For many teams across Europe, the international break came at the wrong time as they had just begun to build a head of steam. One such team is Premier League outfit Crystal Palace, who impressively sit in seventh place in the league. After four rounds of matches, the Eagles are thriving a lot more than people expected them to at this point of the season.
Crystal Palace will return to action by welcoming Europe-bound Aston Villa to Villa Park. The encounter promises to be a thrilling one between the sides in the Midlands and Crystal Palace tickets are in huge demand ahead of this game. While Crystal Palace will be keen to build on their win over Wolverhampton Wanderers before the break, Aston Villa will be keen to bounce back from their damaging defeat to Liverpool.
Crystal Palace have a tough task to carry out when they face Aston Villa. The last meeting between the sides at Villa Park ended in a 1-0 win for Unai Emery’s team, with the Eagles having won the first leg 3-1 in London. Both teams are evenly matched in their head-to-head records, with each having claimed two wins in their last five meetings.
The encounter will be between two sides who have had very different approaches to the start of the 2023-24 season. The teams carried out their business differently in the summer ahead of the season. While Aston Villa were not shy to splash the cash, Crystal Palace operated on a very slim budget. Aston Villa signed Moussa Diaby and Pau Torres for significant sums, in addition to signing Youri Tielemans for free and Nicolo Zaniolo on loan. Crystal Palace signed three players, Matheus França, Rob Holding and Dean Henderson, for a combined sum of around £36 million.
They added Jefferson Lerma for free as they strengthened their midfield.
The Premier League will be very tough this season, as all teams are aware. As a result, they will be willing to fight for every point as every point will prove vital at the end of the season. Crystal Palace have picked up two wins and a draw this season, with their only defeat coming against Arsenal in a tight contest. Their opponents have been more unlucky to start the season against two of the league’s best sides. They shipped in eight goals in two games against Newcastle United and Liverpool, and have only six points this season and are tenth.
Their last games before the international break could not have been any more different. While Crystal Palace won a thriller against Wolves 3-2 with an accomplished performance, Aston Villa were thrashed by Liverpool. Both sides will be keen to get the points at Villa Park, but the home side will be more desperate. Losing twice already this season puts Unai Emery’s team in a position where they have to chase after the top teams. Heading into the season, the manager would have been hopeful of building on their impressive end to the 2022-23 season.
Crystal Palace have been one of the most surprising teams in the league this season for their performances at the start of the season. Many expected the club to struggle in attack following the departure of star forward and former captain Wilfried Zaha, and goalkeeper Vicente Guaita this summer. Without making any significant attacking additions, Roy Hodgson has managed to move his team away from its dependence on Zaha that was evident for years.
Despite being without French forward Michael Olise and new signing França, as well, the Eagles have thrived in the league. They will look to keep up their form and performance when they visit Aston Villa.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Aston Villa seem to have found a gem in French forward Diaby, who joined the club from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer. The 24-year-old scored on his debut for the club against Newcastle and added a second goal against Burnley. He has two goals and an assist in four appearances for the club so far.
Ollie Watkins is another player to watch out for in the Aston Villa squad. The English striker has yet to find the net this season despite having accrued an xG of 1.8. The 27-year-old has been important for the side and has registered two assists, it is surely a matter of time before he starts scoring regularly again.
Crystal Palace midfielder Eberechi Eze has taken the mantle of leadership of the team’s attack admirably. The English midfielder has scored once for the Eagles this season, but his contribution goes far beyond goalscoring for the club. The 25-year-old is vital in linking midfield and attack, and has played this role excellently this season.
Striker Odsonne Edouard is another who has impressed for Crystal Palace this season. The Frenchman has scored three goals in four league matches this season, more than half of his tally from the whole of 2022-23. His ability to play with Eze and Jordan Ayew makes him a key figure in the Eagles’ attack.
Crystal Palace Premier League form guide: W L D W
Aston Villa Premier League form guide: L W W L
Aston Villa will be without long-term absentees such as Jacob Ramsey, Tyrone Mings and Emiliano Buendia for the game. They are hopeful of a return to action for left-back Alex Moreno, who has been out for four months. The Spaniard returned to first-team training and could be available for selection. Brazilian defender Diego Carlos was taken off with an injury against Liverpool and will miss the Crystal Palace game.
Aston Villa Possible XI: Emiliano Martinez, Lucas Digne, Pau Torres, Ezri Konsa, Matty Cash, Douglas Luiz, Boubacar Kamara, Leon Bailey, John McGinn, Moussa Diaby, Ollie Watkins.
Crystal Palace will remain without Michael Olise and Matheus França for the trip to Villa Park at the weekend. Manager Roy Hodgson will also be sweating on the fitness of influential centre-back Marc Guehi, who was taken off while playing for England in the international break with an apparent injury. There could be debuts for English duo of Rob Holding and Dean Henderson.
Crystal Palace Possible XI: Dean Henderson, Joel Ward, Joachim Andersen, Rob Holding, Tyrick Mitchell, Cheikh Doucoure, Jefferson Lerma, Ebere Eze, Jordan Ayew, Odsonne Edouard, Jeffrey Schlupp.
Our Prediction: Aston Villa 2-1 Crystal Palace
Unai Emery’s men defeated Crystal Palace at Villa Park last season and will be able to repeat the feat. They have superior players and should prove too strong for the Eagles on home turf. They will bounce back from their defeat to Liverpool with a win at home.
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