Premier League 17/18 Week 36: Crystal Palace vs Leicester City – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
The Eagles lie in wait for Claude Puel’s Foxes with pressure slowly building on the Frenchman’s shoulders
15:00 BST, Saturday 28th April, Selhurst Park (London, England)
A decreasing injury list and an increasing points tally have breathed fresh optimism into South London, with Palace now daring to dream of reaching safety. Sitting 6 points above the relegation places coming into this weekend, Roy Hodgson’s side may have played an extra game, however, it’s far better to have points on the board than games in hand at this stage of the season. A win over the Foxes would be a huge leap forward towards the Eagles ambitions.
Leicester may be safe in the table, however, Claude Puel’s job is looking increasingly less stable. The Foxes have only won 2 of their last 10 games in the league which is throwing questions of Puel’s suitability into the air. With nothing tangible left for the players to motivate towards this season, it seems this could be a real test of the manager’s credentials when they face an Eagles side playing for their top-flight lives.
Last Time Out
Watford 0-0 Crystal Palace (Premier League)
A lifeless game was punctuated by moments of almost and flashes of controversy only to end in a dull stalemate. Watford had much the better of the opening exchanges leaving Palace feeling lucky to see the interval on level terms.
James Tomkins was a big reason for this, putting in another commanding display in defence. He centre-back was also unlucky to see a shot come back of Watford’s post in the second half.
The Eagles were a better side after the break and Luka Milivojevic also saw a shot connect with the woodwork. While victory could have been snatched for the visitors, it would have been harsh on Watford and a draw was a fair result for both teams to take away from the match.
Leicester City 0-0 Southampton (Premier League)
Claude Puel fell flat against his old team as Leicester showed no sparks in a limp game. However, the two main changes made to Leicester’s lineup provided encouragement for the manager.
Aleksandar Dragovic was brought into central defence for Wes Morgan and looked comfortable in making 7 clearances and 3 interceptions. At right-back, the curious choice of Marc Albrighton went without any major problems, although, he will face far sterner tests than that provided by the Saints.
Wilfred Ndidi also made a welcome return to the team following his recent suspension but in front of him, the Leicester players were relatively static. Lacking in creativity and guile, the teams proved equally matched in a game which offered little nutrition for the soul to the watching fans.
Crystal Palace Lineup
Scott Dann (knee) Bakary Sako (ankle) Jason Puncheon (knee) and Connor Wickham (fitness) are all unavailable for this match. While both Christian Benteke and Alexander Sørloth will be fit and ready for action, Hodgson may well stick with his wingers in the attack positions due to current form, although, Jeffrey Schlupp could find his way back into the team at the expense of James McArthur.
Leicester City Lineup
Kasper Schmeichel remains out with an ankle injury meaning Ben Hamer will continue to deputise for the Dane in goal. Daniel Amartey (hamstring) Matty James (Achilles) Shinji Okazaki (ankle) and Vicente Iborra (hamstring) will also miss out.
Key Battle: Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Crystal Palace) vs Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City)
Having made 3 starts since suffering a 4-month injury lay-off, Loftus-Cheek is already looking sharp and dangerous. Despite an anonymous showing against the Hornets last weekend, the 22-year-old midfielder shone against Brighton in the previous match. Showing great technical ability along with power, pace and precision, he has been one of the Eagles better players even though he’s been played on the wing rather than his preferred, central position.
Another midfielder hoping to play well at this summer’s World Cup is Algerian winger, Riyad Mahrez. Despite not scoring or making any assists in his last 4 games, the mercurial talent has still been attracting attention, something which is sure to happen more once the transfer rumour-mill kicks into top gear. With Mahrez wanting to secure a long-awaited move, he will be one player keen to continue impressing for the Foxes this season.
Wilfried Zaha picked up his 4th yellow card of the season for simulation last weekend but also gained the backing of his manager. Hodgson defended the winger, claiming that Zaha is suffering from an unfair image that he dives and his reputation is tainting the referee’s mind.
While the booking in question looks unjustified with the benefit of replays, the fall occurred soon after another incident in which Zaha fell dramatically to the ground as he entered the penalty area. That Zaha has dived in the recent past and not be reprimanded, such as the penalty he won in the 90th minute against Manchester City last December, could potentially be working against him. If he had not have dived in previous games, would his reputation be preceding him though?
Rumours that Leicester are in for a busy summer are gathering momentum with many areas looking ripe for strengthening in their squad. With several players also failing to make the required grade and others such as Mahrez angling for a new challenge, there could be several key transfers in line this summer.
It’s no great secret that Leicester have money thanks to their surprise title win and a good run through the Champions League, however, spending it wisely could prove a challenge. The burning question in the Midlands is how far the board will overhaul the club with their manager also touted as being replaceable. Large-scale changes could prove disruptive and with international players likely to start the season more fatigued than usual, some continuity in their team could go a long way.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 3-1 Leicester City
All signs point to this match being a fairly high-scoring game. Palace fans have witnessed 13 goals during the last 3 games in South-West London while Leicester have only failed to score in 3 of their 17 league fixtures away from home. Leicester’s form should be a huge worry for Puel and with Palace needing the points and looking good for their money in recent games, there could be more worries for Puel at the final whistle.
(Photo Credit: Reuters/David Klein)