Crystal Palace kickstart their 2020/21 campaign on Saturday when they take on Southampton at Selhurst Park.

Crystal Palace had a disastrous end to the 2019/20 campaign, failing to win in any of their seven league matches. They did however, face the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea, as well as Manchester United and Wolves during the run.

Nevertheless, the Eagles will be given an excellent opportunity to kickstart their 2020/21 campaign on a positive note as they host Southampton at Selhurst Park tomorrow. They have had a relatively decent pre-season campaign, though it ended rather unfortunately with a 1-1 draw with Brondby.

Yet, the confidence should be high among the Palace camp even though they might be in for yet another relegation dog fight come the end of the campaign.

Southampton, meanwhile, are heading into this game boasting a considerably superior record against their rivals. Their head coach Ralph Hasenhuttl has also done a remarkable job of filtering out his side and buying players according to his need.

Although the departure of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg could be a massive blow, the Saints are confident of a positive season and a win against Palace this weekend should go a long way in boosting the morale of the team.

And here, at the Hard Tackle, we run the rule over the two sides ahead of this enticing match-up in the Premier League tomorrow.

Tactics & Team News

Crystal Palace

Roy Hodgson, in his press conference, has confirmed that new signing Eberechi Eze lacks proper match fitness, having featured in just 45 minutes of pre-season action.

Palace’s other absentees include Nathan Ferguson, Mamadou Sakho, Gary Cahill, James Tomkins and Christian Benteke, although Hodgson is hoping to have them back in contention soon.

Fortunately for the Eagles, new signing Michy Batshuayi has declared himself fit after featuring for Belgium during the international break. He might have to settle for a place on the bench, however, with Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew more likely to spearhead the Crystal Palace attack this weekend.

There are a few obvious starters in central midfield in Luka Milivojevic and James McArthur while Andros Townsend is set to operate on the wide attacking position, along with Jeffrey Schlupp.

Hodgson has to deal with an injury in the defensive department, though.  Ferguson’s injury makes for Joel Ward a guaranteed starter at right-back while the young Tyrick Mitchell might get a start on the opposite flank, with Patrick van Aanholt lacking fitness.

And in central defence, the absence of both Cahill and Sakho means Cheikhou Kouyate will once again have to feature in a deeper role, alongside the experienced Scott Dann.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Guaita; Ward, Kouyate, Dann, Mitchell; Townsend, Milojevic, McArthur, Schlupp; Ayew, Zaha.

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Southampton

Southampton manager Hasenhuttl has confirmed that he will be missing out on the services of Stuart Armstrong due to a quad injury he picked up during the international break. With him absent, the Austrian is likely to go for William Smallbone, ahead of Moussa Djenepo and Sofiane Boufal, neither of who have played much football this year.

Smallbone is likely to partner Nathan Redmond in the advanced midfield roles of Southampton’s flat 4-2-2-2 although the former is likely to operate in a deeper especially with Hojbjerg missing.

In fact, it won’t be surprising to see Smallbone interchanging positions with the central midfielder James Ward-Prowse while Oriol Romeu is a guaranteed starter in the number six slot. His tackling and aggression could be crucial in Southampton’s second line of press.

The Saints have reinforced their defensive unit with the addition of Mohamed Salisu. However, the former Real Valladolid centre-back might have to settle for a place on the bench, allowing the familiar duo of Jack Stephens and Jan Bednarek to form the central defensive pairing, with Kyle Walker-Peters and Ryan Bertrand operation as fullbacks.

And finally, the Southampton attack should be spearheaded by last season’s top scorer Danny Ings, who is set to be partnered by Che Adams. It could be an excellent chance for the latter to prove himself, following a disappointing debut campaign at St. Mary’s last season.

Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): McCarthy; Walker-Peters, Stephens, Bednarek, Bertrand; Smallbone, Romeu; Ward-Prowse, Redmond; Ings, Adams.

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Key Stats

  • Crystal Palace have won just three of their 22 Premier League matches against Southampton, with this the first time they’ve met on an opening day.
  • Southampton have won their last three away Premier League visits to Crystal Palace without conceding a single goal; Saints have never won four consecutive away top-flight matches against an opponent.
  • Although this if the first Premier League meeting on an opening day, Crystal Palace and Southampton did meet on Matchday 1 in 2007-08 in the Championship, with the Eagles winning 4-1 at St. Mary’s and James Scowcroft scoring a hat-trick.
  • The home side hasn’t won any of the last six Premier League meetings between Crystal Palace and Southampton. The hosts had won five in a row in this fixture prior to this run.
  • In the six opening day Premier League matches when Crystal Palace have played at home, they are yet to win, their last top-flight win at home on an opening day come back in 1971-72, winning 2-0 against Newcastle United.

Player to Watch

Wilfried Zaha

The talisman. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The talisman. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Wilfried Zaha has been rather unfortunate to be still playing for Crystal Palace following years of consistent performances. And a move away from Selhurst Park might not be forthcoming for another summer.

Nevertheless, Zaha is most likely to feature on Saturday against Southampton and it is needless to point out that he is a player who is more than capable of breaching the Saints’ relatively solid defensive line under Ralph Hasenhuttl.

Although seeing Zaha feature alongside Eze could have been a treat for Palace fans, the Ivorian’s presence in the starting lineup alone could serve as a massive boost for the hosts. And it could be imperative for the opposition as well, to keep a close eye on the ex-Man United starlet.

Prediction

Crystal Palace 1-2 Southampton

Opening day fixtures are always difficult to predict but this game is destined to pan out in a rather dramatic fashion. Southampton are more likely to dominate, however, while Palace’s fortunes could depend on the form of Zaha. The Saints have also had a better pre-season campaign and are more likely to seal a narrow win in this fixture.

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