Selhurst Park plays host to an intriguing Premier League London derby on Saturday afternoon, as Crystal Palace welcome capital counterparts Fulham to their headquarters.
The Eagles were bested 3-1 by Aston Villa in their most recent battle, while the Cottagers edged past basement side Luton Town 1-0 for a much-needed maximum.
Owing to a health scare, veteran Palace boss Roy Hodgson was not barking orders from the touchline when the Eagles travelled to take on Aston Villa last week, allowing Paddy McCarthy to oversee operations once again following his brief dugout stint last season.
The Eagles were agonisingly close to giving their manager the best get-well gift they could, as Jean-Philippe Mateta and Odsonne Edouard combined for the latter to fire home the opener, but a late Lions onslaught saw Jhon Duran‘s rocket, Douglas Luiz‘s penalty and Leon Bailey‘s finish turn the tide in Villa’s favour.
Such a beating marked the end of a brief three-game unbeaten run for Palace, who have at least been boosted by the return of Hodgson to the practice pitches this week, as the Eagles boss seeks to address defensive shortcomings that have seen his side ship seven goals in their last three games in all tournaments.
Still, a ninth-placed ranking in the table is respectable for a side with top-half ambitions, and defeat to Villa was just their fourth loss from their last 15 Premier League matches, three of which have come on the road.
Since the turn of the year, only Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have come away from Selhurst Park with all three points to their name, and after failing to win any of their first six homes games in 2023, Palace have now triumphed in four of their last seven.
The international break could arguably not have come at a more opportune time for Fulham boss Marco Silva, who witnessed his side be torn to shreds by Manchester City on September 2 before enjoying a two-week period to dissect that gruelling Etihad encounter.
Sparks did not fly upon the Cottagers’ return to the Premier League, as newly-promoted Luton gave a good account of themselves at Craven Cottage last weekend, but a second-half strike from Carlos Vinicius got the capital club over the line.
The Brazilian’s 65th-minute effort propelled Fulham to their first Premier League win since also overcoming Everton 1-0 on the opening weekend – in a game where they rode their luck on more than one occasion – and their indifferent start sees them sitting level on points with Palace, albeit one place lower in 10th due to their inferior goal difference.
Inconsistency has also bedevilled Silva’s charges on the road for some time too, as Fulham have just three wins under their belt from their last 10 Premier League away matches, although they have found the back of the net in each of their last four top-flight games on enemy territory.
The Cottagers also spoiled the Christmas party with a 3-0 win over Palace at Selhurst Park on Boxing Day last year, but that triumph represents their only win from their last six games against the Eagles, who came away from Craven Cottage with a point from a 2-2 draw back in May.
Palace’s loss at Villa Park was a painful afternoon for more than one reason, as the Eagles lost attacker Jordan Ayew to a thigh injury with just 25 minutes gone, but McCarthy was hopeful that the Ghana international’s issue was nothing more serious than a dead leg.
Ayew has made a rapid recovery and should hold his place in the XI, though, while Michael Olise (thigh), Matheus Franca (back), Jefferson Lerma (thigh) and James Tomkins (calf) have been joined in the medical bay by Naouirou Ahamada, who recently sprained his ankle.
Chris Richards was handed a rare start in defence last weekend owing to Marc Guehi‘s hip injury – which he sustained on England duty – but the centre-back should shake off the complaint in time for Saturday’s derby.
Palace and Fulham can empathise when it comes to defensive concerns, as former rearguard regulars Tosin Adarabioyo and Antonee Robinson are both struggling with muscular problems, but the former could be available for Saturday’s capital clash.
Midfielder Sasa Lukic is also yet to fully recover from a knee injury and is only thought to have a slim chance of coming back for the weekend, but Harrison Reed and Joao Palhinha should pair up in the middle as ever either way.
With Raul Jimenez yet to get off the mark for his new club, Silva may consider bringing Vinicius in from the first whistle owing to his crucial goal against the Hatters, and a full debut could also come the way of summer signing Alex Iwobi as Adama Traore recovers from a hamstring problem.
Crystal Palace possible starting lineup:
Johnstone; Ward, Andersen, Guehi, Mitchell; Hughes, Doucoure; Ayew, Eze, Schlupp; Edouard
Fulham possible starting lineup:
Leno; Tete, Diop, Ream, Robinson; Reed, Palhinha; Wilson, Pereira, Iwobi; Vinicius
We say: Crystal Palace 1-1 Fulham
Fulham may have ruined the festive celebrations at Selhurst Park last year, but Hodgson’s men have since proven to be a tough nut to crack on their own turf – even Man City and Arsenal only managed a solitary goal in SE25.
A lukewarm Fulham attack will likely have to settle for the one goal at best too, which is not beyond the realm of possibility given Palace’s recent defensive frailties, and a low-scoring draw seems the likeliest outcome in this mid-table battle.
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