Crystal Palace travel to former champions, Leicester City, this weekend in a fixture that looks set to challenge the new-found form that both teams have been recently enjoying.
Leicester made it four wins on the trot midweek against a Southampton side that seemed to put more energy into their frustrated animations than actually playing. Since the appointment of Claude Puel as Head Coach, the Foxes have shown the kind of style and vigour that we most came to associate with the all famous team of 2015/16, the now iconic duo of Mahrez and Vardy, with four goals and two assists between them in the last four, somewhat returning to their best.
Roy Hodgson’s men will be bringing their wagging tails to the King Power Stadium after their unbelievable last minute turn around against Watford. An 87th minute second yellow for Tom Cleverly paved the way for two last minute goals for Palace, taking their undefeated run to six. Though wins are still few and far between, the South Londoner’s will be well aware that another one could potentially lift them to 14th, if other results go their way.
That Palace have been able to put together a decent run of form despite having one of the worst injury situations in the league will be a comforting thought for the manager. With Sakho, Ward, and Delaney all still unavailable in defence and with the fresh concern of United Loanee, Tim Fosu-Mensah, also doubtful after doing his hamstring against Watford, Roy will be forced to shake up his defence yet again. This should mean a start for Van Aanholt who hasn’t played a full ninety minutes since week nine.
Going forward, the situation for Palace doesn’t ease up too much. Milivojević sits this one out after receiving his fifth yellow of the season. The midfielder scored a convincing penalty in their 2-2 draw with Bournemouth and could have had another if the out of form Benteke hadn’t demanded he take it, only to pass the spot kick into the grateful palms of Begović. Though with the only other available striker being Freddie Ladapo, who has a mere sixteen minutes of game time under his belt, Hodgson isn’t really in the position where he can drop Benteke, so expect more of the same upfront.
Leicester are without any injuries to Puel’s favoured starting eleven, which is a great thing to possess as we get into the crux of the festive period. Expect the same back four as last week with Fuchs returning to the first team after an injury spell. Any changes we might see from midweek, therefore, will be due to the heavy schedule, with teams having to play five games from now until the 1st Jan.
Look out for youngster Demarai Gray. The attacking forward has been enjoying his football so far this season and looks set to feature more heavily under his new manager. Gray has now bagged two goals in his last three appearances and increasingly looks a threat the more he plays. On Palaces’ side, it’s hard to take the spotlight away from Wilfred Zaha. The incessant dribbler has only scored three and assisted two but did miss almost half the season thus far. Regardless of his unimpressive stats, you only have to watch him play to know how good he is and how much of a threat he will be if only his colleagues would give him the support he needs.
Match Prediction: Leicester City 4 Crystal Palace 2