• Nick Hamer

Pre-Match Review | Crystal Palace (A)

Crystal Palace vs Sheffield United - 01/02/2020

English Premier League

The Blades’ last win at Selhurst Park was in April 2005, can they channel the energy of Paul Ifill on Saturday?

Last Time Out

Sheffield United 1 (Lundstram 47) - 0 Crystal Palace - 18/08/2019

English Premier League

In Sheffield United’s first Premier League campaign of the 21st century, they had to wait for 7 games for their first win. Chris Wilder and his team didn’t have to wait that long the second time around.

Whilst Bournemouth brought their first game back in the top flight, Billy’s Premier League goal and in a stadium which holds almost as many as United’s Kop. Sunday afternoon’s fixture was the homecoming. A no-smoking policy on the concourse on the KOP was enforced. There’d been a few paint jobs around the place and Sheffield United players would be coming up against the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend. As opposed to Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Donal McDermott (A prize if you can guess which game I’m referencing here).

It wasn’t an entertaining game by any stretch of the imagination. Blades fans were still getting used to a more industrious midfield-three, having been used to the sight of an attack-minded midfielder playing ahead of a 2, now they were seeing Norwood as the middleman, with the '2 Johnnies' (Fleck and Lundstram) either side of him.

Both would play a huge part in securing the 3 points, albeit, for opposing reasons, Fleck would come off just before the half-hour mark with an injury that would see him out for a month. The latter would score the only goal of the game when Fleck’s replacement, Luke Freeman’s effort was palmed away by Palace Goalkeeper Vincent Guaita after some decent build-up play down the left-hand side and into the path of Lundstram who buried it home from close range.

Chances for the Eagles were at a premium and their game plan seemed to consist of giving it to Zaha and hoping for the best. George Baldock had a relatively easy afternoon keeping him in check. United could have made it 2-0 right at the end through Oli McBurnie when his header went just over the crossbar. Never mind eh?

What’s changed since the last time we played each other?

At one point, both sides were on remarkable runs which saw both teams closer to the Europa League places than they were to the relegation places.

Some (me included), thought Palace may struggle this season. Aston Villa were spending like it was nobody’s business and Norwich City weren’t spending anything but people liked watching them in the Championship and they had some good youngsters.

Palace, on the other hand, had just lost Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Manchester United and the only transfers they had paid fees for were for Jordan Ayew and James McCarthy.

Ayew, alongside free signing Gary Cahill, have probably been their best players this season.

With Christan Benteke being seemingly broken, the Ghanaian international is Palace’s top goalscorer this campaign, the closest behind him being Zaha with 3 goals so far.

Former Blades-loanee Cahill came into the side following the defeat at Bramall Lane. His debut was a 2-1 win at Old Trafford. A win there may not have the same shine as it used to under the days of Ferguson but it did spark a run which saw Roy Hodgson’s side pick up 14 points out of a possible 24, which took them to 6th place by the end of October.

Crystal Palace’s Recent Form

Crystal Palace, like many of us, haven’t coped very well with the clocks going backwards.

November saw them only pick up 3 points and that was away at Turf Moor to a Burnley side who looked like they were struggling at the time, they’ve since picked up.

Have Palace? That’s difficult to say, I suppose it depends on whether you’re an optimist or not which as a mindset which can also alter when the clocks go backwards.

Some might say they’ve only lost 1 of their last 6 games. Others will say they’ve drawn 4 of their last 5.

There have been impressive draws against a less toxic Arsenal and away to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. One thing appears to be the same from last season and that is the difference between their home form and their away form.

Last season Palace were 18th in the home league table and this season as it stands they’re 15th in the league table. In the away table last season they were 6th and this season as it stands they are 8th. Which hopefully means they can be got at on Saturday.

Manager Quotes

Roy Hodgson

"There are quality players out there who aren’t being touted every day by agents as worth £20, £30 or £40 million, there are players out there that Chris Wilder has found and developed who are every bit as good perhaps as the players being touted for those sums. I’m pretty certain when we refer back to our second game of the season, the names were not household names for us.

