Crystal Palace host Watford in the Premier League on Saturday and the fixture has got us at Football FanCast Towers talking.
Indeed, there may be six positions and nine points separating both teams in the table, but we reckon the actual gap between them in terms of quality is actually pretty small – in fact, upon combining the best talents at both clubs, the relegation-threatened Hornets might even have the edge.
Take a look at our Palace and Watford combined XI below – and let us know what you think in the comments!
GK – Ben Foster: Perhaps the toughest decision out of the entire starting XI, Foster and Vicente Guita are both very competent goalkeepers and are statistically amongst the best in the Premier League this season. In fact, they’re separated by just two saves and one clean sheet, but with Foster boasting the superior numbers on both fronts – coupled with the fact Palace actually concede the fewest shots of any team in the league, making the Spaniard’s job that little bit easier – we’re going with the Hornets No.1.
RB – Kiko Femenia: The 29-year-old has by no means set the world alight this season – in fact, his Whoscored rating is just 6.53 – but gets into this team purely due to a lack of competition. Adrian Mariappa and Martin Kelly are as much centre-halves as full-backs, while Joel Ward leaves a lot to be desired at Premier League level. Overall, Femenia is the lesser of the evils.
CB – Gary Cahill: Arguably one of the signings of the season in terms of value, Cahill moved to Selhurst Park on a free transfer last summer and has been central to Palace maintaining their status as one of the most defensively resilient sides in the Premier League despite Mamadou Sakho and James Tomkins missing extended periods of the campaign.
CB – Craig Cathcart: He’s never the kind of defender to stand out on the pitch but Cathcart must be doing something right – he’s missed just two games for the Hornets this season, with just three Premier League sides taking more clean sheets than Watford’s nine.
LB – Patrick van Aanholt: It’s not been an exceptional season by the Dutchman’s standards but there remain few Premier League left-backs who offer the same kind of firepower as van Aanholt. As well as being a regular member of Palace’s oft-water-tight defence, he’s produced three goals – including the winner in a recent 1-0 win over Newcastle.
CDM – Etienne Capoue: A key lynchpin in this Watford team and a particularly reliable one at that. Capoue’s Whoscored rating for the season stands at 6.99 and that pretty much sums him up – someone who performs his job to a decent standard each week, protecting the defence with an average of 2.8 tackles and 2.7 interceptions per game. Luka Milivojevic should probably be rivalling him for a place in this starting XI, but it’s been an underwhelming season for the Serbian when compared to his 12 goals last term.
CM – James McArthur: The kind of midfielder who has no standout strength but nonetheless does a lot of things well. Eagles fans were raving about his performance against Newcastle a few weeks ago and it’s not hard to see why- with averages of 2.4 tackles, 1.9 interceptions, 0.9 shots and 0.9 key passes per game this season, the Scotsman does a bit of everything and operates as the glue that keeps Palace stuck together.
CM – Abdoulaye Doucoure: Definitely one of the biggest talents in the Premier League’s bottom half, Doucoure is another midfielder who offers a multi-dimensional game. He’s big and powerful at a bulky 6 foot but offsets that with real offensive prowess – bagging four goals and two assists this season while averaging 1.1 key passes and 1.8 shots per game. He’ll be the driving force from midfield for this combined XI.
RW – Ismalia Sarr: Perhaps there’s a bit of recency bias here, but Sarr has really turned his season around after an incredibly slow start to his Watford career that didn’t see him find the net until the end of November. Since then, he’s gone on to bag five goals and three assists in the Premier League, including a stunning brace against Liverpool last weekend. Suddenly he looks like a real talent.
CF – Troy Deeney: Along with goalkeeper, this is another position that felt like a toss of a coin. Jordan Ayew’s been fantastic for Palace this season, starting every game and netting seven goals – including a stunning solo effort against West Ham. However, the fact Deeney boasts the same number of goal contributions from 12 less starts speaks for itself, and considering the options out wide in this combined XI, the Englishman’s average of 7.5 aerial duels won and 1.1 key passes per game makes him an ideal candidate to bring them into play.
LW – Wilfried Zaha: Zaha’s output has been a long way off the levels expected this season with just three goals and three assists, but he’s still arguably the most natural talent within both Palace and Watford’s ranks. Only Adama Traore has completed more dribbles than him in the Premier League this season and in a more attacking team, his goal contributions could easily go through the roof. Perhaps this combined XI will give him the support he needs.