If there is one game you fancy to have no goals this weekend, it has to be this one.
With injuries aplenty for both Crystal Palace and Newcastle, coupled with the fact neither side has scored at a rate of above a goal a game, this does not have the makings of a classic – and the Magpies should be pragmatic to try and earn a vital three points.
According to Premier Injuries, both clubs have seven injured at this current moment in time, though fingers are crossed that the Toon will not have that many out for Saturday’s game.
Like Newcastle, Palace have had a lot of defensive injuries this season, yet it hasn’t been able to impact their compact style of defending. The Eagles have conceded just 19 from 17, so for a team that has scored just 17 goals themselves, something needs to be done to ensure that they can get on the scoresheet.
What are the Palace problems, then? The most glaringly obvious issue has to be at left-back. Patrick Van Aanholt, Jeffrey Schlupp and Jairo Riedewald are the only three really capable of playing there – with Schlupp and Riedewald hardly being naturals in that position – and they are all unavailable for the weekend. Additionally, Gary Cahill, Joel Ward and Andros Townsend are all injured, and Mamadou Sakho misses out through suspension.
This leaves the Eagles stripped to the bare bones. James McArthur played the second-half against Brighton at left-back for the club, however, 22-year-old Tyrick Mitchell was called up to the bench for that match so he could also feature.
Whether it’s Mitchell, McArthur or somebody else who slips in, it has to be identified as a weak spot for Steve Bruce, and he should be pragmatic in targetting that area as a way to score against Roy Hodgson’s resilient men.
There’s no doubt in a back four which is likely to read: Martin Kelly, James Tomkins, Scott Dann, and one of McArthur or Mitchell that the Eagles will sit deep, much like they have done all season. Dann, Tomkins and Kelly are all very adept to dealing with long balls, so Bruce might have to find a way other than crosses to defeat this team.
What will the result be on Saturday vs Palace?
Ideally, Miguel Almiron will be able to play and they should try and overload to right with overlaps coming from Javier Manquillo to try and cause as much trouble as possible for whoever is playing at left-back. Furthermore, Andy Carroll’s physicality might be matched by Palace’s centre-halves, so even if Dwight Gayle hasn’t been in the best of form this season, getting someone who can cause trouble by running in behind and making intelligent runs could be the best way to target this Palace defence. Or, if Joelinton is preferred, try and get the ball to his feet more often to get him running at this slightly immobile defence.
Essentially, the way that Newcastle play really falls into place for Palace and means that they could go unscathed while having this makeshift defence. Getting running at these defenders and getting in behind could be the key to unlocking that rigid Palace defence.
This article was originally posted here