Crystal Palace vs Manchester United 17:30
Crystal Palace’s fixture against Everton was one of the games postponed in the last round of Premier League fixtures, due to atrocious weather conditions. An extra week’s rest may benefit Tony Pulis’ men, as they play host to the Champions.
One player who the Eagles will be looking to provide a creative spark is winger Jason Puncheon, with the former Southampton man in a rich vein of form. A comeback comparable to Lazarus of Bethany, Puncheon’s horrendous penalty miss a few weeks ago has inspired him to produce some of his finest displays in a Palace shirt, and his penetrating runs down the left have become a vital cog in the Eagles’ offensive machine – probably best demonstrated by the fact that he has completed more dribbles than any other Palace player (36). Puncheon is 14/1 with 888sport.com to score the first goal on Saturday.
Tony Pulis has always been an advocate of offensive wing-play, with his teams characterized with quick wingers who have the ability to deliver the ball. The aforementioned Jason Puncheon certainly fits into this category, along with Yannick Bolasie, the player employed on the opposite wing. Bolasie has impressed with his dribbling skills this term, but what surprise many Eagles fans is that his tackling has also been of the highest order. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that he has won an impressive 79% of his challenges.
If Palace are relegated this term it is certain that there won’t be a shortage of suitors for talisman Mile Jedinak. The Australian has been inspirational at both ends of the pitch for the Eagles this term, making more offensive contributions than any other Palace player (405), and also intercepting the ball 90 times – the most in the league.
Adlene Guedioura hasn’t featured as prominently as he would have liked this term, which many pundits may be surprised at, considering his undoubted quality. In the few minutes he has played, however, the Algerian has made a sizeable impression – completing a pass in the opposition half at a rate of a pass every 4.1 minutes, a better rate than any other midfielder in the Palace squad.
It was vital that Manchester United did not lose when they travelled to Arsenal in their last Premier League, and despite a couple of scares, they managed to secure a solid 0-0 draw.
Tom Cleverley has had his fair share of stick this season, with many pundits questioning his position in the Red Devils team. Against Arsenal, however, he produced a solid all-round display to suggest that some of the criticisms may be slightly unwarranted. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that he completed 24 passes in the opposition half, the second most in the United squad, and won every single challenge that he attempted.
Much of the credit for nullifying the Gunners should go to outgoing skipper Nemanja Vidic. The Inter Milan-bound defender produced a swashbuckling defensive display to keep the likes of Giroud, Cazorla and Ozil away, making a total of 25 defensive contributions (based on blocks, clearances, tackles won and interceptions). This was the most in the United squad, and the second most in the league.
With Vidic destined to a career in Italy and Rio Ferdinand’s injury problems looking to be getting the best of him, Manchester United manager David Moyes has been starting to look to the next generation of centre halves. One player looking to fill the boots of the established duo is Chris Smalling, who has figured in 19 of the Red Devils games so far this season, and although he may not have won over all of his critics, he has impressed in the tackling department. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that he has won 94% of the challenges he has attempted this season.
England fans will be praying that Wayne Rooney comes through the rest of the season unscathed, as the Manchester United man is yet to figure in a World Cup when he has been totally ‘match fit’. The former Evertonian has been in fine form for the Red Devils this term, and he was a constant menace against the Gunners again, making a total of 26 offensive contributions (based on shots on target, passes in the opposition half, crosses and dribbles). The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that this was the second most in the United squad. You can find Rooney at 17/4 with 888sport.com to open the scoring on Saturday.