(Photo Courtesy Patrick)
After 8 games, Crystal Palace are 19th, having picked up their only points in a home win against Sunderland. If anything, the Eagles are exceeding expectations, as very few people would have predicted they would be anywhere other than bottom of the table. Half of their total goals scored came in that 3-1 win, they have conceded 17 goals so far, and find themselves on a 5 game losing streak. Hopes will not be high that they can turn this around, facing an in-form and league-leading Arsenal this weekend. The match could be coming at a good time for Arsenal, as Palace are rumored to want Tony Pulis - the anti-Arsène Wenger - as their new manager. Other than Murray, Palace have no major injury concerns and should be able to play their strongest team.
Arsenal will look to bounce back from their midweek defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League group stage. The German club pressed hard for 90 minutes and snatched a late winner. Personally, I was thinking during the last ten minutes that a draw would have been a hard-earned, and perhaps fair, result, so I'm sure the Club were as disappointed as I was to concede that late goal. That disappointment could perhaps be softened by acknowledging that Dortmund are one of the best teams in Europe, and that they play in a similar style to Arsenal. However, Arsenal's have been the form club in the Premier League, having won 5 and drawn 1 of it's last 6 games, and remain unbeaten away from home this season. Last Saturday saw the Club beat Norwich 4-1 at the Emirates. While the game featured some scintillating goals, there was a period of around 20 minutes either side of half-time where Norwich looked like they were in the ascendancy; also, the Gunners have kept a clean sheet in only one Premier League match this season and should be wary of these spells during future games.
With a number of tough fixtures following this one, Wenger could choose to rest some key players; though, with a Capital One Cup fixture next week, the Boss may choose to play the same players who have taken the side to the top of the table. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I have no idea who will take the pitch on Saturday. There are no new injuries to report, though Jack Wilshere will face a late fitness test by the medical staff, and it Mathieu Flamini will be available after leaving the action early last weekend, after a nasty looking clash of the heads with Norwich's Alex Tettey. There are no returning players, so the squad should look the same as it has for the last few weeks.
It's hard to predict anything other than an away win here. Arsenal should be far too strong for what is essentially a Championship club, and will look to boost not only their title chances but also their goal difference. Match prediction: 4-0 to Arsenal.
Crystal Palace: Speroni; Ward, Mariappa, Delaney, Moxey; O'Keefe, Jedinak, Campana; Puncheon, Bolasie, Gayle.
Arsenal: Szczesney; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Flamini, Arteta; Özil, Cazorla, Ramsey; Giroud.