Crystal Palace vs Arsenal preview: Eagles hoping for a repeat of last season's heroics

Crystal Palace vs Arsenal preview: Eagles hoping for a repeat of last season's heroics

The 3-0 at Selhurst Park last season encapsulated the respective situations at both clubs at the time, and tomorrow's fixture could do the same again

Samuel Smith

Crystal Palace continue their tough Christmas-New Year schedule by hosting Arsenal tomorrow (Thursday).

The Eagles faced relegation rivals Swansea City before Christmas and welcome record breaking table-toppers Manchester City to Selhurst Park on New Year's Eve, but are currently on a run of eight games unbeaten - a stark contrast to their early season form. 

The Gunners have also been in good form, their only defeats in their last eleven league games have come against the two Manchester clubs, but there is a sense that too many points have been dropped in disappointing draws. 

Arsene Wenger's side had to settle for draws against strugglers Southampton and West Ham United, and failed to hold on to three points against Liverpool before Christmas having come from 2-0 down to lead the Reds 3-2. The six points dropped in those three games would currently have them in fourth on 40 points.

This fixture last season provided Palace's most memorable victory of the campaign as a Wilfried Zaha-inspired performance earned Sam Allardyce's side a 3-0 success. The Ivorian assisted goals for both Andros Townsend and Yohan Cabaye, before midfielder Luka Milivojevic converted a penalty. 

the game encapsulated the two sides' respective form at the time. Palace were revitalised under Allardyce after a poor start to the season and were on a good run that included other surprise wins against Liverpool and Chelsea. But the hammering of Arsenal was the best of those three victories; the Eagles dominated the majority of the game, attacking at pace and pressing their opponents at a high tempo. The Gunners were slow and lethargic, had almost given up on finishing in the top four and were generally very poor. 

Tomorrow's fixture could once again define the season for both sides. The hosts are just a point above the drop zone and a defeat could put them back among the relegation candidates, while a victory could take them as high as twelfth. Arsenal, meanwhile, need to stay within touching distance of rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who have recently improved, and a victory would bring them level on points with the Lilywhites. A defeat could severely dent their already slim chances of finishing among the Champions League qualification places. 

Team news

Palace have Christian Benteke back following his suspension. The striker missed Saturday's 1-1 draw at Swansea having picked up his fifth yellow card of the season the week before at Leicester City. Benteke will most likely replace James McArthur in the starting eleven, while Townsend returns to a wide role having partnered Zaha up front in Wales. 

Mamadou Sakho misses the clash with a calf strain and Joel Ward is still struggling with a groin problem. Jason Puncheon remains available for selection despite being charged with possession of an offensive weapon and assault.

Arsenal pair Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey will both miss the game with respective hamstring problems. Defender Nacho Monreal injured an ankle in the 3-3 draw against Liverpool and Wenger admitted the injury will take up to 10 days to clear.