By Scott Hunt/ @scotthunt92
This all-Premier League clash in the third round of the FA Cup offers Ronald Koeman’s Southampton side the change to avenge their defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace in the competition last season.
On that occasion it was a fourth round meeting in which all five goals were scored before half-time, including four in 13 minutes, as a Marouane Chamakh brace helped Palace to a 3-2 win at St. Mary’s. That made it four wins from his first four games as manager for Alan Pardew and a year on, the plaudits continue for the Eagles boss. Last weekend’s home defeat to Chelsea saw Palace slip behind West Ham and down to seventh in the Premier League – but their was their first loss in seven as their exceptional start to the season put talk of European qualification firmly on the agenda.
It might therefore be fair to suggest that the FA Cup could serve as more of a distraction from their league campaign than a trophy that Palace will want to pursue with great intent.
But Pardew dismissed those suggestions at his pre-match press conference and while acknowledging the scheduling challenges for Premier League clubs, says that the FA Cup is a competition he cherishes.
“It’s the trophy of the utmost importance to me,” Pardew said.
“It comes at a bad time for Premier League clubs, the third round, but it’s massive for me, massive for our fans and our players.
“I got to the final with West Ham and got so close to winning. It’s a competition I love. My favourite football moments are from this Cup.
“To be part of the folklore of winning it has just missed me on two occasions. I hope it doesn’t for a third!
“We’re going to try for a cup run. We’d have liked an easier draw, but there’s not much we can do about that!”
Former Southampton manager Pardew will be hopeful of progressing further into the competition than last years fifth round defeat to Liverpool. The Eagles have a good FA Cup record against the Saints, having knocked them out on four of their seven meetings. Pardew’s men also had the edge between the two sides when they met in the Premier League last month.
Apart from bringing the start of the FA Cup campaign for the Premier League clubs, January also heralds the madness of the mid-season transfer window. There has been much speculation surrounding Palace, with the suggestion that they may look to add to their striking options in this window. Pardew admitted they are looking at some targets, but hit out at former Eagles manager Neil Warnock, who suggested Palace should move for QPR striker Charlie Austin in this window.
“This market will be very very difficult. Not just for me, but for all Premier League teams,” Pardew said.
“I just want them to be good enough to play for Crystal Palace. What’s the point in bringing in strikers that aren’t better than the ones I’ve got?
“I’ve seen all the names that have been linked with us and not one of them is true. We are looking at one or two, but not them.
“Neil Warnock was the manager here and he didn’t do very well so I am not really interested in his opinion. Charlie Austin is of no interest to us.”
Sadio Mane has been a man making the headlines for all the wrong reasons for Southampton over the Christmas period. Koeman branded his behaviour ‘unacceptable’ after missing a pre-match meeting before their defeat to Norwich last weekend – a game for which Mane was dropped on the bench. He is expected to return to the starting eleven against Palace and Southampton will hope he can provide the attacking spark that has been lacking in recent weeks. Mane is the Saints brightest attacking force as the rumours linking him with the Premier League’s top clubs prove.
Yohan Cabaye missed the defeat at home to Chelsea through suspension but is available to return for the FA Cup third round. The Frenchman scored the only goal in Palace’s victory over Southampton last month and is the creative influence in the Eagles midfield. His return will bolster the confidence of the 5000 fans that will be heading to St. Mary’s to support Palace.
Striker Graziano Pelle will be missing from Ronald Koeman’s side due to a knee injury, while influential midfielder Victor Wanyama starts a two-match ban. There could be a return to the side though for Cedric Soares and Juanmi, who are both fit again after injury.
Alan Pardew has no new absentees and his squad could feature Bakary Sako for the first time since November, while Cabaye is set to return to the heart of the midfield.
Southampton 1-1 Crystal Palace