As we get into the thick of the Christmas period, a match which was already picked out as a relegation scrap has had a bit of extra kick given to it.
Coming up to halfway point in the season, in-form Crystal Palace will be facing a Swansea City side with a new face in the dugout. With the Swans parting ways with Paul Clement who has only led the club to one win in their last 10 games, they have given the reigns to Leon Britton for the time being.
Palace are no strangers to the changing of managers, having experienced that already this season with Frank de Boer and Roy Hodgson, but the turnover of managers seems to be a lot more frequent in Swansea with Clement becoming the club’s fourth managerial casualty since December 2015.
On Clements’ departure, Hodgson said:
“Paul is someone I know very well, he was at Fulham just before I came to the club and of course I’m disappointed to see him lose his job at Swansea just before Christmas, I can’t deny I find that a sad situation.”
As we’ve seen in recent times though, including with Palace themselves, a new man in charge can give a struggling side a new lease of life, something that Hodgson is aware of:
“You never know what reaction the players will have, if there’s some hidden reserves that they’ve been keeping up their sleeve, only the game will tell, but as far as we’re concerned it doesn’t change one bit, we’re preparing for what we consider is a tough, important game against a team in the same ball-park as us.”
Palace go into the game seemingly at the perfect time. 14th in the League after seven games unbeaten and a dominant 3-0 win over the 2016 champions Leicester City, but there is one concern. Christian Benteke, who scored and provided another goal also picked up a yellow card suspension at the King Power Stadium making him unavailable for Saturday.
But as they say, every cloud has a silver lining and for the Eagles that silver lining could be Bakary Sako. Coming on a substitute in the last two games, the 29-year-old has bagged a goal on each occasion.
Talking on Sako’s recent form, Hodgson said:
“I’ve was impressed with him even before the last two games, but I think in training I’ve seen a different person than the one I saw in my first month.
“Now he’s playing more centrally, whereas before he was a left winger, I think he’s worked unbelievably hard to take the things we work on onboard and I can do nothing but heap praise on him.
“He’s certainly lessened the fears we had when Christian was unfit, and we didn’t feel we had anyone in the club who could step in and do that job. But there’s still a lot of work for him to do and the real test will come when I put him in from the start.”
Seeing that Sako is up to the test on Saturday at The Liberty he could help take Palace to the 20 point-mark, halfway in the race for the sacred 40 point-mark, something that looked out of the club’s reach when Hodgson took charge but as we and Swansea City now know, it doesn’t take long for things to change in the football world.