Premier League 17/18 Week 38: Crystal Palace vs West Bromwich Albion – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
The Eagles aim for a top half finish while the Baggies look to keep Moore’s extended bounce going with one final win before they drop
15:00 BST, Sunday 13th May, Selhurst Park (London, England)
Under the guidance of Roy Hodgson, the Eagles have flown to safety with games to spare. Having looked so doomed for so long, they could now finish the season with 3 consecutive league wins for the first time in over a year while they could also come to rest with their joint highest league finish in Premier League history. To do that, Hodgson will need to lead his team to victory over a former club they historically don’t fare well against.
West Brom were another team long-dead and buried but Darren Moore ran out of time in trying to raise his petrified club back from their grave. Like Palace, West Brom, too, head into this fixture unbeaten in 5 games, having won 3 and drawn 2 to lift themselves up the table. While they were eventually sunk by Southampton’s midweek win over Swansea, the Baggies will be determined to keep their heads held high as they go down swinging.
Last Time Out
Stoke City 1-2 Crystal Palace (Premier League)
The Eagles clawed their way back to victory to ensure their own safety but also lost Stoke theirs. The first half was low in notable incidents but it was the home side who showed the greater desire to make things happen. The Palace defence generally went untroubled, however, this all changed just before the break when Xherdan Shaqiri’s free-kick beat Wayne Hennessey.
This proved to wake the Eagles from their slumber, creating a more open game. The impressive James McArthur equalised for the visitors in the mid-point of the second half, finishing a quick counter-attack which had left Stoke caught high up the pitch.
With time almost up, Patrick van Aanholt then found himself in the right place to capitalise on a mistake by Ryan Shawcross, the defender gifting the ball to the visitors which came at the ultimate price.
Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 West Bromwich Albion (Premier League)
West Brom weathered a growing storm from Spurs before delivering a classic smash and grab with an injury-time winner. Much of the game had seen Tottenham try to pick off the Baggies, with the away side sitting deep and defending resolutely. With 26% possession and having faced 18 shots, Ben Foster and the defenders in front of him knew they’d been in a game when they left the pitch.
Through a collective effort, West Brom resisted Tottenham’s advances though. The centre-back pairing of Craig Dawson and Ahmed Hegazi controlled the game while Matt Phillips offered a reliable outlet to release pressure from the defence.
The late sting in the game’s story came from a corner delivered by Phillips but which fell loose in the box. Jake Livermore was the player on hand to stab the ball into the net with their first shot on target and secure what had long seemed an unlikely victory.
Crystal Palace Lineup
Scott Dann (knee) Bakary Sako (ankle) Jason Puncheon (knee) and Connor Wickham (fitness) are all unavailable for Hodgson. There’s also a further doubt over the fitness of Joel Ward who is nursing a knock which could mean another opportunity for Aaron Wan-Bissaka who impressed at right-back a month ago.
West Bromwich Albion Lineup
Gareth Barry (knee) and James Morrison (Achilles) are still absent from the Baggies squad but Moore has named the same starting lineup in each of his previous games in charge and is unlikely to tinker too heavily this weekend.
Key Battle: Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) vs Craig Dawson (West Bromwich Albion)
To call Crystal Palace a one-man team would be unfair to several of their players, however, none of them have delivered as much impact to the club as Zaha this season. The livewire forward has not yet hit double figures for league goals this season (8) but has still pushed their only centre-forwards out of the team and onto the bench. After being directly involved in 9 goals during his last 8 appearances, the Eagles hopes of a win are likely to again rest on Zaha’s shoulders ahead of their final match.
West Brom’s biggest asset under Moore has been their ability to blunt the opposition attacks. A key part of this has been the form of Dawson, a defender who Moore has switched to a central position rather than the fullback roles he’s regularly filled earlier this season. Against Spurs, he again showed an uncanny ability to be I the right place at the right time while it was also his header that helped create the late chance for Livermore to score.
Manager of the season?
Roy Hodgson has proved his critics wrong and saved the failing Eagles in some style while doing this. Having lost each of their first 7 league games without a goal to show between them all, The former England manager has breached the 40-point mark in 30 games to give them guaranteed Premier league action next season with fixtures to spare.
What makes this more impressive is the adversity through injury in which he’s been forced to operate, often with no strikers of any kind at his disposal. A lack of strengthening in the January transfer window highlighted this even further, yet the Eagles have risen. That they could also finish in the top half of the table remains a cherry which is still to be put on the top of this achievement, however, Hodgson’s efforts should receive the acclaim they truly deserve.
Tried but untested
There has been a growing clamour in Birmingham for Darren Moore to have his position made permanent after a stunning, albeit late, turnaround in the clubs fortunes over the past 5 weeks.
With no prior managerial experience, Moore still presents something of a risk for the West Brom board. His 5 games in charge have all fielded identical starting lineups while he has shown little in the way of tactical nous and in-game management.
Where he is exceptionally strong is in player motivation and while this characteristic may peak and fall through the course of a season, it should not be idly ignored. While there is no doubting he makes an extraordinary coach, there remains a small question mark over how he would handle the club beyond a short-term stint. If West Brom choose to not take that risk, they may never know how much he can deliver though.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-1 West Bromwich Albion
While West Brom have still looked like a side of limited capabilities in recent weeks, there can be no questioning the fight, belief or organisation and this again will make them a tricky opponent. Whether Moore gets a chance to take on the job permanently remains to be seen, however, avoiding defeat again this weekend will add further strength to an already near-watertight argument.
(Photo Credit: Reuters/Peter Powell)