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1819 burnley turf moor 04 1000x500Crystal Palace are our visitors tomorrow as the Clarets go into a Premier League game on the back of a defeat for the first time since the end of 2018 when West Ham came to Burnley following the heavy Boxing Day defeat against Everton.

Things were looking bleak back then. It was the half way point of the season and we only had twelve points on the board. What’s happened since might not have been a miracle but five wins, three draws and just the one defeat at Newcastle is an incredible return for a side that started that run languishing in the relegation positions.

It’s been a strange week though. Just last weekend we beat Spurs at home 2-1 in what was arguably our finest ever Premier League performance. We were simply outstanding as a team, coupled with some excellent individual performance. Then, three days later at Newcastle we turned in a disappointing performance and were beaten by opponents that were definitely no more than mediocre.

We had to make a change with Ashley Westwood taken ill ahead of the game. That was very much a factor and there were suggestions the Spurs game might have affected the team given the next game came so quickly.

Midfielder Jack Cork, who had Jeff Hendrick alongside him in the central role, said: “It was always going to be a tough game, but maybe we took our foot off a little bit after such a good win on the Saturday. We went there with the best intentions to win the game, but without maybe meaning to do so, we weren’t at our best.

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“Maybe that’s a good reality check for us for Saturday, that we have to be firing 100 per cent, otherwise we won’t get a result. We don’t normally compete like that and we will be looking to put it right.”

He added: “We’ve done in training what we needed to get it out of the system and really focus on the game on Saturday. We need to make sure our heads are screwed on because they’re a dangerous team when they’re on it, as we found out earlier in the season.”

The good news is that Westwood is back in contention. He’s recovered and although he didn’t train yesterday, he’s going to be available to Sean Dyche. I’d expect him to come back into the team and unless there is any further illness in the camp, I don’t envisage many other changes.

With both Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson and Robbie Brady both available again, any changes could come in the wide areas. JBG came in at Newcastle to take Hendrick’s wide place whilst Brady was on for the entire second half after a disappointing 45 minutes from Dwight McNeil.

The teenager was always going to have such a game at some point but, now out of his system, I think he’ll get the nod to start again tomorrow when the team could be that which beat Spurs in that superb game last weekend.

We could line up: Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood. Subs from: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, Ben Gibson, Stephen Ward, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Robbie Brady, Matěj Vydra, Peter Crouch.

Without ever really threatening the higher placed clubs, Palace have been reasonably comfortable and away from the relegation positions for most of the season. Only twice have they dropped to 16th in the table and both occasions it was for just one week, once in November and once in December.

Although beaten in midweek at home by Manchester United, they had a 4-1 win at Leicester last Saturday, a result which prompted the change of manager at the King Power. It was their fifth away win of the season and they’ve picked up 17 of their 30 points on the road having previously won at Fulham, Huddersfield, Manchester City and Wolves while drawing at Manchester United and Southampton.  The most remarkable of those wins was at Manchester City where they won 3-2 and they also netted three goals at Liverpool, albeit in a 4-3 defeat. Liverpool have only conceded seven home goals all season.

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While only Huddersfield have scored less home goals this season, the 22 they have scored away from home is bettered only by the top five. Their leading goalscorer is Luka Milivojevic (pictured) with eight, although all but one of those are from the penalty spot. Behind him with seven is Wilfried Zaha.

Palace are boosted tomorrow with the return of Aaron Wan-Bissaka who has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury. Added to that Pape Souaré is also close to a return. The bad news is that central defender Mamadou Sakho has had knee surgery and will be out for several weeks.

The Palace team against Manchester United in midweek was: Vicente Guaita, Patrick van Aanholt, James Tomkins, Martin Kelly, Joel Ward, Jeff Schlupp, Luka Milivojevic, James McArthur, Wilfried Zaha, Michy Batshuayi, Andros Townsend. Subs: Wayne Hennessey, Scott Dann, Jairo Riedewald, Jordan Ayew, Cheikhou Kouyaté, Max Meyer, Christian Benteke.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

It was just the fourth game of last season but we’d definitely started the season in contrasting form. We’d kicked off with a win at Chelsea, lost to West Brom and drawn at Spurs, but Palace had lost all three of their games and would go on to lose another four before beating Chelsea in game number eight for their first points of the season.

The defeat at Burnley saw the end of manager Frank de Boer after just four league games in charge having followed Sam Allardyce into the hot seat, and a day later they appointed Roy Hodgson.

We won the game 1-0 with Chris Wood, on his home debut and his first start for the Clarets, scoring the only goal after three minutes. But Palace were perhaps unfortunate not to get anything. We’d not deserved to lose the West Brom game but we didn’t really deserve to win this one.

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There was some justice for us though with the goal. Wood was sent clear via a shocking back pass from Chung-yong Lee from his own half of the pitch. Wood took it brilliantly with his first touch and the points were won. I couldn’t have chosen anyone better to make the mistake, the same player who scored that goal at Bolton back in early 2010 when the home fans were dancing around enjoying being ten years ahead of us and having taken our manager.

The one other moment we’ll all remember from the Palace game was the injury to captain Tom Heaton around ten minutes before half time. I don’t think any of us could have realised just how serious it was when he went off and was replaced by Nick Pope.

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At the time I wondered whether that might cost us the game and when we learned the seriousness of the injury, whether it would derail our season with us having to field an inexperienced replacement. As it happened, that was very definitely not the case; Pope had a terrific season, but I didn’t expect us to have to wait until the end of December in the following year to see Heaton back in goal in the Premier League.

This win kept Palace fully rooted to the bottom with Bournemouth, who were also pointless. We were up in seventh place in the table, ahead of both Liverpool and Arsenal but behind Watford and Huddersfield on goal difference.

The teams were;

Burnley: Tom Heaton (Nick Pope 36), Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Steven Defour (Ashley Westwood 82), Jack Cork, Robbie Brady, Sam Vokes (Ashley Barnes 64), Chris Wood. Subs not used: Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Scott Arfield, Jon Walters.

Crystal Palace: Wayne Hennessey, Joel Ward, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Scott Dann, Jeffrey Schlupp, James McArthur (Jairo Riedewald 81), Yohan Cabaye, Jason Puncheon, Andros Townsend, Chung-yong Lee (Levi Lumeka 65), Christian Benteke. Subs not used: Julian Speroni, Patrick van Aanholt, Martin Kelly, Luka Milivojevic, Sullay Kaikai.

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