Aston Villa-Crystal Palace Preview
Crystal Palace and Aston Villa will both want a positive result from Saturday’s Premier League clash at Selhurst Park to put more distance between themselves and the relegation places.
Going into this weekend’s round of fixtures, Palace and Villa both have a seven-point cushion between themselves and the drop zone. However, neither are yet mathematically certain of avoiding relegation, although it would take a remarkable upturn in the fortunes of clubs currently at the foot of the table for either the Eagles or Villans to lose their top-flight status.
Palace (10-4-18) will be in good heart after back-to-back league wins against title-chasing Chelsea and relegation-threatened Cardiff City, including a 3-0 rout of the latter last Saturday.
Eagles boss Tony Pulis has warned his players against complacency ahead of the match with Villa.
"It’s been a good couple of weeks for us and it’s important we keep our feet on the ground," said Pulis. "We recognise how difficult the Villa game is going to be on Saturday and every game from then on in. We have to maintain the momentum that we’ve built up over the last few weeks.
"Villa are an established Premier League side and they have fantastic tradition. I have a lot of respect for Paul Lambert, I think he’s a top manager. In over the period of time he’s been there, he’s changed the playing side of it. He’s brought in a lot of younger players and they are an exciting team."
Villa (9-7-16) have struggled in league play recently. The Midlanders lost their last three league matches and were also hit by news last week that star striker Christian Benteke is likely to be out for at least six months after rupturing his Achilles tendon in training.
The 25-year-old Belgium international, who has scored 11 goals for Villa this season, will also miss the World Cup this summer.
Following back-to-back 4-1 defeats at home to Stoke City and away to Manchester United, Villa’s misery was compounded last weekend by an embarrassing 2-1 defeat at Villa Park against lowly Fulham.
Defender Joe Bennett expects a tough game at Selhurst but is confident Villa can do well against the Eagles.
"Palace, generally, are a team in good form," Bennett said. "They have beaten Chelsea and Cardiff over the past few weeks. Tony Pulis has done a fantastic job since he’s come in.
"We need to play well. If we play like we did against Chelsea, there’s no reason we can’t get a result. We have a good team and I am sure we can pick up some points in the remaining weeks."
After confirmation Benteke will not play again this season, Villa at least received the welcome news that Gabby Agbonlahor (illness), Karim El Ahmadi (thigh) and Fabian Delph (leg), who missed the match against Fulham, have all been declared fit to face the Eagles. Crystal Palace have reported no new injury concerns.
Substitute Dwight Gayle scored a stoppage-time winner as Palace won 1-0 at Villa Park on Dec. 26.