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    Crystal Palace v West Ham Preview


    By Scott Hunt
    @scotthunt92

    Alan Pardew comes up against his old side West Ham on Saturday and is determined to keep up Crystal Palace’s impressive start to the season with a victory over his old employers.

    Such has been the form of the two London sides at the start of the season that Pardew has gone as far as to label this match as a ‘top-of-the-table’ encounter. With some justification as Palace sit fourth, a point clear of West Ham in sixth ahead of this eagerly-awaited clash.

    After making the best start to a top-flight campaign for 25 years, Palace arguably enter the match as favourites despite the majority of their wins under Pardew coming away from home. The performances of star men Wilfried Zaha, Yohan Cabaye and Yannick Bolasie in their last few matches will give Eagles supporters reason for optimism.

    Pardew is hopeful that the international break hasn’t stalled their momentum and has urged his side to get on top of West Ham on Saturday.

    “It is a top of the table encounter, which is good for two teams who weren't predicted to be there at this time,” Pardew told his weekly press conference.

    “What you really hope for after the international break is that we can keep the focus of the group. It's a tricky situation.

    “I think a lot of people said before the season started that we could have a good season. Still a long way to go, lots of twists & turns.

    “I expect us to get a grasp on the game and dictate proceedings. But we need to be organised, otherwise they'll counter really quickly.

    “West Ham's results have been very strong against the best teams. They have a very good squad. I think Payet's a very good player and has been a bit unfortunate not to make the France squad.”

    After picking up a habit of leaking goals earlier in the season, Palace have tightened up of late and have only conceded two goals in their last four games. That defensive improvement has helped maintain their record of not having drawn a game in any competition this season.

    Palace, who haven’t had this many top flight points after eight games since 1990-91, will be hopeful of maintaining their form against a West Ham side who they have an impressed record against. The Eagles have lost just one of their last seven encounters but did lose this fixture 3-1 last season – with both teams winning the away meeting by that scoreline.

    They do however meet a West Ham side in impressive form. Slaven Bilic’s men are unbeaten in their last five games and are the second-highest scorers in the league this season. Added to that the fact that they are the best away team in the division and Palace know that they have a difficult task on their hands.


    Key Men

    While others may take many of the plaudits, Scotland international James McArthur has been an ever-present in the Palace midfield this season and has done much of the leg work for the more creative players around him. Yohan Cabaye provides much of the incision on the ball but would struggle to manage the game without the energy of McArthur alongside him.  Having signed a new contract at the start of the season, McArthur has secured his spot in Pardew’s starting XI and is a key cog in the Palace wheel.

    Pardew singled him out for special mention in his press conference and for good reason. Dimitri Payet has been sensational for the Hammers this season since his summer arrival from Marseilles. The winger has already notched four Premier League goals and has played a part in 14 goals in his last 16 appearances in England and France. Payet is crucial to the fast-paced, counter-attacking style that Bilic likes to play and will provide a stern test to the Palace defence.


    Team News

    Pardew’s men have been boosted by the return to fitness of a number of key players. Damien Delaney is available again and will offer competition for Brede Hangeland in central defence. Mile Jedinak could return to midfield while Jordon Mutch and Lee Chung-Yong are also back to full fitness. Connor Wickham, Marouane Chamakh and Joel Ward remain sidelined.

    Andy Carroll is fit again after his latest injury setback and provides Bilic with another attacking option – most likely from the bench. Angelo Ogbonna has recovered from a hamstring problem while Aaron Cresswell and Winston Reid are injury doubts.


    Prediction

    Crystal Palace 2-2 West Ham



    Picture Source: Getty Images
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    Item Reviewed: Crystal Palace v West Ham Preview Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Scott Hunt
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