After the Lord Mayor’s Show, as the saying goes.
Crystal Palace come to Wembley on Sunday for a ridiculously early noon kick-off to face the conquerors of the European Champions, or more accurately I suspect, a well shuffled pack containing much of the bench from Wednesday and very probably minus most of those injured in that contest. There’ll be no Alderweireld, very likely no Lloris and Ben Davies too may sit this one out.
Kane too did not look fit – the international break could hardly be better timed, but he has become even more of a talisman than ever so may be risked. At a guess our line-up will look something like: Vorm, Aurier, Dier, Vertonghen, Sanchez, Rose, Winks, Dembélé/Sissoko Eriksen, Alli, Son/Kane. I’m always wrong though so don’t take this as gospel.
Palace’s soul destroying start to the campaign is now behind them and the Hodgson Project is well underway. The seven-game goalless losing streak came to an end when they deservedly beat Chelski and since then they’ve been desperately unlucky not to get anything from Newcastle and then gained a spirited come from behind merited point against West Ham – see above. We’ll face a side in good heart.
Minus Benteke they have quickly developed an alternative formation with Townsend and Zaha forming an unlikely partnership up front. Cabaye, England’s Loftus-Cheek, Schlupp and Milivojevic form a drilled midfield in front of a back four that must still need help getting to sleep at nights – no clean sheets this season.
Zaha might see himself as undergoing an audition. We were so close (apparently) to signing him a couple of years ago but baulked at the price of £30+ million, a cheque we’d be happy to hand over now. Pochettino let go Lennon and Townsend but in Clinton and N’Koudou has been looking for an upgrade that has hasn’t yet happened. A fit Zaha would satisfy that objective.
We have a history of struggling to overcome Palace, last year’s results were both 1-0 after late goals from Wanyama and Eriksen. The atmosphere on Wednesday was tremendous, there’s little chance of that being recreated at the weekend, there is though no reason why the result shouldn’t be.
Kevin Friend is the referee.