15:00 GMT, Saturday 17th March, John Smith’s Stadium (Huddersfield, England)
With four points separating them from the relegation zone, a loss this weekend would summon a worrying end to the season for Huddersfield.
Having claimed a mere seven points from their nine games this year, the Terriers season has remained on a knife-edge.
A lack of goals has been central to this, Huddersfield failing to score in five of their last seven league games. However, six goals and two wins against two relegation-threatened clubs last month suggest they could fare well against a side currently in the bottom three.
For Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace, it is now seven matches without a win and the Eagles have lost each of their last four.
With their extensive injury list now a thing of the past, Hodgson will have far more options available to him this weekend and will hope that this can trigger the beginning of the revival going into a game which neither club can really afford to lose.
Last Time Out
Huddersfield Town 0-0 Swansea City (Premier League)
The Terriers inefficiencies in front of goal were exposed once more as they were held in stalemate by 10 Swans. When Jordan Ayew was rightfully dismissed in the 11th minute for an uncontrolled challenge on Jonathan Hogg, it seemed only a matter of time before Huddersfield would triumph.
An early chance proved to be Huddersfield’s best of the afternoon, Alex Pritchard playing in Steve Mounie who then forced Lukasz Fabianski to push the shot onto the woodwork.
There was a lack of urgency in Huddersfield’s play, however, making their attacks become predictable and allowing Swansea time to regroup and defend rigidly. The Terriers best chances came down the right flank with Florent Hadergjonaj a constant menace when supporting the forwards.
Both Hogg and Aaron Mooy were worthy of praise too, coordinating the game from central midfield while Danny Williams injected some energy into the game when he came on for the final 20 minutes. It proved insufficient to break down the resolute opposition, though, and a glorious chance was passed up to leave the general feeling that two points were dropped from this fixture.
Chelsea 2-1 Crystal Palace (Premier League)
The Eagles were over-powered by the Blues in a match which highlighted the gulf between sides at either end of the Premier League table.
For all of Chelsea’s recent problems, they rarely looked like being in trouble against their South London rivals. The first half was all one-way traffic and Hodgson had no complaints about his side being 2-goals down at halftime.
With the interval came the introduction of Wilfried Zaha back into the lineup but the winger’s presence on the pitch did little to turn the tide of the game.
The front two of Christian Benteke and Alexander Sørloth were more-often isolated figures and although the latter can feel unlucky at seeing his goal disallowed, neither striker was able to provide sustained pressure on Chelsea’s defence.
While Patrick van Aanholt pulled a late goal back for the visitors, Chelsea were able to hold on and condemn Palace to yet another week in the league’s bottom three.
Huddersfield Town Lineup
Danny Williams has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with an ankle injury while Terence Kongolo (knock) and Elias Kachunga (knee) are still unavailable ahead of this fixture.
Scott Malone will continue to cover at left-back and Philip Billing will try to force his way back into midfield. However, the attacking quartet are likely to consist of the players Wagner has regularly trusted in recent weeks.
Crystal Palace Lineup
Hodgson will still be without Julian Speroni (knee), Scott Dann (knee), Joel Ward (knock), Bakary Sako (ankle), Jason Puncheon (knee) and Connor Wickham (fitness).
However, he will be welcoming a number of players back into the first team, including such key figures as Yohan Cabaye and Mamadou Sakho, in addition to Wilfried Zaha who is fully expected to make his first start since the first weekend of February.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek has also been declared fit for selection but is unlikely to begin this match having been out of action for the whole of this year.
Key Battle: Florent Hadergjonaj (Huddersfield Town) vs Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
Huddersfield’s left-back has provided some fine support for Huddersfield’s forwards this season, a fact underlined by the seven chances he created against Swansea last weekend.
Having earned a permanent contract with the Terriers earlier this month after impressing during his loan spell, it’s the Swiss defender’s defensive qualities which will be tested this week.
The return of Zaha has come well ahead of initial expectations with his 45th-minute substitute appearance against Chelsea meaning he only missed one month with a knee injury that was feared had brought a premature end to his season.
Having provided the assist for van Aanholt’s goal against the Blues, Hodgson will be hoping for more of the same from his star player who should inject some much-needed cutting edge back into Palace’s performance.
Make or break time
Huddersfield’s next three fixtures will present their best chance of picking up wins during the short time now left in this season.
With fixtures against their two fellow-promoted teams, Newcastle and Brighton, set to follow this weekend, the Terriers have a very real possibility of accumulating some points under their collective belt.
With a minimum of two wins expected to be needed to see them to safety, they will be hoping to be in a strong position before their final games against Manchester City then Arsenal.
While this weekend’s clash is not a clichéd “six-pointer” of a game, it could provide a vital boost to their ambitions of survival.
What’s in a name
With Croydon council expected to approve Crystal Palace’s plans for their stadium redevelopment proposals, Eagles chairman, Steve Parish, has confirmed reports he’s looking at potential sponsorship deals for re-naming Selhurst Park.
Similar deals have been met with disdain at other club’s across the country, however, much of this will depend upon any prospective companies or brands which could be associated with the club.
At an estimated cost of around £100 million, this may seem much less than the £1 billion redevelopment cited recently for Stamford Bridge but Palace also have far smaller resources than their London neighbours.
Perhaps the key to this is in the way which Parish communicates any progress with the Palace’s fanbase. Tottenham are currently setting the perfect example of how to balance modernisation with traditional values and it’s something which the Palace board would do well to learn from.
Prediction: Huddersfield Town 1-3 Crystal Palace
Huddersfield have the advantage of a home fixture in the game, something which has served them well this season. However, they have not been playing to a consistently high standard over the past two months.
Palace may not have picked up any points from their previous four matches but their last three games were all marginal defeats to teams placed in the top-five.
The added bonus of players returning from injury is likely to inject more confidence into Hodgson’s side and they could well return to London having removed themselves from the relegation zone.
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