Kick-off: Selhurst Park, 3pm BST.
Telecast: The match will not be broadcasted. But, hey, there’s always Match of the Day.
What can one expect when two of the three most circumspect teams in last year’s edition of the Premier League will be going hammer and tongs at each other? Plenty of gladiatorial graft, but, lo, not a lot of goals. But, hey, as long as one scores one and the other doesn’t. That conveniently is the stratagem-par-excellence of both of the managers on the technical area – Alan Pardew and Tony Pulis. It’s not going to be a game for the purists, but all the same, flight-commander Charles Reep, the visionary (?) who sowed the seed of the long-standing fascination of England and the long ball game, would be smiling from the heavens – as you sow, so shall you reap – and what not.
The last encounter, surprisingly many, was a thrilling 3-2 Western-themed showdown at the Hawthorns – a game, what Clive Tyndsley would call ‘an advert for the Premier League’. For the Baggies, Gardner, Dawson and Berahino edged them ahead, while Connor Wickham’s late double salvo wasn’t enough.
Earlier in the season, Crystal Palace won 2-0.
The early part of 2015-2016 saw Pardew’s Eagles take flight and soar above most of their competition, picking off teams one by one swooping in with a few surprises that caught some of the bigger clubs unawares. The direct, heavy-duty football couldn’t, however, be appropriated nor sustained, and with the gale force winds picking up in December, the Eagles had to come back home to roost and ruminate.
The Eagles to have sharpened their talons, and look much better equipped to take on the challenges beak-first. Tony Pulis left wounds un-mended when he left Crystal Palace hanging in 2014, and the fans would hope Alan Pardew could get one over him. The uncertainty over Bolasie‘s future looks to be eased by the impending transfer of big-Ben, Christian Benteke from Liverpool.
In a team of big and burlies, it’ll be the little man Andros Townsend who would be the one to look out for. The 25-year-old shone in the relegation dogfight when at Newcastle, and is one who looks to take the game by the scruff of the neck. You’ll never find him mulling over the ball, and he looks to try and always be on the front foot making inroads towards the goal, with a single-minded determination to get himself in the best position to take his signature long punt from the edge of the box.
He has been given further incentive to hit a level of consistency by the newly-installed England manager, Sam Allardyce who looks to include him in his next squad.
Bolasie, who is embroiled in a bit of transfer naughtiness with his finger in too many tarts, maybe, just maybe won’t start. Jason Puncheon will look to make the role behind the striker his own. Mile Jedinak, not deterred by handing over the captain’s armband to Scott Dann, will lay claim to central midfield berth. Craig Dawson of West Brom will have all to do, contending with the fleet-footed Zaha on the left, who could readily interchange with Andros Townsend.
Predicted Crystal Palace XI: 4-2-3-1
Mandanda; Ward, Dan, Delaney, Souare; Jedinak, Cabaye; Zaha, Puncheon, Townsend; Wickham.
Predicted West Bromwich Albion XI: 4-2-3-1
Foster; Olsson, McAuley, Evans, Dawson; Yacob, Fletcher; McClean, Gardner, Phillips; Rondon.