The Eagles will use the match to warm up for the upcoming FA Cup final against Manchester United. The Wembley showdown is now very much the priority for Alan Pardew’s side, especially after top-flight safety was assured in last week’s 2-1 victory against Stoke City.
Both teams in form
Despite going on a 14-game winless run, Palace have picked up five points in as many games since a 1-0 win against Norwich City – finally steering them away from the drop zone. The excellent start to the season had almost been forgotten and the drop in form of some of their key players was a major worry as they tumbled down the table after Christmas.
The recent upturn in form will not only be good going into the cup final, but also going into the transfer market, with Palace now being an attractive outfit for incoming players.
Southampton’s season has finally ignited after a slow start – not helped by a disappointing Europa League exit – and the Saints are now one of the most in-form teams in the division. Big 4-2 victories over both Aston Villa and Manchester City have been the highlights of their recent run and a Europa League qualification spot is still within their reach.
Ronald Koeman will be delighted to have secured Fraser Forster and James Ward-Prowse to long-term contracts this week as he plans for the future, despite recent rumours that he may be interested in the now vacant managerial role at Everton.
Head to head
The Eagles won the return fixture at Selhurst Park thanks to a solitary goal from Yohan Cabaye, but Southampton have had the edge over Palace in recent years. A 3-1 victory at Selhurst in January 2015 saw then-Palace manager, Neil Warnock, lose his job, while the Saints had been on a five-game winning streak against Palace prior to the 3-2 FA Cup victory in January 2015.
Overall, Palace have won 37 times in a fixture that stretches back to 1906, and Southampton have won 41. The score has been level on 22 occasions.
In his pre-match press conference, Pardew denied that he thought Palace were ever in trouble this season, despite their shocking run between December and April. Having been heavily under pressure, the Palace boss has done well to turn the predicament around and is now expected to sign a contract extension in the summer.
Pardew also offered an update on injured midfielder Joe Ledley, who is likely to miss the cup final as well as the upcoming European Championships with a fractured fibula. Meanwhile, Wilfried Zaha will miss the trip to Southampton - having also missed last week's victory - but should be back in time to face his former club at Wembley.
Koeman stated in his own press conference that European qualification for a second successive season would be a fantastic achievement, but it is important that his players do their job on against Palace.
The Saints boss also admitted that he was delighted to tie Forster and Ward-Prowse down to long-term contracts. The pair have been pivotal in the recent successes of the South Coast side and will continue to be key as the club plans ahead.
Potential Southampton team: Forster; Cedric, Fonte, van Dijk, Bertrand; Ward-Prowse, Wanyama; Long, Davis, Tadic; Pelle.
Potential Crystal Palace team: Hennessey; Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare; Jedinak, McArthur; Bolasie, Mutch, Sako; Adebayor.