20:00 GMT, Monday 5th March, Selhurst Park (London, England) Sky Sports
The weekend’s results have seen Palace slip back into the relegation zone and only a win from this match will see them change matters.
Roy Hodgson’s side have been heavily handicapped by a spate of injuries throughout the senior squad in recent weeks, with 12 first team players missing against Spurs last Sunday.
This has seen them pick up only two points from their last five matches and has them looking to avoid a third consecutive defeat when they take to the pitch tonight.
Manchester United have also slipped in the league table over the weekend, with Liverpool replacing them as Manchester City’s closest rivals.
Despite losing both of their previous away games in the Premier League, Manchester United are strong favourites to end this short run with a victory in playing a team they’ve beaten in 14 (drawn 3) of their last 17 encounters.
A resolute Palace side could prove a stiff wall to break down, though, and José Mourinho’s side will need to show more adventure than they did when travelling to Tottenham, Newcastle and Sevilla in recent weeks.
Last Time Out
Crystal Palace 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League)
The Eagles’ gutsy performance fell just short as a late Harry Kane goal denied Palace what would otherwise have been a valuable point.
Spurs should arguably have taken the lead through Kane earlier in the match with the England striker failing to convert several good chances, including one which was brilliantly stopped by Wayne Hennessey. However, Palace hearts were eventually broken in the 88th-minute.
It was very much a backs-to-the-wall performance from Palace who defended doggedly thanks to Hodgson’s organisation. However, there was very little from Palace as an attacking threat and Spurs were able to play most of the game in the Eagles half of the field.
With the scores still level and five minutes remaining, James Tomkins was substituted close to the end of the match with what Hodgson described as “severe cramp”. During a corner his replacement, Damien Delaney, then lost his marker who made no mistake in beating Hennessey by powering a header back across goal and into the net to seal a late win.
Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea (Premier League)
Manchester United rallied from a goal down to earn a deserved win over Chelsea in an absorbing game which kept the Blues out of the top-four. Chelsea began the match the far brighter side and went ahead accordingly after half an hour when Willian beat David de Gea at his near post. From that moment on, United appeared to wake to their task.
Romelu Lukaku pulled his team even just before the interval after winning a header which led to some neat interplay by United’s forwards which the Belgian striker coolly slotted into the net from close range.
The home side enjoyed far more possession and opportunities in front of goal during the second half. Lukaku again went close with an acrobatic effort which was tipped over the bar before he set up Jesse Lingard to score the winning goal 9-minutes after coming off the bench.
While Álvaro Morata had a goal chalked off for offside for the visitors, Manchester United ably saw out the game to return them back to second place in the Premier League table.
Crystal Palace Lineup
Timothy Fosu-Mensah - on loan from Manchester United - joins Palace’s long list of injuries.
Hodgson does expect Jeffrey Schlupp and Martin Kelly to both return for this clash which slightly eases their injury woes.
However, they will still be without Wilfried Zaha (knee), Scott Dann (knee), Julian Speroni (knee), Mamadou Sakho (calf), Joel Ward (knock), Jason Puncheon (knee), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (ankle), Connor Wickham (knee), Yohan Cabaye (thigh) and Bakary Sako (ankle) for tonight’s game.
Manchester United Lineup
While not on the same scale as Palace’s, Manchester United also have a reasonably long injury list to contend with. Phil Jones (knock), Daley Blind (knock), Marouane Fellaini (knee), Marcos Rojo (knock), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee) and Ander Herrera (muscular) all miss out although Mourinho does not have any new injury problems this week.
Eric Bailly could force his way back into the starting lineup while several other first-team players will be hoping to force their way into the team with Mourinho expected to make some adjustments from the side who beat Chelsea.
Key Battle: Luka Milivojević (Crystal Palace) vs Juan Mata (Manchester United)
With Palace expected to be on the back foot for the majority of this game, Milivojević will be a key figure in their team.
The Serbian midfield-anchor has excelled in-front of the centre-backs since his arrival in South London last January and can prevent Manchester United playing through the centre of the pitch as they usually prefer.
Milivojević has also scored twice in Palace’s three previous encounters, both coming from the penalty spot. While he is yet to feature in a game against Manchester United where his side have scored, his primary aim tonight will be to turn the tables on the Red Devils in this regard.
One of the tools with which Mourinho will try to unpick the Palace defence could be Juan Mata.
While the Spanish midfielder has only made one start in United’s last four Premier League fixtures, his nous and ability to thread eye-of-the-needle passes are likely to be required against a compact and well-drilled defence.
Mata also has a skill for being able to find and drift into spaces which United will also need if they’re to move Palace’s defenders and create space for their attackers further up the pitch.
Every cloud has a silver lining
With Palace short of healthy players, Aaron Wan-Bissaka made his debut for the club last weekend. The winger was not used in midfield, however, instead covering the right-back position where he had to defend against first Erik Lamela, then Christian Eriksen who switched wings during the second half.
Having been at Palace since the age of 11, the now 20-year-old was one of the more impressive players against Tottenham despite being played out of position. Not only did he win all-but-one of his 8 attempted tackles, he made four clearances and three interceptions with a busy display that helped keep the Spurs attack at bay.
While the Croydon-born youngster’s decision-making and passing accuracy left room for improvement, his attitude was exactly what was needed against stacked-odds. If the rest of Hodgson’s team can show a similar level of determination and effort in the coming weeks, they should find themselves comfortably escaping the drop at the end of the season.
It’s sometimes easy to forget that Marcus Rashford is only 20-years-old, such is the impact he’s already had at Old Trafford. Much talk has been given during this past week regarding his lack of playing time this year, with his only starts since Boxing Day coming against Derby and Yeovil in the FA Cup. To accuse Mourinho of trying to sabotage the youngster’s career seems wildly off-target though.
With mounting fears that a lack of playing time will see Rashford overlooked this summer for England’s World Cup bid in Russia, his treatment by Mourinho is likely to aid the forward rather than anything else. While he has the physical capacity to play through a long season, he could easily be mentally fatigued in June if he had played a starring role throughout this current campaign.
By giving him a rest from first-team football, Rashford will not only come back fresh and hungry to impress, he could also be more focused on the weaker aspects of his game including finishing and decision-making, ensuring he’s a much stronger player for England this summer.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 2-0 Manchester United
This game will test Mourinho’s ability to turn Manchester United into an attacking force. The Red Devils have played without pace and urgency in their game too many times this season and, doing so tonight, will play directly into Hodgson’s hands.
Mourinho’s side do have an unerring ability to grind out results when needed, especially against lower-table opposition, and this match should go the way of the visitors.