Crystal Palace – Fulham (Premier League)
This Monday, Crystal Palace hosts Fulham, the sides meeting for the first time in eight years. And, at Selhurst Park the stakes will be high. Ian Holloway and Martin Jol are both in a tight spot. In the Premier League the pressure is real and not only at the top. Those ate the bottom are literally fighting for survival. Who will prevail?
The Eagles come from a four defeat streak, lost 6 of the 7 fixtures since their return to the Premier League. That equals 19th place on the table with 3 points. The only positive result was before bottom companion Sunderland, at Selhurst Park (3-1). Ian Holloway’s men are still without a clean sheet this term. And yet, they have played rather well, in Liverpool for instance. Crystal Palace’s players are hard workers, show character – regular busy buzzers – but they desperately need to turn performances into points. Moral wins will not cut it.
Captain Patrick McCarthy is back in training after a groin injury that has kept him out of the pitch since April. This a major element for Palace but will he be fit enough to be back on the team? Danny Gabbidon is not likely to return yet and Kagisho Dikgacoi is also a concern. Glenn Murray and Jonny Williams are long-term casualties.
Probable lineup: Speroni – Ward, Mariappa, Delaney, Moxey – Dikgacoi, Campaña, Jedinak – Puncheon, Chamakh, Gayle.
Fulham‘s victory over Stoke City (1-0), just before the International break, may have won Martin Jol some time to breath. But the truth is the Cottagers are 17th in the league, just outside the relegation zone, and that is not acceptable for the fans. The only thing separating them from Norwich City, both with 7 points, is goal difference. They now need consecutive winners to climb the table.
Dimitar Berbatov, despite playing 503 minutes in the Premier League this season, only touched the ball 17 times in the opposition box, a 3 times per game average. The Cottagers expect and need a lot more from him. It is also time for Darren Bent, a summer signing, to step up and justify the investment the squad made on him.
Fulham heads into Monday’s clash boosted by the availability of Scott Parker, Aaron Hughes and possibly Maarten Stekelenburg, three players that can easily go straight into the starting XI. Martin Jol said he used next summer’s World Cup to motivate his players. The Cottagers squad counts several Internationals and they need to play and impress to secure a place in their national teams. Will the carrot work it’s magic?
Probable lineup: Stekelenburg – Riether, Amorebieta, Hangeland, Richardson – Parker, Sidwell – Kasami, Berbatov, Kacaniklic – Bent.
Fulham dominated the last 5 head-to-head games with four win and a loss, but those happen before 2006, so is it really relevant? Fulham’s season miserable run ended with the 1-0 victory over Stoke at Craven Cottage. Ordinarily they would be expected to bring the three points on Monday. Manager Martin Jol does not see it so clearly. He argues that scoring points in the Premier League is terribly hard and it would be wise not to underestimate any team that plays in it. Starting with a desperate Crystal Palace. This match is set to be a tough fight, between two struggling sides. To the Eagles this is a must-not-lose game but the Cottagers are forced to go up a notch. And that should make a huge difference.