Middlesbrough will be confident ahead of their home match against winless Crystal Palace. They have adapted quickly to Premier League football after several years out of the top flight and look to be the best prepared out of the three promoted clubs. The visitors on Saturday, Alan Pardew’s Palace, have struggled at the beginning of the season and the pressure is already building on Alan Pardew. They have spent big in the transfer market, but the supporters will be hoping to see a return on the pitch sooner rather than later. Both sides will see this fixture as one they should be winning.
The home side have taken the confidence provided by promotion and started the season in good form. They have faced three established Premier League clubs and remain unbeaten, picking up three points. Aitor Karanka has them well organised at the back, but it could be in attack that the problems surface during the season. Alvaro Negredo has played a part in all three goals scored by Boro and is already looking central to their survival hopes.
On the other hand, Palace have had a poor start, continuing their disastrous 2016 form. They have won just two league matches this year and need to turn things around quickly. Before the season started, they would have expected more than one point from their opening three matches, but they have been lacklustre and lacking in confidence. The signings of Christian Benteke and Loic Remy will provide a much-needed goal threat that has been lacking since Pardew took over at Selhurst Park.
Victor Valdes is likely to come in for Brad Guzan after returning to training. The American hasn’t looked comfortable and the return of Valdes will be welcomed. The outfield selections are likely to remain the same, as they have played well and nobody deserves to lose their place. George Friend and Marten De Roon are available to return, but there is no need to rush them back.
Crystal Palace have some injury problems with both Yohan Cabaye and Loic Remy set to miss out. Joe Ledley should replace the former in the Palace midfield. Alan Pardew could look to counter-attack away from home and focus primarily on keeping it tight at the back. He could move to a 4-2-3-1 formation and bring Wilfried Zaha into the starting eleven to replace Connor Wickham.
Middlesbrough Crystal Palace
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George Friend, Marten De Roon and Victor Valdes have all returned to first team training. James Husband, Grant Leadbitter and Fabio Da Silva are still injured and won’t feature this weekend. Adama Traore is available to make his debut after his deadline day switch from Aston Villa, but is likely to start from the bench.
Yohan Cabaye will miss out due to a groin problem. His fellow Frenchman Loic Remy has been injured in training and it could be up to two months before he makes his debut. Bakary Sako is closing in on a return after a groin injury. Fraizer Campbell will be missing with a hamstring injury. Wayne Hennessey is available, but will struggle to regain the number one spot from Steve Mandanda.
Middlesbrough have been good defensively and Crystal Palace will struggle to break them down this weekend. Aitor Karanka’s men haven’t looked great in the final third though and a lack of goals is expected on Teesside this weekend. The away side need a positive result to prevent the pressure from building on Alan Pardew. A draw is the most likely result and both sides will probably be happy with that.