Crystal Palace kick off their 2019/20 campaign at home against Everton on 10th August and they will be hoping to get off to a flying start.
There will be some concern, however, as the Eagles were far better on their travels last season, picking up some of their best results on the road – including memorable wins over Manchester City and Arsenal.
Last term, this fixture ended a 0-0 stalemate, many thanks due to Vicente Guaita, who kept out Cenk Tosun’s brilliant back-heel to keep the scores level late on, ensuring a perhaps undeserved point for the south London outfit.
Whereas Stephen Henderson, who endured a nightmare debut in the 6-2 loss to Barnet on Tuesday evening, remains Palace’s sole signing of the window so far.
Roy Hodgson and co have already said goodbye to Aaron Wan-Bissaka and question marks remain over the future of Wilfried Zaha, whom the former England manager’s entire attacking philosophy is built around.
Depending on injuries, potential departures, how Palace intend to reinvest the Wan-Bissaka cash, Hodgson’s approach to the game and his willingness to integrate youngsters, there are plenty of different ways in which the Red and Blue Army could lineup.
Click through the gallery below to see our five potential XIs for their opening day fixture…
Christian Benteke is running out of – and missing plenty of – chances at Selhurst Park, Connor Wickham is perennially injured and Alexander Sorloth doesn’t look quite up to the pace of the Premier League.
Therefore, bringing in a prolific striker to take the goal scoring burden off of Zaha and Andros Townsend is an absolute must for Steve Parish this summer.
With Che Adams having already signed for Southampton, Palace may turn to Atalanta’s Duvan Zapata, whom they were linked to by The Sun (print edition 19/5, page 63) in June, to solve their centre-forward woes.
The big Colombian enjoyed a stellar 2018/19 season with the Serie A outfit, netting an impressive 28 goals in 48 appearances. He’s exactly the aggressive and aware striker Palace need to tap home those low crosses into the box and force opportunities for the wingers.
In the video below, find out which Chelsea academy prospect is reportedly being lined up to replace Aaron Wan-Bissaka at Crystal Palace…
Meanwhile, Wan-Bissaka’s departure leaves a lack of depth at right-back and Zapata’s teammate, Timothy Castagne, looks a solid replacement – the Belgian is capable in defence while also being a threat on the front foot.
A recent report from Gazzetta Dello Sport (via Sport Witness) has suggested that Palace are determined in their endeavour to bring him to south London, but the same report claims the 23-year-old is in discussions over an extension to his current deal.
Palace fans can continue to dream for now.
With talisman Zaha’s status as a Palace player next season far from confirmed, Eagles fans could see their side line up without their most important forward on 10th August if one of the big sides can match the club’s £80m valuation.
This alone is nightmarish enough a scenario, but it could get even worse.
Both James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho struggled with injuries throughout the 2018/19 season and, if either suffer any further setbacks before next month, Palace fans could see an uninspiring duo of Scott Dann and Martin Kelly at the heart of defence next term.
The pair deputised capably at the back end of last campaign but their shortcomings were somewhat exposed in the win over Leicester when Kelly scored an own goal and Dann’s lack of pace was a concern throughout.
If this combination is a worry, the pairing upfront will likely have many at the club tearing their hair out – Wickham and Benteke netted just one league goal between them last term.
Wan-Bissaka’s meteoric rise since making his first-team debut in February 2018 indicates that Palace have some real quality coming through the academy and it’s just a matter of unearthing it.
Tyrick Mitchell impressed Eagles fans in their pre-season victory over FC Luzern with an incredible last-ditch challenge and, given Patrick van Aanholt’s lack of defensive awareness, it could only be a matter of time before the 19-year-old benches the Dutch international.
James Daly, meanwhile, could be a cost-free solution to Palace’s striker problem. The 19-year-old netted four goals in nine appearances for the Under-23’s last season and nine in 13 the term before. There’s no reason as to why Hodgson shouldn’t give the youngster a shot in 2019/20.
Max Meyer should be given a chance in the 10 role, where he can roam freely and pull the strings.
The German is certainly capable of becoming the advanced, creative hub the Eagles need and will surely improve on his tally of three assists last term.
While seeing the likes of Meyer start ahead of workhorse James McArthur, Hodgson has his preferences and it’s likely that the Palace boss will opt for the Scotsman and his work ethic ahead of the former Schalke man and his quick feet.
Parish would probably have an angry mob hunting him down if he was to let Zaha follow Wan-Bissaka out the door this summer and so it seems likely that the Ivorian should partner Benteke up front – as he did in the win over the Gunners at the Emirates Stadium.
Meanwhile, Jeffrey Schlupp’s versatility was a huge asset to the SE25 outfit last campaign.
The Ghanaian was deployed at left-wing, left-midfield and central-midfield, while he is also capable of playing at left-back – and he will offer balance to the midfield four given Townsend’s threat going forward.