Palace away in a late kick off on Saturday. You’re only as good as your last game they say, quite handy when that game was a thorough beating handed out to the media’s favourites for the title. If we’re that competent of course then a fixture against a side in the bottom three who’ve not won since November shouldn’t present too much of a problem but we all know better than that of course.
Injuries and the ACN mean that we’re likely to face a bit of midfield disruption. I’m no doctor but it’ll be a surprise if Mason starts and Nabil Bentaleb is presumably already in Equatorial Guinea with Algeria. He’s certainly well travelled for a young lad. We’re trumped by the Eagles when it comes to key players gone missing due to international tournaments however as both the influential Jedinak and maverick Bolasie are missing. Shame.
The big story for the Eagles of course is that this is the manager’s first home game in charge. The appointment of Warnock at the start of the season was always an odd one. He had some initial success but in the last couple of months he’s looked out of his depth and it was only a matter of time. Handing the office keys over to Pardew though is hardly passing them to a safe pair of hands. He’s been ultimately disappointing at a number of clubs as well as gaining a reputation as a bit of an idiot. Any port in a storm I guess though.
This airy pontificating comes from a position of strength for once as Pochettino’s stock could hardly be higher. The win over Chelski lifted us to an unlikely 5th in the table and if things go our way, we could even be in the top four at the end of the weekend with our next game against Sunderland at home. He is getting performances from players that seemed to be drifting last season (Chadli, Vertonghen and Bentaleb), has introduced new blood (Mason, Fazio, Davies) to great effect and is getting the best from Eriksen, Lloris and Kane giving us hope that we can start to look back fondly, rather than with an aching heart, on the era of Van der Vaart, Modric and Bale. The dire showing against Leicester was only only three league games ago, it seems so much longer though such is the revitalising air around the club following the win on New Year’s Day.
Stambouli & Dembele are likely to take their places behind the front four, and add bulk rather than mobility to the team that started against Chelsea (I’m assuming Lamela is still injured). Townsend’s penalty was superb in that game. I personally want to see him given many more chances before we make any rash decisions about his suitability. He’s only started 15 league games for us would you believe? He’s got pace and directness, two valuable qualities and is there to be moulded even though he’ll be 24 this year. The man of the moment will lead the line.
We can expect Pardew to put out an attacking side, which should play into our hands. They have players that are capable of causing us problems, Puncheon, Zaha, Gayle, but we have more that they should be worried about even with the missing players. We mustn’t be complacent, there’s New Manager Syndrome to worry about after all. If we can play at a good tempo, not make any mistakes and create a chance or two for Harry, we should be ok.
Anthony Taylor is down to referee. COYS.
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