South London Press journalist Richard Cawley gives us the lowdown on Crystal Palace ahead of Saturday's FA Cup third round clash with Saints.
How have Palace been doing since the teams met last month?
The thing that’s been a big issue for them is the fact they’ve had some pretty notable injuries. I think they’ve really hugely missed Yannick Bolasie. So often he gives them that energy and pace, and hassles defences. He’s quite versatile as well – he’s played through the middle, as well as out wide – and the fact Connor Wickham has gone back down with this calf problem is yet again a blow for them. He’d missed a couple of months, came back and was beginning to look like he was getting back to full sharpness, scored his first goal at Stoke and then obviously aggravated something there and has missed the last three as well. While those two have been out they haven’t managed to score a goal. That’s the big thing – maybe a bit of a lack of confidence in front of goal going into this game.
How is the FA Cup being viewed at Palace this season?
It’s difficult to say. Alan Pardew hasn’t said too much about it. Steve Parish has always talked about the fact he wants Palace to do well in the cups and Alan Pardew himself recently did an interview in which he said he knows the criticism you could level at him at the moment is that he hasn’t won a trophy and he wants that to change, but in saying that I think we’ll get more of an idea on Saturday where his head’s at with this, because they’ve got Villa away on the Tuesday, which is very important. The goal is to finish in the top six and get Europa League football, so if that is the case I’m not sure if the squad has got the depth, particularly as things stand right now, for them to battle on two fronts, so I think it’s likely that, at the weekend, you’ll see changes from Palace. I don’t think it will be a full-strength side.
Who are the key players right now?
I think Wilfried Zaha has still been playing well. It hasn’t quite broken for him all the time, but you can’t fault his effort and some of the stuff he’s trying to do out there. Beyond that, James McArthur has been very good, albeit he held his hands up and said he wasn’t at the races against Chelsea at the weekend, but he’s another you can always guarantee will give you everything he’s got. The boost for them is that, if they want to play him, they’ve got Yohan Cabaye back.
How do you see the game going?
I think it will be down to how many changes Southampton make as well. I’ve still got a funny feeling Palace will do it, so I think I’ll go for a 1-0 win. Palace have been really good on the road, and I think whenever they go away you would be foolish to write them off and I think they can sneak a win there.