Two of the Premier League’s form teams will battle for supremacy on Boxing Day at the Vitality Stadium as Bournemouth entertain a Crystal Palace side that is now just a point off the the top four.
A run of three successive wins has lifted the Cherries towards mid-table and have given them a four point cushion above the bottom three, so they should enter a sequence of three matches in the space of a week with confidence and relish rather than with a feeling of apprehension. Despite calls in some quarters for a change of style to help turn results around, manager Eddie Howe has stuck to what has earned the club incredible success in recent seasons, and is now beginning to be rewarded.
Having claimed the two notable scalps of Chelsea and Manchester United, it would have been something of a disappointment had they gone down to defeat at West Bromwich Albion last time out, but they managed to remain at a high level and come away with a highly commendable win, even if they made somewhat hard work of it against 10 men. The game also saw right-back Adam Smith maintain his fine form and grab another goal, with the former Tottenham youngster proving that he can more than hold his own in the top-flight.
One look at the statistics for Crystal Palace’s last match at Stoke City suggests that there could have been no way that the Londoners could have come away with all three points, but that they managed and they now in a position where qualification for Europe is now starting to look a realistic prospect. That they managed to claim victory was down to determined defending, a penalty gifted to them late in the first half, and a stunning late strike from Lee Chung-Yong.
With the club boasting an array of strong attacking options, the South Korean has become something of a forgotten man, but served a reminder of his many talents with his decisive goal, which delivered a result that only added to Palace’s potential. They now seem to have quality cover in all areas of the pitch, so regardless of the team Alan Pardew fields here his side will be in with a chance, and this does promise to be an exhilarating spectacle with both line-ups full of pace.
Bournemouth are short in attack as a result of injuries to Josh King and Junior Stanislas, while Lee Tomlin is also set to miss out.
Yohan Cabaye may be back for Palace along with Mile Jedinak, but Dwight Gayle and Bakary Sako are both definitely unavailable.