Crystal Palace are living dangerously at the moment. After a thumping 3-0 win over Southampton, the Eagles managed to escape with a 3-3 draw against relegation-battling Hull City this weekend.
The biggest problem with Alan Pardew has been the inconsistency. The Eagles have played brilliantly at times and the same team has been seen struggling miserably against weaker sides. Hence, it is very difficult to pick a clear favourite against United.
Steven Mandanda’s absence with a knee injury that occurred in mid-November has led his Welsh teammate Wayne Hennessey to start under the bar. And he seems to have gained the manager’s trust. James Tomkins is the latest one to add to the Palace’s long injury list. Although the extent of the injury is still unknown, we expect Pardew to start with Martin Kelly in the right-back position.
The rest of the three remains unchanged with Joel Ward playing in the left back position. Skipper Scott Dann will start at the heart of Palace defence alongside veteran Irishman Damien Delaney.
James McArthur has been the only positive sign in an otherwise inconsistent and clueless Crystal Palace midfield. There is no way Pardew will be replacing him. The Scot will start at the base of the three-man midfield. He has done a brilliant job defensively, protecting the back four and moving up when sensing the correct time.
Although Pardew started him in an advanced position against Hull, United will force Palace to be more on the defensive and McArthur’s experience as an anchorman will be needed.
Palace will hugely miss the services of Jason Puncheon after the midfielder picked up his fifth booking of the season against Hull City. He will serve a one-match suspension, missing out the crucial United game.
Yohan Cabaye was back from suspension against Hull City and started on the bench. However, Pardew is likely to bring him in to replace Puncheon in the creative midfield. Welshman Joe Ledley will keep his place in midfield and will try to make his presence felt with his physique and passing.
Palace’s starting trio have more or less remained the same this season so far. With players like Andros Townsend and Wilfred Zaha, the Eagles boast of a serious attacking threat on the wings. The centre- forward position will be taken by Christian Benteke. The Belgian has managed to net 8 goals so far and could be a real threat against United.
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