BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 31: Scott Dann of Crystal Palace celebrates their win at the final whistle in the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Crystal Palace at Vitality Stadium on January 31, 2017 in Bournemouth, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Crystal Palace vs Middlesbrough Premier League Preview

This weekend’s Premier League programme features a relegation six-pointer at Selhurst Park. Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough both seem set to spend the remainder of the season battling the drop. The big online casino website Mansioncasino are the official sponsors of Crystal Palace FC, and will be concerned by the form of the club currently sitting second bottom on 19 points. Their opponents Middlesbrough are currently three points and three places ahead of them in 16th position.

Current Form

It’s fair to say that the appointment of Sam Allardyce hasn’t quite yet had the impact Palace would have wanted. In his eight Premier League games in charge so far, the Eagles have won just one, losing six of them. His first game in charge was a creditable 1-1 draw away to Watford, but it has gone downhill from there. Heavy defeats away to West Ham and at home to Sunderland indicate that confidence is at rock bottom at the moment.

Conceding goals, and lots of them, seems to be the main factor Allardyce will have to address. This is in stark contrast to his previous teams, where solid defending has always been the key to Premier League safety.

Middlesbrough have yet to win a Premier League game in 2017. Their last success was a 3-0 home win over Swansea City, who were joint-bottom of the table at the time, in December. Their only victories in this calendar year have been in the F.A. Cup, against lower league opposition. Last weekend saw them defeat League one side Oxford United.

Boro’s main issue seems to be scoring goals. Four of their six league games this year have seen them fail to find the net. Top scorer Álvaro Negredo has six league goals this season, but only one of them, a penalty, came since the turn of the year.

Team News – Crystal Palace

Palace will be hopeful that club captain Scott Dann will be available, after missing the defeat to Stoke through injury. Allardyce has had numerous injuries to contend with since taking over, but stated recently that they are clearing up. Winger Wilfried Zaha has been back from the Africa Cup of Nations for over a month now, but has yet to display the scintillating form that won him the Palace Player of the Month award for December.

Palace brought in three defenders during the transfer window, none of whom have flourished so far. Two of them, Jeffrey Schlupp and Mamadou Sakho were substitutes against Stoke, with the latter being unused. French international Yohann Cabaye also remained on the bench at the Bet365 stadium, after a poor showing in the Sunderland defeat. It remains to be seen whether he will be restored to the line-up this weekend.

Club record signing Christian Benteke has come under criticism from fans for his performances at times this season. That said, he is the team’s top scorer with eleven goals in all competitions. If Palace are to escape the relegation dogfight in which they currently find themselves, Benteke rediscovering his scoring form could be key if Palace’s erratic defending continues. Outscoring the opposition may be the only way they will survive.

Team News – Middlesbrough

Víctor Valdés has been an almost ever present since moving to the Riverside at the start of the season. He has looked a very astute signing, and was particularly impressive in Middlesbrough’s 0-0 draw with Everton last time out. Defenders Bernardo Espinosa, George Friend and Calum Chambers are all in contention for the club’s January Player of the Month

award. Given that no side in the bottom half of the Premier League table has conceded less goals than Boro (27), this comes as no surprise. All will be in contention to start at Selhurst Park.

In spite of the fact that Negredo hasn’t been prolific this season, he is the only striker to have scored at all. New signing Patrick Bamford has been brought in to relieve the pressure, and could make his first Premier League start this weekend. Whether he will replace Negredo or partner him is a decision that manager Aitor Karanka cannot take lightly.

If Middlesbrough can add a regular glut of goals to their team, given the solidarity of their defence they should soon start to climb the table. French forward Rudy Gestede, bought from Aston Villa last month, netted his first goal for the club, a penalty, against Oxford. His creativity has seen a marked improvement in Middlesbrough’s attacking play. This may prove to be the crucial factor which determines which division Boro are playing in next season.

The Last Word

The outcome of this match will have serious ramifications for both sides. A win for Palace would see them draw level with Middlesbrough on 22 points. A win for Boro would see them open up a six point gap over their opponents, and be a big boost in their bid to beat the drop.

Middlesbrough have problems scoring goals, while Palace have trouble keeping them out. It’s clear which aspects of their respective teams Allardyce and Karanka need to focus on in order to be playing Premier League football next season.

Crystal Palace vs Middlesbrough

Premier League

Selhurst Park, London

Saturday February 25th, 15.00 GMT

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