Wolverhampton Wanderers will look to build on Wednesdays’ resolute draw at Chelsea as they travel to Crystal Palace for a league meeting where defeat may prove detrimental for both teams.
Despite effectively stifling Thomas Tuchel’s primary outing in English football, Wolves have now slumped to a torrid run of seven league fixtures without a win as they remain without their influential talisman Raul Jimenez.
However, with a valuable point earned at Stamford Bridge, and the arrival of the aerially adept forward Willian Jose from Real Sociedad, Nuno Espirito Santo can summon optimism as he looks to galvanise his side and turn their fortunes around.
Palace have encountered obstacles of their own in recent times, subdued to a solitary victory in eight attempts in England’s top-flight – coming at home against bottom club Sheffield United.
And after succumbing to defeat against Wolves on two occasions this season – in the reverse fixture and the FA Cup respectively – manager Roy Hodgson will understand the significance in retaliating ahead of what appears to be a favourable month of top-flight contests for the Eagles.
A reformed presence up top
In Jose, Wolves have acquired the services of a seasoned veteran who can serve as an efficient focal point in attack in the absence of the injured Jimenez.
It is abundantly clear that Santo’s side have been lacking heavily in this department of late, and it is no surprise that the Mexican forwards harrowing injury coincides with Wolves' feeble fall to mediocrity.
Standing just short of 6’3, scoring 11 league goals last season and boasting a style akin to that of Chelsea’s target-man Olivier Giroud, Jose’s skillset can be utilised favourably by Wolves after a lacklustre period without a dominating presence in the opposition's box.
For a side with a preference for overloading crosses into the final third, there is renewed confidence that such phases of play can now be capitalised to greater effect.
This is something Santo will be deliberating over in the build-up to Saturday’s trip to Selhurst Park, and with the potential inclusion of Jose from the start, it might prove decisive in what is likely to be a game of fine margins.
Jose would enable forwards such as Pedro Neto and Adama Traore to be more diverse in their offensive approach and could prove beneficial in welcoming fluid link-up play and building effective attacking sequences.
Defensive issues remain
Although successful in repelling Chelsea’s advances - snapping an uncharacteristic and distressing 12-match run without a league clean sheet - the strenuous issues remain rife for Santo and his side.
Wolves continue to find themselves under unwanted defensive scrutiny, and Hodgson will undoubtably seek to punish his opponents by exploiting their apparent set-piece weakness.
Palace possess a wealth of aerial experience across their ranks, and frontman Christian Benteke will relish the opportunity to add to the brace of headed strikes he has so far this season.
However, Hodgson has also found defensive struggles to be a prevalent theme this season, and only West Bromwich Albion have conceded more than the 36 goals Palace have shipped so far.
Zaha the key component
Wilfried Zaha has prospered this season and has proven to be a dominating force in the Premier League, scoring nine goals and assisting two more after 17 games, which stands as his best ever return at this point of a league campaign.
With his excellent return, along with 71 successful dribbles and 21 fouls won, Zaha has been instrumental for the London outfit and will look to be the centrepiece in snapping his sides run of five hours and 14 minutes without a goal against Wolves.
And with Palace enjoying their second highest tally after this stage of a Premier League season, there will be confidence in securing only their second league victory since a 5-1 drubbing of West Brom at the beginning of December.
Wolves will see this match as a perfect opportunity to return to form, with the acquisition of a commanding forward and a chance to complete a first top-flight double over Palace since 1972, belief will be high that they can overcome their most turbulent period since their return to the Premier League.
With two victories over Palace already this season, and with their counterparts enduring their own subpar run in the division, three points will be seen as pivotal in order to steer away from unwelcome talk of a relegation fight.