Crystal Palace will be aiming to end their home season on a high by claiming their fourth consecutive victory over Stoke City in all competitions when they meet in South London on Saturday.
Safety is almost secured and there is an FA Cup final to look forward to for Crystal Palace, but one cannot help thinking they have fallen a long way short of their capabilities this season in the league. That certainly was not the case up until the turn of the year, but the manner of their total loss of form since then was summed up by defeat at Newcastle United last weekend, a game where yet again they were found wanting at the key moments.
On his first return to Tyneside after leaving for Palace 16 months ago, Alan Pardew aimed to frustrate but saw his side control much of the first half, only to fail to create clear chances. Then, when they had the chance to level the scores Yohan Cabaye was tentative from the penalty spot, ensuring another frustrating afternoon for a side with a great deal more quality than their league position suggests, so the Eagles will be keen not to make similar mistakes again here.
As is the case for many teams, Stoke have been victims of Palace’s searing pace in wide areas during recent meetings and so will be wary of over-committing when they search for a first win in six Premier League games. It was a barren spell they were so close to ending in their last game at home to struggling Sunderland, only to concede a penalty in the dying stages and be forced to settle for what was a frustrating draw after defending stoutly for long periods.
Had it been achieved, the clean sheet would have been reward for a much-improved display from the Staffordshire side, who used the aerial ability of Peter Crouch to their advantage and attacked with a great deal more urgency. The return of Erik Pieters at left-back following a two-match ban also made a huge difference, so coming into this one they should be better equipped to gain a positive result. The record top-flight points tally may now be impossible, but Stoke will feel that there are some scores for them to settle.
Palace have problems in wide areas as Wilfried Zaha is out and Yannick Bolasie is doubtful. Meanwhile, they also have concerns over Mile Jedinak.
Defenders Glen Johnson and Marc Wilson are both out for Stoke, who will give a late fitness test to Bojan Krkic.
Last Meeting: Two early goals ensured that the points were shared when the two sides last met at Selhurst Park in December 2014 in what was generally a rather scrappy affair. James McArthur put the home side in front after 11 minutes with a looping header over goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, but it was cancelled out moments later by Peter Crouch’s close range effort and the teams could not be separated from then on.