To round off another weekend of Premier League football, Manchester United will travel down to glamorous South London today to take on Hodgson’s injury-ravaged Crystal Palace.
Palace are the quintessential rabbit caught in the headlights side this season. They’ve been struck by a wave of injuries, enforced substitutions and some really poor results. Needless to say, the outcome has not always been reflective of their actual performances. After a decent start to life under the new regime, Hodgson’s Eagles have now failed to win any of their last five games in the league and find themselves in the relegation zone with only 27 points on board. Yet, given the volatility of the bottom half of the table, the Eagles should feel positive about their chances of surviving the drop, particularly when only six points separate themselves and Bournemouth (who are seven places above in the table).
For Manchester United, it is all about sustaining their position in the top four. Simultaneously, they’ll divert their attention towards the cup competitions for a chance to win some silverware this year. Mourinho has already hinted about his stance on the remaining games…ever so subtly indicating that finishing fourth, instead of second, would not make a world of difference, overall.
However, United could do better than finishing fourth this campaign. With arch-rivals Liverpool hot on their heels, the Red Devils cannot afford to slip-up ahead of their meeting with Jurgen Klopp’s free-scoring Reds at Old Trafford. The outcome of that game could potentially decide who gets to finish runners-up. Therefore, Mourinho’s side ought to build on their impressive second-half performance against the reigning champions in order to claim maximum points today.
Mourinho told MUTV on Friday that his side will be without defenders Phil Jones, Daley Blind, and Marcos Rojo again for the trip to Selhurst Park. Ander Herrera is also sidelined.
Meanwhile, Palace will be without defender Tim Fosu-Mensah, who is on loan from United and therefore ineligible to face his parent club. Former Reds winger Wilfried Zaha is also on a lengthy list of absentees, which includes Scott Dann, Mamadou Sakho, Jason Puncheon and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Boss Roy Hodgson told the media on Thursday that Martin Kelly and Jeffrey Schlupp are the only two players likely to return from injury on Monday.
Crystal Palace haven’t won any of their 17 PL meetings with Manchester United—the most a team has played another without a single victory in the competition (D3 L14).
Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku have combined for six PL goals this season (three assists, each to one another). No Manchester United partnership has had more in a single campaign, with Martial/Wayne Rooney the last duo to get this many in 2015/16.
Andros Townsend—Crystal Palace
Townsend, with his pace and the ability to get in behind the fullback, can certainly open up different avenues for Palace on Monday. The England International has five assists to his name, and with the absence of arguably their most potent forward in Wilfried Zaha, Townsend has the opportunity to bring his experience to the table and cause a possible upset today.
Paul Pogba—Manchester United
Pogba has scored in both of his PL matches against Crystal Palace. They are the only team he has scored against both home and away in the competition.
The Frenchman had a very good outing against Chelsea as Mourinho’s side claimed a crucial win. Their assured performance in the second half stemmed from the control they had in midfield, thanks to the trio of Matić, McTominay, and Pogba. In a similar setup today, Pogba will be provided with the opportunity to affect the game in the final third—with the insurance cover of Matić and McTominay protecting the defense. This means it will be up to the Frenchman to deliver the goods (and all three points) at Selhurst Park.
United to build on the momentum in South London.