Crystal Palace will look to move up into the top half of the Premier League table as they face relegation favourite Watford at Selhurst Park.

Crystal Palace could be looking to secure a first league double over Watford in over a decade as the two teams meet at Selhurst Park. Patrick Vieira may have 41 points on board, which should be enough to guarantee safety under normal circumstances, although the volatile battle further down the table continues to brew uncertainty.

Despite the season under Vieira being considered positive and fans having plenty of optimism for the future, Palace have been largely inconsistent during parts of the campaign. They remain in contention to finish in the top half of the table, with only three points separating them from ninth-placed Brighton.

Crystal Palace have registered the highest number of draws in the league (14) and managed only nine victories this season. Their late victory over Southampton ended a winless run of four games across all competitions, which allows them to take on Watford with renewed confidence, as another three points will let off the slight pressure on Viera’s shoulders.

Former Palace manager Roy Hodgson’s return to the club could have come at a better time. A defeat at Selhurst Park for Watford could confirm their relegation. If games involving Burnley and Leeds United go in their favour, there could yet be a stay of execution for the Hornets.

The Hornets have endured a terrible return campaign in the Premier League, winning just six times and losing 24 times in 34 games. Watford led relegation rivals, Burnley, until the 83rd minute to offer hope in their relegation fight. The Clarets then sprung a surprise and scored twice in three minutes to stay alive in the relegation battle and put Watford under further pressure.

The focus at Selhurst Park will surely be on Hodgson after the veteran manager announced his desire to leave Watford when the season ends. The short-term appointment of the former Palace boss hasn’t gone to plan, with the Hornets only able to take eight points from 42 on offer. Moreover, their form of five consecutive defeats in the league has made them favourites to follow Norwich City into the Championship.

Team News & Tactics

Crystal Palace

Nathan Ferguson remains out of first-team action, while Luka Milivojevic could be available after returning to fitness. The midfielder could make the bench, as Patrick Vieira is unlikely to draft him from the start.

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Vieira could make necessary changes to his side while keeping the shape intact. Tyrick Mitchell could come back to the team and replace Joel Ward at left-back. Nathaniel Clyne could keep his place at right-back, with Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen firmly established in central defence.

Cheikhou Kouyate is pushing to earn back his spot in the team, although James McArthur’s recent displays will keep the Senegal star on the bench. Conor Gallagher and Jeffrey Schlupp should slot on either side of McArthur in a midfield three.

There could be significant changes to the front three. Wilfried Zaha’s goalscoring cameo against Southampton could be enough to warrant a place on the left side of the attack. Michael Olise should replace Jordan Ayew on the right side, with Jean-Philippe Mateta retaining his role as the central striker, despite competition from Odsonne Edouard and Christian Benteke.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Guaita; Clyne, Guehi, Andersen, Mitchell; Gallagher, McArthur, Schlupp; Olise, Mateta, Zaha

Watford

There could be some positive news with player availability for Watford with Tom Cleverley and Craig Cathcart likely to return. The duo missed the Burnley clash and have since returned to training. They may not find a place in the starting XI but become options on the bench.

Kwadwo Baah and Cucho Hernandez are certain absentees, although the latter has resumed light training in recent days. Francisco Sierralta was also missing from the squad last weekend and could return to the bench against Palace.

Hodgson could go with a 4-3-3 formation to mirror that of their opponents. Kiko Femenia and Hassane Kamara could slot in at full-backs, with Christian Kabasele and Samir keeping their spots in central defence.

Juraj Kucka could keep his place in a midfield three after an impressive display against Burnley. Imran Louza and Moussa Sissoko will start alongside him in the centre of the park. Ismaila Sarr, Joao Pedro and Emmanuel Dennis will continue to form the front three, hoping to score vital goals for the Hornets.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Foster; Femenia, Kabasele, Samir, Kamara; Sissoko, Louza, Kucka; Sarr, Pedro, Dennis

Key Stats

  • Crystal Palace have won five of their last six home games against Watford in all competitions.
  • Crystal Palace have kept a clean sheet in their last three home games in the Premier League.
  • Watford have lost their last five Premier League games.
  • Roy Hodgson has managed just two wins from 14 games so far as manager of Watford.
  • Watford have conceded at least two goals in each of their last five games in the Premier League.

Player to Watch

Wilfried Zaha

Patrick Viera surprised many by keeping Wilfried Zaha on the bench against Southampton, considering Crystal Palace still needed wins to put further daylight between themselves and the relegation zone. The forward showed the manager what he was missing after coming off the bench and securing a late win over the Saints.

Zaha may have earned his way back into the starting team based on his cameo in the last game. But he will need to keep that momentum going and produce yet another top performance. That goal against Southampton meant this is the best goalscoring season for the Ivorian, who took his tally to 12 this term and he will want to add more on Saturday.

Prediction

Crystal Palace 3-1 Watford

A win for Watford or favourable results elsewhere may only help in a temporary stay of execution from the Premier League. With four games left and a 12-point gap between them and 17th-placed Leeds United, it is only a matter of time before the Hornets move back to the Championship after an uneventful season.

Crystal Palace could become the team to send them down, as Vieira’s men could secure three comfortable points against the Hornets. The London side have the momentum and could use that to collect three points against the Hertfordshire outfit.

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