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    Crystal Palace v Sunderland Preview


    By Scott Hunt
    @scotthunt92

    The international break came at the worst possible time for Crystal Palace. It’s been 15 days since they were last in league action and Palace will hope their form before the break hasn’t deserted them.

    Having lost three successive games in league and cup, Palace ended that run in great style by holding Manchester United at Selhurst Park before securing a stunning win over Liverpool at Anfield. That win lifted them back into the top half of the table and, after the weekend’s results, a victory on Monday night would see them jump up to sixth – just four points off the top four. Their tally of 19 points is the best return Palace have ever had after 12 games in the Premier League.

    By contrast, Sunderland and new manager Sam Allardyce will have welcomed the break with open arms having won just one of his first four games in charge and losing their last two. In fact that win, in the Wear-Tyne derby against Newcastle, was their only success in their last 15 Premier League matches dating back to last season.

    The Black Cats are facing a huge relegation scrap if their form doesn’t improve soon but they can take heart from their performance in the reverse fixture last season. On that day, also a Monday night clash, Sunderland ran out 3-1 winners and would love something similar in this meeting to kick-start their survival push. Since that win however, the Black Cats have won just two of their 20 away league games.

    Palace boss Alan Pardew knows full well how dangerous Allardyce sides can be and is full of praise for his opposite number – backing him to guide Sunderland to survival.

    I never fancy my chances against a Sam Allardyce team, because of his knowledge,” Pardew told his pre match press conference.

    “They'll give everything they've got to get the victory. Sam knows that both those clubs up there are everything to the fans, so he'll be looking to get them up and running.

    "If anyone is going to resurrect their season it will be Big Sam. He's a great choice because he knows the division.

    We're in good shape. We had a good victory in our last game and we have one or two players coming back to us this week.

    "Chamakh will be involved in the game, Connor Wickham will be involved in the game, all the guys from Liverpool will be involved in the game, so we have a strong hand to take into Monday.”

    Pardew will be hopeful that they can start to replicate their superb away form at Selhurst Park. They have lost six of their last 10 home league games. But their strength at set pieces is becoming a major weapon. They have the highest ratio of goals scored from set plays in the Premier League – with half of their goals this season coming in that fashion.



    Key Men

    Palace will be delighted to have Connor Wickham back in contention to start against his old side having come off the bench at Anfield last time out. In his absence, Pardew has been using Dwight Gayle and Frazier Campbell as their central striker but Wickham offers Palace more of a target man and an aerial threat – allowing the creative players around him to thrive. With Wickham back, the Eagles will be confident of adding more goals to their game and being able to exert greater control over the contest, especially at Selhurst Park.

    Sunderland have been appalling defensively all season and will be thrilled that John O’Shea is in line to return after missing their last two defeats with a hamstring injury. The vastly experienced multiple Premier League winner may not boast huge pace or strength but has the knowledge and awareness to marshal that fragile back four and increase their chances of keeping clean sheets. O’Shea will be a key man to keep fit if Sunderland want to have any chance of survival.


    Team News

    Dwight Gayle is unavailable again but the return of Wickham and Marouane Chamakh offers Pardew options to cover his absence. Bakary Sako picked up a knock on international duty but could feature while Pape Souare should be fit despite missing Senegal’s clash with Madagascar.

    Lee Cattermole should return to the Sunderland team as well as O’Shea. There are no fresh injury worries for Allardyce, meaning Yann M’Vila is set to continue at the heart of the midfield despite conceding the pivotal penalty in their defeat to Southampton last time out.


    Prediction

    Crystal Palace 2-0 Sunderland




    Image source: Getty Images
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    Item Reviewed: Crystal Palace v Sunderland Preview Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Scott Hunt
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