Palace v Blues Match Preview

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March 28, 2013 by Made In Brum

crystalpalace+1

The international break had come at the wrong time for us. After our win at Middlesbrough two weeks ago, we climbed into the top half of the table for the first time since September. The result added to the nice-looking statistic of just 2 defeats in our last 12 Championship matches, so maybe what has been, for the most part, a hard old season for us is beginning to find it’s silver lining. Having said that, my forecast for this game is not an optimistic one. With the game on TV, I can’t see us taking too many down to South London, for the start of this Easter period.

Talking tactics

Thankfully we’ve got no fresh injury worries this week, although Jonathan Spector is a doubt. Mitch Hancox could return, but those are the only pieces of team news. Thankfully none of our players have been injured over the international break. When I’ve watched Palace play this season, they seem to take up a swift, direct counter-attacking system, and look to exploit the flanks.

So my team. Butland in goal, and I’d stick with a back four of Caddis, Davies, Robinson and Ferguson. I know Hancox could come back into the squad, but because our defence is prospering at the moment, I don’t think Clark should be looking to make any changes to it at all. Ferguson and Davies have been playing very well in recent weeks, and as much as I rate Hancox, I simply don’t think he’s as good as Ferguson, and he certainly won’t be when only semi-fit.

I’d also like to point out that recent injuries at the back to Caldwell and Hancox have meant a couple of changes, but since they have been made, statistically we’ve actually seen vast defensive improvements. Across the season, we’re conceding an average of 1.6 goals per game. However, in the 6 games since Ferguson has come in and Robinson has moved to centre-back, the average has been 1.2. And that includes letting in 5 goals at Hull. If we’d had this defensive record all season, we’d hold the 4th best ‘goals against’ tally in the league. The defence we have is worth sticking with in my opinion.

The likes of Wes Thomas, Ravel Morrison and Nathan Redmond made a stunning impact as second half substitutes against Derby. They all followed that up with decent games against Middlesbrough, having been rewarded with a start. So even if it is at the expense of a more established player like Chris Burke, who hasn’t played as well lately, I would want to keep Redmond and Morrison in the team.

Keith Fahey completed practically a whole game last time out, which suggest his match fitness is back. If we’re going to have players with a lot of pace in the team, this could compliment Fahey’s game. He’s all about sitting deep, always being available to pass to, having time on the ball and dictating the tempo. If he can fill that role, as a deep-lying playmaker, that might allow our more forward-minded players the freedom to express their attacking ability. I would have Callum Reilly alongside Fahey in the centre, because he’s a useful player to have in terms of closing down quickly, and denying Palace the space when they’ve got the ball in our half.

Back in action - Fahey

Back in action – Fahey

I’d have Nathan Redmond on the right side of midfield, cutting inwards, and Ravel Morrison as another playmaker, but in a more advanced role than Fahey. And because at left-back Shane Ferguson has a tendency to get forward a lot, I would go for a more defensive option in Wade Elliott left midfield. Elliott can track back a lot, which could be important for us to guard against Palace’s quick breakaways. I’d also want Elliott to tuck inside quite a bit and help out Callum Reilly to try and outnumber Palace in the centre, it could also create a bit of space for some overlapping runs from Ferguson.

Up front, I’d have to go with Nikola Zigic, simply for his overall quality. But if we’re losing with 25 minutes to go, I’d stick on Wes Thomas. Both of Palace’s centre-backs, Delaney and Ramage (who we had on loan last season), are on the aging side. Because Thomas’s main strength is his pace, his closing down and running at defences as a fresh substitute may help us control the game in the closing stages. If defenders are fearful of a striker closing down at speed, they will often play safety first and hoof it clear. If they do that, we can then regain possession and will have another chance to build an attack.

Palace this season

Ian Holloway’s men are right in the thick of a three-way scrap for promotion with Hull and Watford. This is largely because they have the best home record in the division, having picked up 42 points from 19 games at Selhurst Park, and they haven’t lost a home game since the opening day of the season. Yet it’s been their away form that’s let them down. In the middle of the season, they went 9 games without an away win. They’re off the back of a 3-0 thumping by bitter rivals Brighton last time out, so it’ll be interesting to see how they respond to that.

The dangerman

A threat - Murray

A threat – Murray

The good news is that Wilfried Zaha received a one-match ban for making a gesture to a Leeds fan earlier this month, so he’s suspended. That bad news? Glenn Murray isn’t. He has scored a comprehensive 30 goals this season, as the Championship’s top scorer by some distance, and is a lethal predator in front of goal. When he gets the ball inside the box, he rarely misses. The same can probably be said for Kevin Phillips, who is being tipped to start in place of Zaha. And wouldn’t it be so typical of him to score against us?

My prediction

Despite the absense of Zaha, I’m predicting a resurgence from Palace, in an attempt to refuel their promotion bid. I reckon the break will have given them enough respite to bounce back from losing to Brighton, and with a player of Glenn Murray’s quality in their team, they’re going to be a constant threat in front of goal. If anything, I’m not sure our good form of late will give us a better chance in this match. It means we’re all but mathematically safe, therefore Palace will have a lot more of an incentive to win than ourselves. I reckon they’ll beat us 2-0.

Other predictions

@JIMMYRICHO98: Palace are a very strong side, especially at home, and unfortunately I can see them having too much quality for us. 3-1.

@rayprice666com: if we could survive a draw I’ll be happy, but we owe these a game kro

@benlowe22: 2-2 Thomas with both for us

@brummieol: 2-1 Blues and a possible late push for that 6th spot and the play-offs, 10pts adrift with 8 games remaining, it’s possible!

@GreggCollett: gonna be optimistic & say we’ll only lose by one! 2-1 Palace, Wade Elliott to score for us!

Manager thoughts

Ian Holloway: It’s so exciting for us, eight games to go and we need to remain in the right frame of mind as they come thick and fast. We need to keep up our home form which has been fantastic and these last eight are like cup finals. Six wins from eight could give us automatic promotion. Let’s impose our game on people and show what we can do and work to our strengths that will hurt Birmingham.

Lee Clark: In terms of the last couple of months, we’re a completely different team. There’s been a lot more positive results, we’ve played in a way I’ve wanted to play – high tempo football – and certainly away it’s been about doing your job, being compact, nullifying the home crowd, which we have done.

Referee

Robert Madley

Head to Head @ Selhurst Park :

Palace won 12 …, Blues won 5 …, Drawn 6.

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