15:00 KO (BST); Saturday 26th August; Selhurst Park (London, England)
Crystal Palace fans can be forgiven for feeling a sense of déjà vu. There appears to be a cycle set deep within Selhurst Park that sees their team continually strive to find a manager and system that will provide an attacking style of play. When this has been found wanting, they’ve inevitably reverted to a defensive system which has proved successful.
While the search for a different outcome by continually performing the same routine is a sure sign of insanity, Steve Parish will hope that victory this weekend can disprove Einstein’s theory and bring a new dawn over the club he rules over with continued optimism.
Paul Clement performed a near miracle last season to keep his Swans side afloat in the Premiership. With many commentators attributing the successful fight for safety to the on-field stars of Gylfi Sigurðsson and Fernando Llorente, Clement stood in the background but ultimately masterminded their season’s revival.
Despite a slow start to the current campaign, Swansea already look more like a team playing for each other and as such, they will be a harder proposition for teams to break down. Whether they can begin to break their opponents down and claim victories is still up for debate, however. Facing a Palace side in a similar predicament should start to provide some answers for their supporters.
LAST TIME OUT
CRYSTAL PALACE 2 – 1 Ipswich Town (EFL Cup – Second round)
With Frank de Boer making seven adjustments to his side, the Eagles looked relatively unmodified alongside Ipswich who surprised everyone with a completely different line-up from the side that beat Brentford three days earlier.
The wholesale changes were evident in a first half that lacked any sense of cohesion from either side, with defences coming out clearly on top of the disjointed attacks.
James McArthur proved to be Palace’s hero with two goals in the final 15 minutes of the game, however, promising youngster Jason Lokilo was one of the few players to give a good account of himself in the match.
After an impressive pre-season saw his unexpected emergence from the Palace youth ranks, Lokilo was given a competitive outing in the Cup match by his manager. Full of energy and striking a shot against the post which could easily have found the net instead of bouncing back into play, the youngster continues to look like a player to watch in the near future.
Milton Keynes Dons 1 – 4 SWANSEA CITY (EFL Cup – Second round)
Paul Clement opted to make a mere four changes to the team which fell foul of Manchester United last weekend and it proved a rewarding ploy for the Swans manager. A dominant first half lacked a significant cutting edge, Leroy Fer’s first strike in the 19th minute ensuring the teams were level as they went into the break.
The second half proved to be much more fruitful for the Welsh side who exerted their extra quality over their hosts. While Fer claimed a second goal of the game, it was the link-up play and added decisiveness in front of goal by Swansea’s front two which proved to be the biggest positive.
Tammy Abraham and Jordan Ayew have both recently been accused by Clement of being wasteful in leading their team forward, however, a goal each will surely give them a boost of confidence that their manager was hoping to provide when he chose the starting line-up for this match.
Crystal Palace Lineup
Jaïro Riedewald (knock) remains a doubt to start with James Tomkins likely to continue deputising in defence for the ex-Ajax defender. Frank de Boer will also be without the services of Pape Souaré (thigh) Connor Wickham (knee) and more crucially, Wilfried Zaha who still has no scheduled return date from his knee injury.
Swansea City Lineup
Fernando Llorente (arm) is again expected to be unavailable, leaving Tammy Abraham and Jordan Ayew to lead the Swans frontline, while Sung-Yeung Ki (knee) and Nathan Dyer (Achilles) are unfit to play and Stephen Kingsley has left the club for Hull City.
Leon Britton (back) and Kyle Bartley (knee) are also doubtful to start, however, new arrival Sam Clucas will hope to plunge directly into the action with the versatile midfielder offering plenty of options for Clement regarding possible formations and line-ups.
Key Battle: Timothy Fosu-Mensah vs Tammy Abraham
Ruben Loftus-Cheek has sucked up many of the positive headlines for Palace during the early stages of the new season, however, another loan star is also firmly establishing himself within de Boer’s new-look side. Fosu-Mensah has slotted straight into the Palace defence, showcasing a strong physical presence, slick passing and most importantly, an ability to win the ball cleanly from onrushing forwards.
While the Manchester United youngster has shown himself capable of succeeding in the Premiership, his fellow teammates will need to begin showing similar standards if they’re to turn the poor start around.
Tammy Abraham is another loan star in this fixture who could well have a huge impact on his club’s season. Having scored his first competitive goal for the Swans in Milton Keynes on Tuesday evening, the young striker now has the perfect platform to continue his adjustment to life in the Premier League.
With 23 Championship goals to his name from last season, the 19-year-old striker has a raw ability in front of goal and with a little refinement, could be a player who has a bright future in the game.
Eagles fail to soar
While Ipswich Town have won all four of their league games so far this season, a squad depleted by injuries led Mick McCarthy to hand seven youngsters their club debuts against Palace in the EFL Cup. With the average age of the side being only 20 years old, which includes the 32-year-old Keeper in the team, Palace should’ve made light work of dispatching the lower-league side.
With experienced players such as Yohan Cabaye and Jason Puncheon in the heart of the midfield, Palace failed to assert themselves and laboured to a victory which should have been a reasonably routine exercise for players of this calibre.
Following their disappointing displays in their opening two Premiership losses, Palace were expected to use this cup fixture as the perfect opportunity to instil confidence into a side struggling to adapt to their new manager’s philosophy.
With few of the players on the periphery of the first team showing any conceivable drive and desire to push their way into the first team, it’s already looking like it will be a long season ahead for the South London side.
Investing Icelandic money
The £15m arrival of Sam Clucas from Hull signals the first significant purchase by the Swans since the sale of Gylfi Sigurðsson to Everton and only their second cash purchase in the current transfer window following Roque Mesa joining from Las Palmas.
It seems obvious to think more money will be available for further re-enforcements, especially considering the main problem remains the lack of a creative playmaker. While Clement needed to bring extra quality into the squad he inherited in January, how he chooses to use these remaining funds to effectively replace Everton’s new midfielder will play a crucial part in determining the course for Swansea’s near future.
He who dares…
Both sides go into this fixture looking short of confidence in their ability to win. Crystal Palace have been looking positionally nervous and have suffered two defeats largely through individual errors which cost their team at least a share in any points.
This shouldn’t be surprising given that they’re still adapting to a new manager and a new system of play, however, the system being introduced depends upon calmness and control from the players. The longer that they go without picking up any points, the harder it will become to break the cycle.
Swansea have looked a more organised and confident outfit in general, but only in their defensive duties on the field. In attack, the Swans have looked short of ideas and have rarely caused any trouble to their opponents, especially against Southampton when Swansea failed to build any pressure during the game.
How far Clement will go to push his team forward and seek the goals that will win matches remains to be seen. However, it’s unlikely he will sacrifice too much of the defensive capabilities which look to be the central part of his design within his side.
PREDICTION: Crystal Palace 0 – 2 Swansea City
Swansea’s team looks to have a real sense of team spirit instilled within them and they will be hungry to bounce back from last weekends heavy defeat to Manchester United, a defeat which was not nearly as bad as the scoreline suggests.
Palace will be severely hampered by the continued loss of Zaha and with Townsend looking off the pace in the opening games, their two biggest assets from last season are currently not around to save their sinking form.
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