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crystal palace 1000x500It’s back to league action after last week’s FA Cup in which both ourselves and tomorrow’s opponents Crystal Palace were knocked out in away games against other Premier League clubs; we were beaten at Manchester City whilst they succumbed at the Amex Stadium against rivals Brighton.

It’s been strange getting a full week without a game after the hectic schedule of the last month or so that saw us play two midweek games, at Bournemouth and at home against Stoke, before the Christmas and New Year schedule that has left managers moaning and even Sean Dyche having a word or two to say about it.

We’ve had that rush of games without a number of players too and there no sign of many of them coming back any time soon which has probably escalated the need to get our first January signing in earlier than expected.

That’s Georges-Kévin NKoudou. He’s arrived from Spurs on loan and Dyche has confirmed he will be in the squad tomorrow. Ex-Claret Kieran Trippier played a big part in his move. NKoudou asked Tripps about Burnley while Dyche confirmed: “Beyond what we’ve seen and what we know, we spoke to Kieran.

“Kieran knows him well and has played with him for a while now. I spoke to Tripps more as a character reference, than his ability. He assured he wants to work hard , he wants to make a mark.”

Dyche has confirmed that he will be in the match day squad but hasn’t decided as yet whether to start him but one player who will start, having recovered from a groin injury, is surely James Tarkowski.

When he lined up at Selhurst Park last season it was just his third league start for Burnley and his first start in the Premier League. He came in for the injured Ben Mee, his current defensive partner, and was outstanding alongside Michael Keane in our 2-0 win there, our only away win last season.

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“Your first Premier League start. I think everyone would remember that quite fondly,” Tarkowski said this week.

“That day kick started something good here for me. It was a great result, a clean sheet and sort of secured our position in the Premier League. It continued from there and I picked up quite a few starts and some good performances.

“There have been a lot of games over Christmas and I have missed out on quite a few, through a little niggle here and there, the suspension and breaking my hand. It’s not been idea, but I’m through that now and hopefully I can get back to the way I was doing and crack on from there.”

Tarkowski came back for the Liverpool game on New Year’s Day but then missed the cup tie last week. He’ll now line up in a team tomorrow that is still missing the services of a substantial number of players.

Tom Heaton is still a few weeks away while Robbie Brady is unlikely to feature again this season. Both Stephen Ward and Chris Wood remain out of the reckoning while Scott Arfield is touch and go with the hamstring injury that ruled him out at the Etihad and I don’t expect him to be involved.

Dyche has praised the players who have come in and Ashley Westwood certainly gave everyone a reminder last week as to how good a midfielder he is. He’s just having to bide his time because of the partnership that’s developed between Jack Cork and Steven Defour.

I think the team tomorrow could be: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Steven Defour, Jack Cork, Ashley Barnes, Jeff Hendrick, Sam Vokes. Subs from: Anders Lindegaard, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Ashley Westwood, Dean Marney, Georges-Kévin NKoudou, Jon Walters, Nahki Wells.

What a change in fortune at Crystal Palace. When they lost at Burnley in September, they had played four times, lost four times, conceded seven goals and not scored. That was enough for Palace to sack new manager Frank de Boer and replace him with former England boss Roy Hodgson.

Not as though there was an immediate improvement. They lost the next three games, still without scoring and with another ten goals conceded.

They finally got off the mark, unexpectedly, with a home win against Chelsea and that has certainly sparked something of a revival. No points from the first seven games but 22 points from the next 15 games has seen them move not just off the bottom but two points clear of the bottom three and into 14th place. They go into tomorrow’s game with only one defeat in the last 11 and that was against Arsenal when they came really close to getting something after they’d been 2-0 and 3-1 behind, eventually losing 3-2.

The problem they have right now is a similar one to us in that they have players missing through injury and Hodgson is hoping to do some serious recruiting during this window.

They were already without Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mamadou Sahko, Joel Ward and Connor Wickham prior to their last home game against Manchester City. That game saw them lose both Scott Dann and Jason Puncheon to serious injuries with both players picking up yellow cards for fouls on Kevin de Bruyne which caused the injuries.