The transfer value of those players then will be nothing like the transfer value of those players today because that’s what getting in the Premier League and doing well in the Premier League does to your football club.

It’s credit to Chris Wilder and Alan Knill for the work they've done there because they’ve found good players and it goes to show you can succeed at a football club if you work that way and you do find good players without a war chest of so many 10s or 100s of millions.” - on Chris Wilder and Sheffield United

“Our approach will be based on what they’re very good at and what they do. One of the things we know they do is to defend well and get bodies behind the ball very quickly.

If we’re going to score goals we’ve got to get balls into the penalty area, so I don’t know how that will affect our approach.

We have to make sure the players are prepared for what they’re going to come up against and what I’m looking for from us is the quality to unlock their defence, to make it difficult for them to keep us out.

Then it’s for us and the movement from our players up front to create those opportunities and, most importantly, if we create them, to take them.” - On their plan against Sheffield United

Chris Wilder

"Their away record has been unbelievable over the last couple of years and any team that gets a result at Manchester City is a good one, to manage in different countries for huge clubs and come here to manage England, Liverpool, Fulham, Palace, and still be doing it... is brilliant.

To still have the drive and ambition and will to win at his age - which I won't be disrespectful enough to reveal - is incredible.

I think I'd get away with saying he's in the twilight of his career but he's someone I have an enormous amount of respect for.

I've been in the managerial game since my early 30s and I know how difficult it is... so to stick another 20 years on that and still be successful speaks volumes about him and Ray [Lewington, assistant manager] and how they work with modern players. I imagine he might shake his head now and then at the clothes they wear or the cars they drive or the music they listen to. But he certainly gets a tune out of his players and he's someone I have an enormous amount of respect for." - on Roy Hodgson

“The board have really backed us in this window to bring in players of the quality of Sander.

He fits the bill in so many ways. He’s a Norwegian international who has played 20 times for his country, he’s also played Champions League football and we’re delighted he has decided to come to Bramall Lane.

Sander is someone we have known about for quite a while now. We have tracked him over a sustained period of time, he was a player we highlighted as someone who could come in and really improve us and we are thrilled he’s agreed to come here.

When we sat down with Sander it was clear that he was really excited about coming here and that was great to see. I think this signing just shows how far we have come in a short space of time, that we are now attracting the likes of Sander to the football club. It’s a brilliant signing for us.” - On New Signing Sande Berge

Opposition Style of Play

Hodgson has spoken about the need to be able to unlock Sheffield United’s defence and it’ll be interesting to see how they do that on Saturday.

During their draw against Manchester City, they created chances primarily through long balls up to Cenk Tosun. Which makes sense when City have been playing Fernandinho at centre half for the majority of the season.

I can’t imagine that will be Palace’s gameplan, Cenk Tosun is injured and considering Basham (1), O’Connell (5) and Egan (10) are all in the top 10 for headed clearances, it seems like a bit of a waste of time pumping balls up to Ayew.

Against Arsenal, Palace created a chances using the width and what might be a good idea is to try and challenge Sheffield United in wide areas, especially if Patrick Van Aanholt can get up and down the left flank, creating space on the inside for Zaha to drift into.

Player to Watch

I was going to put Cenk Tosun, but unfortunately, he’s injured.

Zaha appears to be having a relatively quiet season by his standards so it’s difficult to really pick out a standout performer for Palace.

One of the great things about this Crystal Palace and Roy Hodgson team’s, in general, is the way they are meticulously drilled and that comes from a strong collective, so if you’re going tomorrow, keep an eye on how well organised Palace as a whole are.


I’m quite optimistic considering our away form and their home form. I reckon we’ll just edge it 2-1.

Betting Picks

Both Teams to Score at 11/10 (SkyBet); Enda Stevens to Score Anytime at 20/1

Possible XI’s

Berge to make a cameo from the bench. I think with McGoldrick still being a doubt I’d go with McBurnie and Sharp, something just isn’t right with Mousset at the moment.

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