Crystal Palace host Manchester City this weekend in a clash that doesn’t look too promising for Roy Hodgson’s side – their visitors are strolling through games at the moment without getting out of second gear, while the Eagles’ woeful home record this campaign speaks for itself.
Despite the shocking result at the Etihad Stadium in December, this game looks more or less like a write-off for Palace, but it could give Hodgson the epiphany he needs to turn Palace’s Selhurst Park fortunes around.
Pep Guardiola’s side are masters of ball retention and pinning their opponents’ backs to the wall for the full 90 minutes and are confident enough to do it wherever they go, SE25 included.
Palace will likely be forced to sit back and soak up pressure, denying all the intricate runs and passes made by their opposition for much of the game, despite it being on their own ground.
It will most likely be damage limitation for the Eagles, who will look to keep the score down and get some joy on the counter – sound familiar? It’s what they’ve been doing on the road all season and it has yielded results.
No matter how much Hodgson tries to turn Palace into an attractive footballing side, the Eagles are a counter-attacking outfit – they were much better under Sam Allardyce and even Alan Pardew at times when they played direct.
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At home, Palace tend to be the aggressors and they always get caught out on the counter – the roles will be reversed on Sunday though, and the Eagles can turn it into an away game.
They have the pace – and Wilfried Zaha – to cause the Premier League champions all sorts of problems on the counter and, should they get anything close to their Boxing Day result, then Hodgson might finally realise where his side’s true quality lies.
The Croydon outfit desperately need to improve their home form if they are to avoid another relegation battle next year, and this could be the game after which the turnaround begins.