With Albion’s position in the Premier League table a perilous one, Sam Allardyce’s men will travel to Selhurst Park aiming to take away three points from the Eagles.
The Baggies currently sit in 19th position, despite just one defeat in their last five games with a host of new faces making the impact that Allardyce would have been hoping for. Although, three of those five games have been draws with Albion spurning big chances in games against Manchester United and Burnley which could have made a big difference to their points tally.
Meanwhile Palace have been lacking inspiration in attack recently, with star winger Wilfried Zaha missing a run of games through injury which coincided with a run of poor form. Though the Ivory Coast international returned as a substitute in the 4-1 defeat away at Spurs, and will be fighting for a place in the starting line-up on Saturday. Former Albion boss Roy Hodgson has built a team that reflects his management style at Selhurst, with his side defensively organised and a threat on the counter. They should be definitely respected.
Here’s an overview of our opponents: Crystal Palace.
Despite Palace often being compact and solid out of possession, when they are broken down ‘keeper Vincente Guaita has the shot-stopping ability to save points himself. The Spaniard is yet to miss a minute of Premier League football this season and his consistency recently earned him a new three-year deal with the club. Guaita averages 3 saves per 90 minutes this season, the ninth highest amount in the Premier League (all stats according to whoscored.com). He specialises in making close-range saves having made 0.3 saves from inside the six yard box per 90 this season, ranking joint-third highest in the league, whilst last season he led the way making the most saves per 90 from inside the six yard box with 0.4. Whilst Allardyce will be hoping Mbaye Diagne can start converting opportunities into goals, it will not be an easy task up against Guaita.
When Palace secured the signature of Gary Cahill in the summer of 2019, the signing was rightly lauded by onlookers and the former Chelsea captain has not disappointed throughout his time in South London so far. Injury has limited Cahill to thirteen appearances in the Premier League this season. but when he plays Cahill’s presence at the back is strong. Despite the injury issues, Cahill averages 1.1 shots blocked per 90 this season which is the joint-fifth highest in the league for players with more than 10 starts. Cahill is only dribbled past 0.2 times per 90 meaning that he is also difficult to beat in one vs one scenarios.
Christian Benteke has provided a much needed focal point for Palace during Zaha’s absence. Benteke’s physical ability has been well documented throughout his time in England and the stats back this up. Only Thomas Soucek (5.7) and Ollie McBurnie (6.2) have won more duels than the former Villa man this season. After enduring a barren spell in front of goal across the last three seasons -where he only netted a combined six goals- Benteke has somewhat rediscovered his goal scoring touch this season, having found the net on five occasions. The thirty-year-old notched a brace in the reverse fixture at the Hawthorns, including a powerful finish from the edge of the area as Albion succumbed to a 1-5 defeat. Benteke has been scored the Eagles’ previous two Premier League goals with a trademark header at Tottenham and a sublime 95th minute volley to beat rivals Brighton.
The aforementioned Zaha has established himself as one of the Premier League’s most dangerous attacking players since re-joining his boyhood club. Having hit double figures in direct goal contributions in four of the last five Premier League seasons, Zaha has been pursued by not only the likes of Everton and Arsenal but European giants such as Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund and Monaco. And despite those injury troubles he has still proven to be Roy Hodgson’s go-to man this season, with nine goals -including two in that 5-1 win- and two assists to go with it. His underlying statistics do not hide his ability either, only Jack Grealish (4.5) has been fouled more times per game than Zaha who draws 2.9 fouls per game due to his dribbling prowess. Zaha also leads the way at the club for shots per game with 2.3 and averages the most successful dribbles alongside former Albion transfer target Eberechi Eze with 1.8 dribbles per game.
Palace currently sit in thirteenth position with no major fears of being sucked into the relegation battle. A win can take them above Wolves and Leeds into 11th position just below Arsenal. Whereas Albion are in desperate need of a win with the deficit from safety currently at eight points.
As previously mentioned, the reverse fixture saw Palace completely dominate after a controversial Matheus Pereira red card. Prior to Pereira’s dismissal the match was evenly balanced with Conor Gallagher converting from well orchestrated move from Slaven Bilić’s side after a Darnell Furlong own goal gave the visitors the lead. Although two goals from Zaha and Benteke then saw Palace take complete control.
The most recent meeting at Selhurst Park was the final game of the 2017/2018 season, where Darren Moore’s already relegated side were easily beaten 2-0, with goals from Zaha and Patrick Van Aahnolt.
A second string Albion team were also swept aside by Palace in the third round of the Carabao Cup in 2018 with Andros Townsend scoring a spectacular goal from distance.
Although overall, Albion have won the most fixtures between the two teams since the first meeting in 1969 with 24 victories compared with Palace’s 21 wins. There have also been 15 draws out of the 60 matches.