Crystal Palace vs Aston Villa – Pre-game Assessment

Like Graham Potter before him, Patrick Vieira will almost certainly be regretting that his Crystal Palace team is meeting a Steve Gerrard managed Aston Villa.  Of course, the Selhurst Park venue should make it easier than having to play against 42,000 Villa’s screaming home-fans though they might experience a deluge of claret and blue adorned road-fans in full-voice.  Certainly, the late win over a well-prepared Brighton suggests that this Villa team is a threat to all but the top three in the Premier League.

The new Palace manager has to be recognized for instilling a more positive attitude in Roy Hodgson’s team with the pickup of on-loan Conor Gallagher a big factor.  The Chelsea academy graduate joined that club as an eight-year-old and Palace is his fourth assignment and, at 20, his most successful so far with 4 goals, 3 assists, and a 63% tackle success rate in 11 appearances this season!

Gallagher’s presence has created far more space for ex-Villan, Christian Benteke, to regain his form and goal-scoring success of the years he played for us (he left in 2015).  He has even reclaimed his spot in the Belgium national team.  The triple threat of Gallagher, Ivorian Wilfried Zaha, and Benteke has them just behind Manchester United in goals scored, but with a similar sieve-like defense.  Their strength and weakness seem to be balancing out with Palace having the most ties in the Premier League (7) in eleven games, one more than Brighton.  Villa, meanwhile, have the lowest number of ties with only 1.  Statistical probability suggests that one team will take all the marbles.

Vieira has admitted to his team not defending well from set pieces with half of opponents’ 18 goals coming that way.  Burnley scored two of their three goals through set-piece headers last Saturday having dedicated time in training to exploit a marking weakness (according to manager Sean Dyche).  SG will inevitably do the same, encouraged by both Cash and Mings coming close with headers against Brighton.

I expect Vieira to roll out the same, or a very similar, team to the one that faced Burnley as there is nobody coming back from injury nor any Eagles’ player who performed at less than par.

As for our Villans, Gerrard will be sorely tempted to keep the same line-up as he fielded against Brighton even given that the goals came after the three substitutions.  It’s even possible that given the same circumstances he would roll out the same three subs.

In fact, despite Crystal Palaces vaunted offense, I anticipate that our Villans will find a way to match them in intensity and benefit from an edge in the quality of our keeper.  The Eagles may squeeze out one goal, but a Gerrard team will play to the whistle and we have too much quality in the front to not breach the Eagles defense at least twice.

My prediction is 2-1 with goals coming from Ings and Bailey.


Crystal Palace likely starting X1

Guaita; Ward, Guehi, Andersen, Mitchell; Milivojevic Kouyate, Gallagher, Ayew, Benteke, Zaha. 

Subs:  Butland, Clyne, Kelly, Tomkins, Schlupp, Edouard, Olise, Hughes, Eze

Aston Villa likely starting XI

Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett, McGinn, Nakamba, Ramsey, Buendia, Ings, Watkins

Subs:  Steer, Sanson, Hause, Davis, Tuanzebe, Carney Chukwuemeka, Bailey, Young, El Ghazi

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