Crystal Palace present a tough challenge as they head to high-flying Tottenham Hotspur aiming to kick-start their season after a poor start to 2016. Alan Pardew’s side were fifth in the Premier League at the beginning of the year but have not won in that competition since a 2-1 triumph at Stoke City on 19 December.
Coincidentally, their most recent win in all competitions also came against Stoke, running out 1-0 winners in the last round of the FA Cup, thanks to a Wilfried Zaha goal.
The Eagles have been without key players in recent weeks with Yannick Bolasie (hip), Bakary Sako and Jason Puncheon (both hamstring) all spending time on the treatment table. Joe Ledley and Dwight Gayle have also been absent with hamstring and thigh problems respectively.
Pardew remains hopeful that some will return to the squad after a successful training camp in Spain this week that has allowed players to bond on a more personal level. “The squad is healthier, we have no McArthur or Puncheon. Everybody else is close,” he told reporters at his pre-match press conference, “You get that extra time on a break with the squad. Ade can sit down and talk to players, you have conversations you can’t have on a training ground and it lets the players communicate on a personal and professional level.” James McArthur is out for the season with ankle ligament damage whilst Papa Souare starts the first of his three game ban.
If Bolasie and co do return it will be the first time they has played with January signing Adebayor, who bagged his first goal for his new club in the 2-1 loss to Watford. The Togolese forward enjoyed almost five years in North London before having his contract terminated in September and though he insists he has no problem with Spurs head-coach Mauricio Pochettino , he told reporters he will act naturally if he scores, “Scoring goals is what I do best in my career. If I score against Tottenham, trust me, I’m going to celebrate. For me, apart from having my baby, the best thing is whenever I score my next goal. So if I score against Tottenham, I don’t know why I shouldn’t celebrate.”
Though Adebayor is hopeful of scoring against his former employers, it will not come easy against the best Premier League defence and a team that has shipped in just 16 goals in 18 home games this season. Equally, Tottenham are on a fine run of form. Until Thursday night’s 1-1 draw at Fiorentina, they had won seven on the spin, their best run in over 20 years. They have also lost just one in 14 across all competitions and have earned 25 Premier League points from a possible 30.
Pochettino made six changes to his starting 11 in the Europa League tie after last Sunday’s deserved win at Manchester City and England internationals Harry Kane, Eric Dier, Kyle Walker and Danny Rose can expect to be recalled along with Moussa Dembele, who is enjoying the season of his life. When questioned about squad rotation in the build up to the Europa League tie, Pochettino told reporters, “We have a strong squad to try to fight for every competition, we need to use all of the squad. It is not important to talk about using the squad. It is important how we compete, we have big motivation."
Hugo Lloris is nursing a shoulder problem suffered in the dying embers of the win at City whilst Jan Vertonghen is a long term absentee with knee ligament damage.
The two London clubs have played each other five times in the FA Cup, each winning twice. The last time they met came in 2004 in a third round tie at White Hart Lane. The game was a feisty affair with Gus Poyet and Danny Butterfield both receiving their marching orders. It ended 3-0 to the home side courtesy of a Freddy Kanoute hat-trick.
Spurs have done the league double over Palace this season, winning 1-0 at home and then 3-1 last month at Selhurst Park, a game that will be remembered for a sensational Dele Alli goal.
Tottenham have won 10 of their last 14 home games in the FA Cup whilst the Eagles have won four of their last five away from home in the cup.