Arsenal and Crystal Palace will go head-to-head on the opening day of the 2014/2015 Premier League season, with both sides looking to improve on impressive seasons.
The game gives Arsenal a chance to win their first opening day fixture since 2009, when they beat Everton 6-1 at Goodison Park. For Crystal Palace, however, it is the first time that they will play consecutive seasons in the Premier League, having been relegated first time around in their previous four seasons since the introduction of the new formation in 1992.
Despite spending most of last season at the top of the Premier League, Arsenal, after a tough run of games and a number of injuries cutting down their squad numbers, eventually finished in fourth place, seven points behind winners Manchester City, with Liverpool and Chelsea also finishing above them. Although they suffered some disappointment in the league, the Gunners didn't let this hamper their FA Cup run, as they finally ended their nine-year trophy drought, coming from 2-0 down to beat Hull City 3-2 after extra time in a thrilling final.
Crystal Palace, on the other hand, overcame a horrific start to their fourth season in England's top flight since the conversion to the Premier League. Manager Ian Holloway was sacked eight games into the season, with Palace having lost seven of those, a record only beaten by Sunderland, who, incidentally, was the only team that the Eagles had managed to win against.
Tony Pulis took over the Selhurst Park helm, and fortunes soon changed for Palace. A narrow victory against title-challenging Chelsea, an outstanding 3-2 win at Goodison Park and a miraculous three-goal comeback against Liverpool were just some of the incredible results that Palace pulled off towards the end of the season, results that helped them steer clear of relegation and eventually finish in a comfortable 11th place.
Last five results (head-to-head)
- Arsenal 2-0 Crystal Palace (2013/14 Premier League)
- Crystal Palace 0-2 Arsenal (2013/14 Premier League)
- Arsenal 5-1 Crystal Palace (2004/05 Premier League)
- Crystal Palace 1-1 Arsenal (2004/05 Premier League)
- Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal (1997/98 FA Cup)
Arsenal and Crystal Palace have faced each other 32 times in competitive football, with Arsenal winning the majority (21 games). Crystal Palace have only managed to beat the Gunners twice in their history, once at Highbury in a 2-1 victory during the 1994/95 season, and in 1979, where Palace ran out 1-0 winners at Selhurst Park.
Team News (Arsenal)
Arsenal manager Arséne Wenger confirmed that Arsenal's World Cup winning trio Mesut Özil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski will all miss out on the opening game, having only returned to training on Monday. There are also concerns about Laurent Koscielny's fitness, with the Frenchman being pulled off at half-time in Arsenal's 3-0 Community Shield win over Manchester City, supposedly having an Achilles tendon problem.
Long-term absentees Theo Walcott and Ryo Miyaichi are still not in full training, and may not be available until late September. Gunners fans will have to wait a while longer to see one of their new signings also, with David Ospina not expected to recover from the hamstring injury that kept him out of the Emirates Cup and the Community Shield. The news means that Damián Martinez will have a place on the bench for Saturday's game.
Should Koscielny be out for the Gunners, then Wenger may be forced to play a back four of players who are natural full-backs, with both Calum Chambers and Nacho Monreal having played at centre-back during parts of pre-season. The injury to Koscielny could revitalise Arsenal's activity in the transfer window, having made four signings already this summer, though the Gunners have been fairly quiet in the past couple of weeks.
Alexis Sánchez is expected to make his Premier League debut at the weekend, with Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers also expected to start their first Premier League games for the Gunners. Serge Gnabry is another name that will miss out, having suffered a knee injury off the back of last season. Other than the latest injury, fans can expect the Gunners to field a very similar team to that which convincingly beat Manchester City at the weekend.
Team News (Crystal Palace)
Palace could have centre-back Adrian Mariappa back for the game, having spent the last game of pre-season, against Bundesliga side Augsburg, on the bench because of a rib injury. Manager Tony Pulis said that he did not want to risk aggravating the injury before the season opener.
Damien Delaney, who played in all but one Premier League game last season, is also expected to miss the opening game after suffering a knock. The Eagles will almost definitely be without midfielder Jonny Williams. The 20-year old made nine appearances for Palace last season in the league, and has also played a part in pre-season.
The game will be the third time that Marouane Chamakh plays against his former club, where he spent three years and scored just eight league goals in 40 games. After his performances last season, Pulis decided to reward the Moroccan with a new contract, meaning he'll stay at the club until at least 2016.
The game is also a chance for Palace to show off the number of signings that they have already made so far this summer. Fraizer Campbell and Brede Hangeland are both expected to make their competitive debuts for the Eagles, having played through the majority of pre-season after signing from Cardiff and Fulham respectively.
Key Players (Arsenal)
Alexis Sánchez is undoubtedly the player to look out for on Saturday. Having signed from La Liga runners-up FC Barcelona last month for a fee of £35million, Sánchez has not failed to impress in his short time at Arsenal. Within three games, he has already become a fan favourite, with many Gunners fans excited to see the first Chilean player to play for the North London side make his Premier League debut. Sánchez, who can also play as a striker along with his preferred position at right-wing, scored 19 league goals for Barcelona last season as they finished behind Atlético Madrid.
Another player who needs to impress Wenger and prove critics wrong this season is Jack Wilshere. After an injury-plagued first few seasons in the Arsenal first team, Wilshere has managed to integrate himself as an important player in the Gunners setup. The midfielder had his best goalscoring season for Arsenal last season, netting five goals in 24 Premier League games, with another two goals coming in the Champions League. Arséne Wenger has urged Wilshere to 'make this season his breakthrough year'. At 22, going on 23, the England man is slowly running out of time to widely impress.
Aaron Ramsey is again going to be pivotal to any challenge that Arsenal make for a cup, or possibly the Premier League title this season. Ramsey was the overwhelming choice for Arsenal's player of the season, with almost 60% of the votes. Arsenal fans were left stunned by the devastating impact that Ramsey had during the first of the last season, scoring 10 goals in the Premier League and Champions League before injury kept him out for four months. There was no change when Ramsey returned, however, with the player wreaking havoc on opponents, scoring a stunning goal to help relegate Norwich on the final day, before scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup final. After an impressive pre-season, Ramsey could be in for another fantastic season with the Gunners.
Key Players (Crystal Palace)
Dwight Gayle could be very important to where Crystal Palace finish in the Premier League this season. Having signed from Peterborough United at the beginning of last season, Gayle made a very slow start to his career with the Eagles. His form significantly improved towards the end of the season, though, as he managed to double his goal tally from four goals to eight in the final two games. Gayle scored two goals, including the equaliser in the 3-3 draw with Liverpool, and scored both in the 2-2 draw with Fulham on the final day of the season. It's up to him to improve this season and make sure that Crystal Palace stay in the Premier League yet again.
Jason Puncheon was the joint-top goalscorer in the league for Palace last season, along with Dwight Gayle. Puncheon originally moved to the club on a one-year loan deal from Southampton, but made the deal permanent halfway through the season. The fee agreed was just £1.7million, and the player has thoroughly impressed Tony Pulis since. Puncheon also set up two goals for his team-mates last season.
Fraizer Campbell will also have a lot to prove at Crystal Palace this season. Following his move from Cardiff, Campbell has been welcomed to the club with open arms. The striker signed a three-year deal with the Eagles, and signed for a fee of just £900,000. Campbell praised the club for the progress they made last season, and said that he was happy to be working under Tony Pulis. His six goals in the league were not enough to keep his former club in the Premier League last season, with Cardiff finishing rock bottom. He has said, however, that he hopes he can help Palace achieve their main target of staying up.