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Then, four days ago, in the FA Cup defeat at Brighton, both Jeffrey Schlupp and Andros Townsend (pictured) left the Amex Stadium on crutches with Hodgson confirming today that Schlupp is facing surgery.

Hodgson admitted: “We have a lot of injuries at the moment, but we have what I think is a competitive starting eleven and it affects us mostly with regard to the players I can call on from the bench and are stretched to the limit and are badly wounded.”

He added: “Both Jeffrey and Andros are on crutches. Jeffrey will have an operation on Monday, with him we are talking months rather than weeks. For Andros the news is slightly better, he doesn’t need an operation and his foot is in a boot but he is also on crutches. I would like to hope he will be closer to one month rather than months.

“Mamadou Sahko is improving slowly and moving in the right direction. Joel Ward is becoming much closer to returning, but is not ready yet, and we also have our other long term injuries.”

They’ve been linked with West Ham’s Diafra Sahko this week, but that potential deal has hit a snag and the manager confirmed that nothing was imminent in terms of incoming players.

It’s really difficult to determine what the Palace team could be but last time out in the league  was on 2nd January when they won 2-1 at Southampton. We know two of the players in the starting eleven that day won’t be playing.

Their line up was: Wayne Hennessey, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Martin Kelly, James Tomkins, Jeffrey Schlupp, Andros Townsend, James McArthur, Luka Milivojevic, Yohan Cabaye, Wilfried Zaha, Christian Benteke. Subs: Julian Speroni, Pape Souaré, Damien Delaney, Patrick van Aanholt, Jairo Riedewald, Chung-yong Lee, Bakary Sako.

 

LAST TIME WE WERE THERE

 

Time was running out for us to win an away game in the Premier League last season. We arrived at Palace with just two to play having drawn four and lost thirteen on the road since the start of the season.

We couldn’t be certain, but we already had enough points to ensure safety, as did Palace who kicked off the game two points and four places ahead of us. But by the end of the game, the 2-0 win had all but made it mathematically certain and as Sam Allardyce left with jaw ache, the Burnley players and management were celebrating a famous and fully deserved victory in front of the television cameras.

Sean Dyche made four changes for the game. James Tarkowski replaced the injured Ben Mee while Ashley Westwood came in for the suspended Joey Barton who had played his last game for us a week earlier. The surprises came with both Robbie Brady and Andre Gray left out, Dyche preferring Scott Arfield and Sam Vokes.

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They started brightly, but we retaliated to go in front on just seven minutes. A good link up between Ashley Barnes, Vokes, Westwood and Stephen Ward ended when Ward crossed the ball low for Barnes to get in front of the defenders and finish with a second touch.

We had a second goal ruled out for handball but fully deserved our 1-0 half time lead although there was one scare when Wilfried Zaha went down in a challenge with Tom Heaton. Thankfully the flag had gone up for offside, wrongly as it happens but offside it was.

Then came the nervous second half. Heaton made a couple of saves and Zaha went down a couple of times in the penalty box, winning nothing.

Both Vokes and Gray, on as a substitute, missed chances but then with just five minutes to go, Gray got onto a superb through ball from George Boyd and this time made no mistake to make it 2-0.

We’d got that elusive first away win of the season and we were virtually assured Premier League football again in 2017/18.

Crystal Palace: Wayne Hennessey, Joel Ward, Martin Kelly, Damien Delaney, Patrick van Aanholt, Luka Milivojevic, Wilfried Zaha, James McArthur (Fraizer Campbell 71), Jason Puncheon, Andros Townsend, Christian Benteke (Loic Remy 71). Subs not used: Julian Speroni, Mathieu Flamini, Jeffrey Schlupp, Chung-yong Lee, Bakary Sako.

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, James Tarkowski, Stephen Ward (Jon Flanagan 45+1), George Boyd, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes, Ashley Barnes (Andre Gray 79). Subs not used: Nick Pope, Kevin Long, Steven Defour, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Robbie Brady.

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