Crystal Palace travel to North Staffordshire on Saturday stranded in the relegation zone with manager Sam Allardyce under increasing pressure to start picking up results.
The former England manager has failed to change the fortunes at Selhurst Park and The Eagles have won just one of the seven games that he has overseen in the Premier League. The spotlight was firmly focused on Allardyce after his side slumped to a heavy four-goal defeat against bottom of the table Sunderland on home soil and supporters will be looking for an immediate reaction this weekend.
Stoke City will be looking to get their season back on track after West Bromwich Albion ended their unbeaten start to 2017 in the Premier League. Mark Hughes’ side struggled to break through a resolute Albion defence and supporters will be hoping that their side will be able to secure a victory and maintain their current good run of form at the Bet365 Stadium. The Potters will also be looking to focus on the action on the pitch after much of the attention at The Hawthorns was directed towards controversial new signing Saido Berahino.
Stoke City have been ticking along nicely in the Premier League since the turn of the year. Prior to the defeat at West Bromwich Albion last weekend The Potters had picked up 8 points from the first four fixtures of 2017 which has seen them cement their place in the relative safety of mid-table. Mark Hughes’ side can produce scintillating football (such as the 3-1 victory at the Stadium of Light in January) but are also capable of being offensively ineffective (such as the defeat at The Hawthorns). Stoke have also re-established the Bet365 Stadium as a fortress in recent months and have not lost a league contest on home soil since November.
The arrival of Sam Allardyce at Selhurst Park has failed to halt Crystal Palace’s slide towards relegation and The Eagles currently sit second-from-bottom of the Premier League. Last weekend they received a demoralising 4-0 defeat on home soil at the hands of struggling Sunderland which saw boos and jeers reign down from the stands. Palace have won just one league contest under Allardyce, a 2-0 victory against Bournemouth in January, and The Eagles have picked up just four points from the last 21 available.
Xherdan Shaqiri is set to return to the Stoke City starting line-up after recovering from a calf strain that prevented the Swiss superstar from featuring in either of The Potters’ previous two Premier League features. The diminutive winger is set to replace Ibrahim Afellay who has been relatively unimpressive whilst filling in on the right wing for the past week. Glen Johnson could also return to the match day squad but will have to be content with a place amongst the substitutes due to Phil Bardsley’s solid recent performances at right-back. Jack Butland, Stephen Ireland, Jonathan Walters and Geoff Cameron are all long-term injury absentees whilst Mark Hughes will need to decide whether to hand new £12,000,000 signing Saido Berahino a first start after the 23-year-old made substitute appearances against Everton and West Bromwich Albion.
Sam Allardyce has a number of injury issues to contend with as he prepares his Crystal Palace team for the trip to the Bet365 Stadium. Pape Souare, Jonny Williams, Connor Wickham, Bakary Sako and Jordon Mutch will all be absent whilst Yohan Cabaye is also a slight doubt after limping off midway through the first half in The Eagles heavy home defeat last weekend. Big Sam could ring the changes following the dismal display against Sunderland and could hand starts to Loic Remy, Andros Townsend, Joe Ledley, and new signing Mamadou Sakho. Steve Mandanda is still out with a knee injury meaning that Wayne Hennessey will start in goal despite producing a poor performance against The Black Cats.
Predicted Starting Line-Ups
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- Stoke City have lost just one of their previous 10 Premier League fixtures at the Bet365 Stadium.
- Crystal Palace have beaten Stoke City on each of the last five occasions that the two clubs have met in all competitions.
- Sam Allardyce has only ever one once at the Bet365 Stadium – a 1-0 win in 2013 whilst in charge of West Ham United.
- Christian Benteke has scored nine goals for Crystal Palace so far this campaign, only two players have ever reached double figures for The Eagles in the Premier League era (Chris Armstrong – 1992/93, and Andrew Johnson – 2004/05)
- Stoke City’s new signing Saido Berahino has scored three goals against Crystal Palace in his career, against no other side has he scored more.
Key Player: Marko Arnautovic
The charismatic Austrian winger has proven to be one of Mark Hughes’ best signings since arriving in North Staffordshire in the summer of 2013. Strong, powerful, direct and skilful, Arnautovic has been a thorn in the side of Premier League opposition for the last three seasons and remains one of The Potters’ main attacking outlets. He has failed to hit replicate the superb form that he demonstrated last season, in which he scored twelve goals across all competitions, and has only found the back of the net on four occasions so far this term. However, ‘Arnie’ remains one of the most talented and effective wingers in the Premier League – if and when he chooses to do so.
Crystal Palace are desperate for points but it is hard to see them beating Stoke City at the Bet365 Stadium. The Potters have not lost on home soil since November and have been in good form since the turn of the year barring last weekend’s defeat at The Hawthorns whilst they could be boosted by the return of Xherdan Shaqiri from injury. Sam Allardyce will be keen to see a reaction from his players after the suffered a demoralising four-goal defeat against Sunderland but the confidence and belief amongst the current squad must be at an all-time low. Comfortable home win.
Predicted Score: Stoke City 2, Crystal Palace 0