player: Wilfried Zaha
Who else but the Ivorian? Zaha may have struggled to get a game under David Moyes whilst with us, despite the team underperforming at the time, but whether he prefers being a big fish in a small pond or not, there’s no doubting who makes Crystal Palace tick. In fact, when the Eagles beat Leicester 1-0 at Selhurst Park back in December, it was the first time they’d won without him in over two years in a game of few chances. They’d lost the previous 14 games where he was absent from the starting line-up and failed to score in 11 of them. He can however be petulant on occasion and easily wound up, receiving a recent suspension for sarcastically clapping the referee against Southampton, and Ashley young would be well advised to use the breadth of his experience to get under his skin.
Weak Link: Joel Ward
Prior to the January loan signing of Chelsea’s Michy Batshuayi, the striker position (whether occupied by Christian Benteke or Jordan Ayew) would have been the obvious weak link in Palace’s team. However, Batshuayi suits their style of play, and the hamstring injury that kept right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka out of the Leicester game leaves that position as the one we can target here. Martin Kelly and Joel Ward used to compete for the slot before the 21-year-olds’ emergence from the youth ranks, but the former (who has deputized well at centre-back on occasion) is also out injured and so Ward can expect to start. However, Ward has struggled with stopping crosses coming into the box in the past, which was again a problem against Leicester in the early stages, and so Luke Shaw should be instructed to get forward as much as possible.
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Can Palace take advantage of injury crises?
The Eagles must look upon our ill-fortune with hamstring injuries against Liverpool as though all the stars have aligned for them. It’s not as though they don’t have their own problems at the back though with Mamadou Sakho and Aaron Wan-Bissaka looking set to miss out, and unfortunately for Palace, they probably would have benefitted more if our injuries were also concentrated across the backline.
Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez should be hungry to show what they can do having not experienced the greatest of form under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (and for some time before that), while the same is likely to prove true of Fred in midfield. Indeed, Palace have lost 10 of their last 12 against our boys in all competitions since 2013/14, failing to net in eight of these, and with the Norwegian appearing to have settled on a first choice back four, Palace have a tough job to score a goal here.
Five players who could make the most of United’s injury problems