15:00 GMT, Saturday 9th December, Selhurst Park (London, England)
A second away point inside a week was enough to lift Palace from the bottom of the table and put them on the edge of safety which is now a mere win from 17th-placed West Brom.
Having hit double figures in the points column, Palace are now looking to stretch their unbeaten run to five games against a side only five points and four places ahead of them in the table.
Bournemouth, too, are in resurgent form after a similarly abysmal start to the season. Four consecutive defeats from their opening matches saw them lying at the foot of the table with Palace before Eddie Howe slowly transformed his side’s fortunes.
While playing expansive football, Bournemouth – surprisingly – boast the sixth strongest defence in the Premier League. But, with goals at a premium, can the Cherries find a killer touch after shooting four blanks on the road already this season?
Last Time Out
West Bromwich Albion 0-0 Crystal Palace (Premier League)
Alan Pardew’s party was put on hold as Palace played out a goalless draw during their ex-managers return to management.
Julian Speroni was reinstalled in goal for the Eagles and helped himself to his first clean sheet of the season at the seventh attempt as a game of many shots but few chances played out at the Hawthorns.
Joel Ward proved to be Palace’s best player on the right side of defence, not only making two huge blocks to deny Sam Fields but also a threat to West Brom in an attacking sense too.
Christian Benteke also had a good game but the other Palace attackers were all suffocated for space and found themselves unable to create anything of note for their team.
Bournemouth 1-1 Southampton (Premier League)
An entertaining match on the South Coast saw the Cherries strike first but Eddie Howe’s side were unable to hold onto their lead in an end-to-end match.
After a nervous and clumsy opening 15 minutes, Bournemouth settled into their stride and were the better team during the first half.
Bournemouth should have been awarded a penalty with half an hour played and the scores still level, however, Adam Smith received a yellow card for diving rather than the spot-kick which Sofiane Boufal’s mistimed challenge merited.
With Jermain Defoe, Junior Stanislas and Ryan Fraser all making a start for the first time in several weeks, it was Fraser who made the biggest impact with a well-taken goal just before halftime.
While Southampton had the better of the second half, both teams were committed to finding a winning goal as the game remained lively until the final whistle.
Crystal Palace Lineup
Speroni is again set to start in goal as Wayne Hennessey recovers from a back injury.
Scott Dann (illness), James Tomkins (knock) and Joel Ward (groin) are all doubts to begin too with late fitness tests needed to assess them closer to kick-off.
However, Connor Wickham (knee) and Damien Delaney (minor operation) have definitely been ruled out, although James McArthur has recovered from a virus he had earlier this week.
Tyrone Mings (back) and Adam Smith (suspended) both miss out in defence but Eddie Howe has no other major injury problems to worry about for their trip to London.
More player rotations are likely which could mean the return of Callum Wilson and Jordan Ibe, although Howe may decide to stick largely with the team who did so well against the Saints, especially in the case of the more attack-minded midfield option of Lewis Cook.
Key Battle: Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace) vs Callum Wilson (Bournemouth)
Having played two full games since his return from injury, Benteke is starting to look back to his best. While the striker has yet to score or make an assist in the Premier League this season, his performance against West Brom was his best of the season as he had two headers and a shot from the end of a mazy run saved by Ben Foster.
This weekend the Belgian will be looking to go one better and convert a chance which his efforts deserved against West Brom.
Jermain Defoe drew yet another blank for the Cherries last weekend and with Wilson rested after coming back from his recent injury, the young Englishman should be set to return to the team this Saturday.
Much more adept at playing as a lone striker than Defoe, Wilson may have only scored in one of the six appearances he’s made over the last two months, but he is one of only four players to have a hat-trick against his name during the current campaign.
While many managers and fans complain of their side lacking enough depth within their squads, Palace seem to have a legitimate cause to argue in this respect. Last Saturday’s match saw only five Substitutes sitting on the Eagles bench as opposed to the seven which is permitted by the rules.
While Hennessey had been expected to start the match, the keeper pulled up injured in the warm-up which meant Speroni took his place in the starting line-up leaving Palace without a back-up keeper in reserve.
However, there has been no reason offered by Hodgson as to why the last slot wasn’t filled, although it is understood that Scott Dann took ill on the morning of the match. Whether it was an intentional decision or not, it was certainly an unexpected move by the ex-England manager.
The general consensus appears to be that the new rules being implemented this season by the FA to review controversial incidents post-game, are not going far enough.
Limited to only ‘key’ events which had a direct effect on goal-scoring scenarios, this still ignores the vast majority of incidents which occur during a typical game.
One area that was further highlighted this week was in the yellow card which Adam Smith was shown for what referee, Jon Moss, thought was an act of simulation against Southampton. It was revealed that, following the match, Moss realised he’d made an error and apologised to Smith for the mistake.
While this was in the penalty area and should’ve been awarded as a spot-kick, it also means Smith now picks up an automatic ban for his fifth yellow of the season.
There seems no reason why the FA can’t apply some common sense to this and rescind the caution in the same way that a regular ban can be appealed by the club.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 2-1 Bournemouth
While Palace are struggling for goals away from home, they’ve managed to score twice in each of their last four games at Selhurst Park and Roy Hodgson has them looking much more solid defensively than when he took over the Croydon club.
Bournemouth are also much-improved as the season has worn on but Howe’s side are yet to find consistency. A lack of goals could be their undoing again this weekend in what could be a very entertaining clash.
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