In welcoming Liverpool to Selhurst Park for the third time in less than nine months, it is probably fair to say that the Reds will not be salivating at the prospect.
Following Crystanbul Parts I & II, which respectively ended their title hopes last May and confirmed their faltering start to this season’s campaign, there will be a sense of dread at the possibility of a hat-trick of disappointments. But these are two very different sides to either of those matches and it will be a severe test of the credentials of the Pardew-rejuvenated Eagles as Liverpool have only been beaten once in thirteen matches since the 3-1 reverse in November.
The emergence of Can as the cornerstone of a back three has been a key factor in the re-awakening of the Reds over the last three months and Palace need to be wary of his ability to run the game from deep.
In this season’s league game Jedinak led a spirited fightback and scored a rasping free-kick to seal victory but the Aussie captain is still recovering from an injury he picked up in the Asian Cup. If McArthur is also missing, a heavy onus will fall on Ledley to quell Liverpool’s midfield spearheaded by the lively Coutinho.
The conundrum of who to play upfront was further deepened this week after Sanogo was injured against Newcastle and was replaced by Frazier Campbell who scored the equaliser.
Liverpool’s nemesis, Gayle also came on but was ineffective compared to Bolasie whose introduction turned the match Palace’s way. He was instrumental in turning the tide in the league match when he spun Lovren and set up the second goal for Ledley.
Pardew also has a crucial decision to make at the centre of the back four, as Scott Dann should return after injury, but who should make way? With Damien Delaney guilty of a pair of mistakes in recent home matches when he allowed Lukaku and Cisse too much space, which they capitalised upon, there is a feeling that the Irishman might be the one to be rested rather than Hangeland.
The Norwegian is an awkward-looking bugger (it is difficult not to look awkward when you are that tall) but he has proved himself with a couple of solid displays recently so he may be the preferred partner.
Whoever gets the nod, both teams look set to field strong line-ups as the lure of Wembley creeps ever closer and both sides seek to continue their positive recent form. To expect Crystanbul Part III is probably a little fanciful but if we are not allowed to dream then being a football fan would be a dull affair.