12 games into the Premier League season, Crystal Palace and Stoke City would want to be far higher than they each currently are.
Tomorrow (Saturday), Stoke travel to Selhurst Park positioned 15th in a relatively congested bottom half. A victory could theoretically lift the Potters into the top half but they face a strong test against an improving Palace.
The Eagles remain bottom following a disastrous start to the campaign but their five points have all been won in their last three home games. There has been a notable improvement from Roy Hodgson’s side and they will view the fixture against Stoke as an opportunity to edge closer to safety.
Although despite the recent accumulation of points is a positive, Hodgson believes his side should have won more - and he is perhaps correct. The Eagles should have won their 2-2 draw against Everton last weekend but were unfortunate to concede a penalty when Oumar Niasse dived under minimal contact from Scott Dann. Thereafter, Palace went ahead but miscommunication between Julian Speroni and Dann cost an equaliser.
The poor luck and disastrous decision making on show in south London last weekend arguably sums up Palace’s season, and is no doubt why they find themselves bottom of the table.
Stoke have merely been inconsistent and impossible to predict. Mark Hughes’ side have won points where they would not be expected to and dropped them where they should be earned. For instance, a 1-0 victory against Arsenal was followed by a draw at struggling West Bromwich Albion. They then went on to become the first side to take points off Manchester United this season, before falling to defeat at Newcastle United the following week.
Stoke’s away form began poorly but has since improved. They needed until late October to win away from the Bet365 Stadium, a shock 1-0 victory against Watford, but at least their away form is better than Palace’s, who have lost all seven in all competitions.
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Hodgson has no fresh injury concerns and his most important decision will be whether he believes Christian Benteke is fit to start. The Belgian returned against Everton from a two-month absence but still looked quite a way from full match fitness and missed an excellent chance late on. Patrick van Aanholt and Chung-yong Lee are still unfit and Connor Wickham remains absent.
Stoke are without Geoff Cameron and Jack Butland with concussion and a finger problem respectively. Lee Grant will remain in the latter’s place in goal having started Monday’s 2-2 draw at Brighton and Hove Albion. Stephen Ireland is the Potters’ only long-term absentee.