Crystal Palace-Newcastle United Preview
While last-place Crystal Palace indeed proved anything could happen on any given Saturday, Newcastle United are in no mood to let them build any momentum as the two sides meet at St James' Park on Saturday.
The Eagles (1-0-7) pulled off the biggest shock of the Premier League season thus far as the previously winless and previously goalless London side posted a 2-1 upset of reigning champions Chelsea at Selhurst Park.
Wilfried Zaha marked his return to the lineup for the first time since opening day with the match-winner just before halftime, giving beleaguered manager Roy Hodgson his first win in four matches after replacing Frank de Boer.
"I worked hard to come back so today it is just a dream to beat Chelsea at home," Zaha told Palace's official website after missing time to due to a knee injury. "We have got great players and now the confidence will start building and I am sure we can climb up the table."
Hodgson, whose team broke their scoring duck after 641 minutes thanks to own goal from Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta, used the Ivory Coast international in a partnership with Andros Townsend ahead of Yohan Cabaye. The former England gaffer also spent most of the international break working on Palace's leaky defence, and realises this win can only lead to bigger things if his players continue to put in the hard work.
"For me, the league is 38 matches and each one is its own particular story," Hodgson said. "Sometimes it's a good one … and we'd like to read that chapter again, but unfortunately next Saturday there's another story. We would be foolish to start thinking that because we deservedly won today, that doesn't mean we'll win against Newcastle or West Ham.
"We have to go back to square one, realise what we've done well to get this win, and we make sure we reproduce it."
The Zaha-Townsend-Cabaye triangle will again be the fulcrum of Palace's offence as striker and record signing Christian Benteke remains on pace for a Nov. 5 return against Tottenham Hotspur as he recovers from a knee injury.
Newcastle United (3-2-3) do not lack for subplots as they scrap to stay in the top half of the table. Rafa Benitez saw his Magpies pegged back twice by Southampton striker Manolo Gabbiadini in a 2-2 draw at St Mary's last Saturday, extending their winless stretch to three matches (0-2-1).
Isaac Hayden opened the scoring with a well-taken strike from distance on 20 minutes, and Ayoze Perez provided another chance for three points in the 51st minute before Florian Lejeune's rash challenge on Shane Long provided Gabbiadini the opportunity to steal a point from the spot at the start of the final quarter-hour.
"I was really happy to score my first official goal this season," Perez told nufc.co.uk after opening his scoring account. "Sometimes the strikers need goals, and in this case, I'm really pleased to have scored a goal, and hopefully there is a lot more to come.
"It was a little bit disappointing that we drew, but once again the team showed great character knowing what we had to do and doing our best when we could."
Off the pitch, it appears embattled owner Mike Ashley may finally have found a buyer for the team. Amanda Staveley, who leads the equity firm PCP Capital Partners, is reportedly interested in buying the team and met recently with Benitez and Newcastle managing director Lee Charnley. While The Guardian reported Ashley wants £380 million and will make a clean break from the club, Staveley's investment group, which includes Middle Eastern oil businessmen, believes the Tyneside club is worth closer to £300 million.
Ashley has set Christmas as a target for the sell date, mainly to allow Newcastle to utilise the January transfer window. The Toon Army, no fans of the Sports Direct founder, will undoubtedly nervously watch how events unfold while fervently backing any end result that keeps Benitez on their sideline and brings in reinforcements in the fight to stay up.
Newcastle are unbeaten in their last three (2-1-0) at St James' Park, while Crystal Palace have lost six on the bounce dating back to their 2-1 win at Anfield on April 23. The Eagles have gone 554 minutes in league play without a goal outside Selhurst Park since Benteke completed his brace in the 74th minute of that victory over Liverpool.
The home team won both matches the last time they met in the top flight in 2015-16. Newcastle are 3-2-0 in their last five at St. James' Park versus Crystal Palace since a 2-1 setback in 1998.
Updated October 19, 2017