Crystal Palace take on Southampton this Saturday in one of the five traditional 3pm kick-offs. The Eagles are without a win since September 24th and have been shedding goals lately in a number of weak defensive performances.
They face a Southampton side in transition this season under new manager Claude Puel. His Saints side have impressed at times in his inaugural season but are yet to find their feet in the league. However, with an EFL Cup Semi-final in sight after a 2-0 win at Arsenal, they'll be brimming with confidence as they head to South East London.
Palace searching for vital win
Victories - none in eight games - are becoming a desperate need for Alan Pardew's men. The last time they conceded less than two goals was in a 1-0 home defeat to West Ham United in early October. Their last league clean sheet came in April in a 0-0 draw at home against Everton. Defensive issues are certainly the reason why Palace are struggling to defeat teams they should be picking points off. Pardew has recognised this stating that the fans "had travelled to Burnley, Swansea" which were games that he believes his side "should have won".
Club captain Scott Dann is more than aware of their defensive issues, particularly from set-pieces, being at the heart of the Palace defence. In his latest Captain's Comments on the club's website he acknowledged, "the amount of goals we concede from set-pieces." He continued to note how, "Being a defender means it probably me hurts more," but that teamwork was important for the team in order for them to "regain the attitude that we’re tough to break down and hard to beat." Being a part of the side when Tony Pulis was in charge, he'll certain want to replicate the ex-Palace boss' focus on defensive solidity.
With the plethora of attacking talent at the club there's no reason as to why they should be struggling for goals, which they actually aren't. Since that defeat to West Ham, they have scored ten goals in five games, holding an average of two goals a game. Maintaining this offensive form whilst rectifying their defensive woes may be difficult, but it will turn them into a side that can compete with the very best in the league.
Southampton looking to push on
Yet to be knocked out of any cup competitions and sitting three points behind sixth-placed Manchester United, Southampton have all the potential to push on and contend for European qualification. With four winnable league fixtures approaching in the league, they'll be looking to head into the strenuous Christmas period in strong form.
Saints boss Puel has indicated that he wants his side to build momentum from their victory at Arsenal in midweek. He said at his press conference, "It was an objective of the team to progress to the semi-finals. Now we need to keep our level in the Premier League." However, doing so this weekend will be a tough test as Palace have plenty to prove after a long stretch of poor results.
Nevertheless, if Southampton were to resolve their own offensive problems, a defensively poor Palace may be the team to do it against. Since their 3-1 win against Burnley in mid-October, Puel's Saints have not scored more than one goal in a league game. If it wasn't for their impressive defensive displays led by Virgil Van Dijk, they would be much to answer in the South Coast. A win this weekend could take them as high as seventh if results go their way.
Crystal Palace are without Steve Mandanda, Connor Wickham, Loic Remy, Jonathan Benteke, and Pape Souare through injury. Yohan Cabaye will be unavailable due to suspension.
Southampton are only missing Dusan Tadic (broken nose) and Matthew Targett (fitness) ahead of Saturday's fixture.
Current league form
Crystal Palace: LLLLLL (Previous six league games)
Southampton: WDLLDW (Previous six league games)