Just over a year ago, Crystal Palace earned a hard fought comeback victory over Tottenham at Selhurst Park in what was Alan Pardew’s first game in charge. It was a victory that ended a run of eight games without a win for Palace, who were in the relegation zone at the time, and sparked their surge up the table which ultimately resulted in a top half finish.
12 months on and the landscape has changed dramatically. Palace are now flying high in the table and are in genuine contention for a European place – a feat that would have been deemed unthinkable in the pre-Pardew days. But, as Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs roll into Selhurst Park once again, Palace could use another rot-stopping win over their London rivals.
For their form of late has firmly hit the buffers. They’ve lost their last three league games and are winless in five having failed to score in five successive Premier League games for the first time since 1998. In fact, it is 452 minutes since The Eagles last hit the net in the league – a barren run that has enhanced the need for the arrival of a striker in this January window.
The fact that Palace remain eighth in the table, and just seven points behind Spurs in fourth, is testament to their early season form in particular away from home. Just four of their 11 home league matches this season have resulted in victory while they have failed to score in four of their last six at Selhurst Park.
Pardew is confident they can turn their fortunes around on Saturday and believes they have been able to put in the work on the training ground to end their goalless streak.
“The defeats at Villa and City have put us under a bit of a cloud, we need to get back to doing what we’re good at doing,” Pardew told his weekly press conference.
“What ifs and maybes are not the business we’re in, we’re in the business of results.
“If we can get a result against Spurs then it will be a good set up ahead of the next run of games.
“We’ve worked hard this week trying to get our strikers to relax and set themselves to shoot, rather than to pass or take a touch.
“We played in the FA Cup and scored a couple. So it isn’t a completely barren run. We need to lean on that and get back to scoring.
“I’m more confident ahead of this game then I was City. Not because they’re any less an opponent, but because we’ve had time to prepare.”
Spurs are a side in terrific form. They haven’t been defeated away from home since losing at Old Trafford on the opening day and could go ten away matches unbeaten for the first time since 1995. It’s a run built upon a solid defence that boats the defensive record in the division. They also have an excellent record against Palace to fall back on, having lost just two of their last nine encounters.
Both clubs will be desperate to win on Saturday for very different reasons. Spurs are hoping to prove they can mount a genuine title challenge this season and will view this as the kind of clash they must win to make that aspiration a reality. Palace need to end this slump and quickly. Their impressive start to the season is keeping them in contention but an extension of this barren run could see them slide down the table in the blink of an eye. They will also hope to give their home fans something to shout about and improve their below-par record at Selhurst Park.
Crucial mistakes against Aston Villa and Manchester City have put the spotlight firmly on Wayne Hennessey. The Welshman fought off competition from Alex McCarthy earlier in the season to become Pardew’s number one keeper and has continued in the role despite the return to fitness of Julian Speroni. Pardew openly criticized Hennessey after last weekend’s slip but challenged his keeper to return to form and says he will play on Saturday.
“Hennessey will play Saturday, but he’s battered and bruised,” Pardew said.
“We’ve not let him hide, you can’t bury your head in the sand. You have to have the mentality to get back to your best and I have no doubt he will do.
“Wayne’s a laid back character. Not the type to be laying awake at night worrying, but I’ve made him worry. He’s a good, honest player and he knows he’s got to get back to his best.”
While much onus falls to Harry Kane to fire Spurs to victories, the responsibility for creativity and midfield threat lies with Christian Eriksen. The Danish international scored twice against Sunderland last weekend and has six assists to his name this season. If Spurs are to complete another impressive away win, they will look to Eriksen to unlock the Crystal Palace defence.
Dwight Gayle has returned to Palace training but isn’t fit enough to feature against Spurs while under-fire Hennessey retains his place. Yannick Bolasie and Damien Delaney are both absent through injury.
Spurs are set to make changes again after rotating their squad for the FA Cup win over Leicester in midweek with Dele Alli and Harry Kane set to return while Hugo Lloris will resume in goal. An ankle injury will keep Ryan Mason out of the match.
Crystal Palace 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur