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It’s back to league action tomorrow, in fact it’s back to league action for the remainder of the season, and it kicks off with a trip to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace.

There will be no Europa League place to chase this season as we move into our last 16 games; it will be a case of making sure we have enough points to stay out of the bottom three. Being fourth from bottom in the table is not where we wanted to be at this stage of the season but we do have an eight point advantage over Fulham who currently sit in the position below us and that’s a decent sized lead that we want to at the very least maintain and preferably stretch.

When you win a couple of games, as we did recently against Liverpool and Aston Villa, things can look good, but, likewise, successive defeats, as followed against Chelsea and Manchester City, can have you feeling nervous again.

Although I do think we have more than enough to stay up, I’ll probably remain nervous until we can win say another four games. Do that and we’ll be on 35 points. That’s been enough in all but one of our Premier League seasons, the exception being 2014/15 when 36 were needed. I don’t envisage it being any higher this season.

When we won at Palace last season we couldn’t have known how long it would be before we saw Ben Mee and Jack Cork again. Mee returned to action in October after suffering a training injury days after that game while Cork came off injured during the game and is only just getting back into the team.

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With home games to come against Fulham and West Brom next week, two of the three teams below us, Cork, who has started the last three Premier League games, said: “We’re looking to go there and try and start what’s a big week for us with some points. It’s probably one of the biggest weeks of our season, I think.

“If we can get a win against Palace it would take a lot of pressure off and then after that you’ve got Fulham and West Brom which are huge games that you have to try and not lose at any cost.”

Cork’s return to fitness was timely with Josh Brownhill having missed recent games with injury. In fact, Cork returned as a half time substitute for Brownhill in the win against Villa and has retained his place since although he did miss this week’s cup exit.

Cork will be fit for tomorrow while the news is positive regarding Brownhill who could also be fit for a return. As for the other injured players, it is looking as though they will need more time so it is likely we will go to Palace without the services of Charlie Taylor, Robbie Brady and Chris Wood.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t start with the team that played against Brighton last week, a team that played the whole ninety minutes without a substitution. If so, we will line up: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Erik Pieters, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Matěj Vydra. Subs from: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Jimmy Dunne, Anthony Glennon, Dale Stephens, Josh Brownhill, Josh Benson, Jay Rodriguez, Joel Mumbongo.

We’ve been bemoaning our injury list all season but we are not the only club who have these problems. That’s definitely the case for Palace who will be without their talisman Wilfried Zaha with his manager Roy Hodgson saying: “It’s only one week into his muscle injury so we’re anticipating it will take more time than that for him to recover.”

Hodgson added: “The same applies for (James) McArthur and (James) McCarthy, the same applies to (James) Tomkins and Jeffrey Schlupp. The only piece of good news for me is that Joel Ward (pictured below) is able to come back into the squad after missing out against Leeds.”

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Whoever lines up for them, they go into the game in 13th place in the table. They have a six point advantage over us but we do have a game in hand. I think it is fair to say they have found goalscoring somewhat easier than us, they have netted 27 Premier League goals compared to our 14, but the 39 they have conceded is worse than everyone but West Brom.

They’ve had eleven different players score league goals for them this season including Gary Cahill who recently scored his 50th club goal, their winner in the 2-1 win at Newcastle. Both Eberechi Eze and Christian Benteke have three goals with only Zaha above them. He’s scored nine.

Like us, they are average at home; they’ve won four and lost four. They’ve beaten Southampton, Leeds, Sheffield United and Wolves at Selhurst Park but all of Everton, Newcastle, Liverpool and West Ham winning there.

Palace were beaten 2-0 at Leeds last time out. Their team at Elland Road was: Vicente Guaita, Nathaniel Clyne, Scott Dann, Gary Cahill, Tyrick Mitchell, Luka Milivojevic, Jairo Riedewald, Patrick van Aanholt, Eberechi Eze, Jordan Ayew, Jean-Philippe Mateta. Subs: Jack Butland, Cheikhou Kouyaté, Martin Kelly, Andros Townsend, Christian Benteke, Michy Batshuayi.

 

LAST TIME WE WERE THERE

 

Project Restart was well underway. We’d been beaten 5-0 at Manchester City and then won 1-0 at home against Watford when we arrived at Palace in late June. I think it is right to suggest that manager Sean Dyche had something of a depleted squad to select from.

Joe Hart, Jeff Hendrick and Aaron Lennon had all left the club, while we’d already been playing without Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Robbie Brady, Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood. By the time we pitched up at Selhurst Park we’d also lost Matt Lowton and Jay Rodriguez. That all meant two empty spaces on the bench and of those there it included two goalkeepers with only Kevin Long having played any Premier League football other than the couple of minutes Max Thompson had at the Etihad.

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With Dwight McNeil given a central role behind sole striker Matěj Vydra it looked likely that it would be a very difficult evening but it turned out better than that, much, much better than that. It really was an outstanding performance which saw us pick up all three points from a 1-0 win.

Josh Brownhill and McNeil both had excellent games but the man of the moment was Ben Mee. Just a week earlier he’d fronted up after the game at City and all that happened there. This time he scored the winning goal and then gave us all a celebration that let us know he’d become a dad again. It was only later we heard the full story of the birth of his daughter.

This was our fifth away win of the season with two more to come at West Ham and Norwich. It took us up to eighth in the table. The injury crisis didn’t really improve either with neither Mee nor Cork playing again for some considerable time.

A great night though for the Clarets.

The teams were;

Crystal Palace: Vicente Guaita, Joel Ward, Scott Dann, Gary Cahill, Patrick van Aanholt, Andros Townsend (Max Meyer 77), Luka Milivojevic, Cheikhou Kouyaté (James McCarthy ht), James McArthur, Wilfried Zaha, Jordan Ayew. Subs not used: Wayne Hennessey, Mamadou Sakho, Sam Woods, Nikola Tavares, Tyrick Mitchell, Brandon Pierrick, Jairo Riedewald.

Burnley: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork (Kevin Long 70), Erik Pieters, Dwight McNeil, Matěj Vydra. Subs not used: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Lukas Jensen, Jimmy Dunne, Bobby Thomas, Mace Goodridge, Max Thompson.

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