In this week’s Opposition Focus, Matt Wiggins spoke to Jay from The Eagles Beak to get a Palace perspective ahead of Sunday’s game at Selhurst Park…
Crystal Palace vs Fulham, what comes to mind when you think of this fixture from years gone by?
The one overriding memory, unfortunately for us, is the thrashing you handed us at Selhurst Park, which led to the depature of Ian Holloway in our first season back in the Premier League. It featured two cracking goals from Steve Sidwell and Pajtim Kasami, the latter was one where Palace fans just looked to the skies above but stood in appreciation of the quality of the strike.
In the reverse fixture, Palace won 2-1 at Craven Cottage with goals from Riedewald and Zaha. What’s your reflection on the reverse fixture?
A good early season win for us. It is always difficult playing a newly promoted side, as you just do not know what you are going to get. There was not an awful lot between the two teams but it was good to see Riedewald score his first for the club, but the reverse ball from Zaha to put him through was sublime.
Palace currently sit 13th place in the Premier League on 32 points. Are you looking over your shoulders at all?
With the form you guys have found of late, it has seen a few teams look back, including us, but the win on Monday night against our rivals has given us more breathing space and put them back in trouble which is always good. Problem is, Fulham have had so much ground to make up, that form needs to continue for a while to stand any chance but Newcastle are the ones that you can really put into a predicament. That could be some fixture on the final day when you host them at Craven Cottage. Of course, we are all hoping that you can drag Brighton into the mix!
Last time, you spoke about Roy Hodgson providing stability at a time when the club were chopping and changing managers but this could be his final season in charge. Are you hoping for a change in manager come the end of the season?
Some of the football this season has been hard to watch and there is a lot of uncertainty going into the summer. With so many players out of contract and an ageing squad, now could be the right time to move away from Roy. He has done a great job for us and has provided us with the stability that we have needed, but a rebuild is needed and Roy is not getting any younger, so this summer is the right time. I just hope it works out, as a managerial change is always a gamble.
The January window was a quiet one for most Premier League clubs, however Palace secured the loan of Jean-Phillipe Mateta. Are you happy with the window you had or would you have preferred more incomings at Selhurst Park?
Palace fans were not expecting much from the window at all. Obviously there were hopes of fresh blood being brought into the squad but it was always going to be tough with the difficulties the pandemic had put everyone in. The addition of Mateta was from left field but a welcome one as it continued the theme of bringing in younger talent. He scored goals in the Bundesliga for Mainz but it is always a question of settling in. Seeing him score with a brilliant backheel on Monday gets him off the mark in just his second start in English football, so hopefully we can expect to see more of the same.
Who’s one Crystal Palace player that Fulham need to watch out for on Sunday?
I will go for a less obvious one this time and say Jordan Ayew. His performance against Brighton epitomises his work ethic and contribution to the team. What he has lacked in goals, he provides in other areas. He played a big part in both goals on Monday with his skill on the ball and has been a bit of an unsung hero this season. For a player that cost us around the £2million mark, he has been an absolte steal.
Who’s one Fulham player you feel can threaten Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park?
Ademola Lookman. A former Charlton player so will have added encouragement against Palace and his good form of late will be a concern for us. Good to see him playing well having had indifferent spells at Everton and Leipzig but proving he can cut it in the Premier League.
Last time we spoke you gave us your predictions of a top 4 of Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea & Spurs and a bottom 3 of Burnley, Fulham & West Brom. Are there any changes you’d make to these predictions as we’re further into the season?
City for the title, for sure. Liverpool to make top four but probably United and Leicester for the other two spots but hard to discount Chelsea. As for the bottom three, West Brom for sure along with Sheffield United but Newcastle look to be the side dragged into trouble and that is often difficult to get out of.
Finally, how do you see the game panning out and what is your prediction for the match?
The result on Monday will provide renewed confidence and this is the last game before we begin a run of fixtures against the top sides so there is an opportunity to really take ourselves out of the equation and push for a top ten finish. On that basis, I will plump for a narrow Palace win.
PREDICTION: CRYSTAL PALACE 2-1 FULHAM