Crystal Palace host Spanish giants Valencia in the club’s final first team friendly of pre-season.
The game will be the first pre-season friendly held at Selhurst Park since Lazio’s visit in 2013 and will give fans a chance to see the Eagles’ three summer signings, James Tomkins, Steve Mandanda and Andros Townsend.
Los Che provide Palace’s biggest test of pre-season and manager Alan Pardew will be able to see how far his side have come since last weekend’s 3-1 defeat to Fulham, after which Pardew criticised his side’s lack of match sharpness.
As you could quite predictably imagine, the two sides have never met before and it will probably be a long time before they meet again, so long-term bragging rights are on offer for the victor.
How did each side fair last season?
Although reaching the FA Cup final, the 2015/16 campaign can certainly be described as a tale of two halves for Palace. Having been so successful early on in the campaign, Pardew’s side capitulated in the second half of the season and went on a shocking 14-game winless run. Placed sixth in December, Palace eventually finished 15th and, had the South London club not reached the cup final, Pardew would certainly have been fearing for his job.
A cup run so bewildering due to the fact it occurred during the horrific run of form, Palace beat four Premier League sides, along with Championship side Reading, on their way to the final, where they were eventually beaten by Manchester United.
Jason Puncheon gave the Eagles the lead after 78 minutes but Juan Mata’s deflected strike found the net just three minutes later. Jesse Lingard then broke Palace hearts when his thumping volley in extra-time gifted Louis van Gaal his first – and only – trophy as Red Devils boss before his was relieved of his duties just hours after the game.
Valencia’s season was very similar to Palace’s. four different managers - including Englishman Gary Neville - sat in the Mestalla dugout throughout the season as the club finished a lowly twelfth in La Liga. Although they reached the semi-final of the Copa del Ray – losing 8-1 on aggregate to Barcelona -, Los Che also struggled in European competition, being knocked out in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League before defeat on away goals against Athletic Bilbao saw their brief Europa League run ended.
How has each side performed in pre-season so far?
Palace spent the first two weeks of the pre-season campaign touring North America which included three games against Philadelphia Union, FC Cincinnati and Vancouver Whitecaps. A victory against Cincinnati sandwiched between two draws would have satisfied Pardew and his players, although injuries picked up by Tomkins and Wilfried Zaha would have overshadowed what happened on the pitch.
Upon their arrival back in England, the Eagles have faced visits to Football League opposition Colchester United (W 0-1), AFC Wimbledon (W 2-3) and Fulham (L 3-1). A development side, including a couple of first team player, then travelled to National League club Bromley where the Eagles won 2-1.
Pako Ayestarán’s side have also had a mixed pre-season, they began the campaign with a 3-1 victory against SC Munster, before losing 2-1 against Dutch side Feyenoord. FC Ilves were then on the receiving end of a 4-1 thumping, before the latest game against English club AFC Bournemouth finished in a 1-1 draw.
Valencia will still have two more friendlies to play before the La Liga season commences with a home game against Las Palmas.
Pardew will use the final first team friendly before the start of the season as an opportunity to test his preferred starting eleven against one of Europe’s biggest clubs. This could mean starts for new signings Townsend and Mandanda, although it is unlikely that Tomkins will be fit enough to take part from the start.
A 4-4-2 formation has been rumoured to be the coaching staff’s preference, although it can easily be reverted to the much tried and tested 4-2-3-1 if Plan A does not work.
Valencia, meanwhile, could go with a similar side to the one that played against Bournemouth on Tuesday evening.
Predicted Palace team: Mandanda; Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare; Zaha, Cabaye, McArthur, Townsend; Bolasie, Wickham.
Predicted Valencia team: Ryan; Cancelo, Santos, Abdennour, Gaya; Perez, Fuego, Medran; Rodrigo, Alcacer, Bakkali.