Preview: Stoke City vs. Crystal Palace ft The Eagles Beak

Well folks, I don’t know about you but I think this could be one of the most interesting matches we’ll see since the Sunderland game. The lads will also be looking for revenge following a dismal 4-1 defeat a Selhurst Park earlier in the season.

The Eagles currently find themselves in 19th, following a terrible run of form. Their season has been a shambles so far and even England’s, “best ever manager” with a 100%-win record, can’t turn things around. Many pundits are claiming the talented squad just don’t want to adapt to his all-or-nothing style of play.

After a 4-0 defeat to Sunderland last week, their training camp in Dubai was cancelled and were subsequently called into the training ground the following morning at 7am to prepare of this match. Big Sam reckons one win is all they need to turn their fortunes around, and he expects to do so at the Bet365 Arena.

Palace have the worse current form, having only picked up four points in the last eight games. However, on the road they average 1 point a game, much better than their home form. Averaging 1.58 goals per away game. Stoke need to be strong defensively, something we have lacked this season.

I spoke to Daniel Crame from The Eagles Beak to get some views from the opposition.

Benito Fisher: You find yourselves in 19th with only four points in the last eight games. What do the fans think is causing this poor run?

Daniel Crame: Firstly, we beat Bournemouth away on the 31st January; let’s not make it worse than it already is! The runs we had with Alan Pardew were extremely poor last year and it feels like this hasn’t really stopped. I’m beginning to think it’s a psychological issue with the players after witnessing our 4-0 home loss to Sunderland last Saturday. That performance is up there with one of the worst I’ve seen as a Palace fan for certain. As soon as their first goal went in, the floodgates opened, morale dropped below the earth and fans turned against the club. Not an enjoyable weekend. So, myself and other Palace fans have put the team’s poor run of form on the physiological aspect of the game over anything else because we all know what our players can do, it’s just a matter of committing. BF: Some questions are being asked by your investors following the result against Sunderland, is it right that they are interfering with Sam’s management?

DC: I don’t think Big Sam has been at Palace long enough to have the investors breathing down his neck but the majority of our players have and do deserve the pressure. It’s wrong to be interfering with Sam’s management if that really is what they’re doing as the man needs to get to work and fast, not having added pressure from above. The Sunderland game was catastrophic but looking back now, Big Sam can use that against the players in order to motivate them. He said in his post-match interview, “myself and the players never want to feel like this again” and I’m sure he’ll drill that feeling into the team in the hope it will work in our favour.

BF: Palace are known for chopping and changing management in recent years, and although Big Sam has just taken the reigns, are there rumblings within the Palace faithful for his sacking?

DC: Like I said, Big Sam hasn’t been at Palace long enough to warrant his sacking but amazingly there are a handful of Palace fans who feel he wasn’t the right man for the job. If there’s anyone who can get

us out of the mess we’re in, it’s undoubtedly Big Sam. It would be nice to have a manager who stays with us for a longer period than around two years and I think most thought Pardew was that man. Unfortunately, that was not to be and at the moment, was extremely lucky to have the manager we have. BF: I’m sure, as much as any Stoke fan, that Palace will be fighting for points this weekend. What kind of result are fans expecting?

DC: In an odd way this game could be the turning of our fortune if we get a result as the last time we played away at Stoke in 2015 Lee Chung-Yong scored a belter, which in turn began our awful run of form in the league. Football is weird like that.

I’m sure a few Stoke fans are anxious to face Palace considering we’re quite a bogey side for you guys. Five wins out of the last five is quite impressive, especially for Palace. I feel Palace and Stoke aren’t too dissimilar in terms of visions and expectations so I would be happy with a point away from home. A win would be better though of course. BF: What Stoke player are you most worried about and why?

DC: Saido Berahino. Palace have a record for allowing new faces their debut goal for their respective club and with the ability Sadio’s got when he puts it into practice, I wouldn’t put it past him to grab his first this weekend if he features. BF: Finally, any football team can down. But does Palace have enough to fight for safety?

DC: The Premier League is the most instance league in the world so it’s very, very hard to predict at any point. I think, if Palace can get their defensive issues sorted out we’ll survive as scoring goals isn’t a problem for us. Sunderland really were not that good against us last weekend despite the four goals they scored and I don’t think their squad *bar Defoe* is good enough this term. Middlesbrough’s lack of scoring goals will cost them and will drag them close, if not in the bottom three and Hull’s resurgence has been fantastic but when the excitement of a new manager wears off I think they’ll be back in trouble.

My final bottom three

18th – Middlesbrough

19th- Hull

20th- Sunderland

Last week we lost to another Tony Pulis side and need to bounce back with a win. Following the game, we ended up in 11th and 11 points off our ‘target’ of 7th. I don’t particularly want to dwell on this match anymore as we’ve heard enough about it this week, the extensive analysis following the Saido drugs leak. If you do want to know what the result of this match means for Stoke see our earlier article by Tom Thrower regarding ‘Stokelona’ and Glenn Urwin’s player ratings.

Stoke’s home form has picked up recently, with us being unbeaten at home in the last five league fixtures. But that being said, if we let one goal in, we tend to crumble and let in another three.

One area of discussion is who will start up front. Crouch has been in good form recently, scoring all four of his league goals this season in the last six games. However, Saido. Those following my posts will know that I think we need to give him time to adapt and to find his feet at the Potteries. But what better game to give him his first start. A home game against a team with a leaky defense. A good game here will be a vital boost for him and the squad as a whole, as we have been missing a striker that can consistently finish.

My predicted line-up: Grant, Bardsley, Shawcross, Indi, Pieters, Diouf, Whelan, Imbula, Marko, Allen and Saido. It’s not my preferred line-up by any means. Score prediction 2-1 to The Mighty Potters. Or after the news this week, The Mighty Pot Heads.

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