When Leicester City hosted Crystal Palace at the King Power Stadium in October, they were playing a side who was challenging the Premier League elites alongside them. Leicester sat fifth in the table and Crystal Palace dogged them at the sixth place. While Ranieri’s men raised their challenge to the levels of being title-favourites, Alan Pardew’s Palace suffered a dreadful run of form that slipped their position to 15th in the table.
The Crumbling Palace
Crystal Palace approached the winter days looking like a side capable of top-four finish this season. They were sixth in the league on December 15th when they picked a comfortable win at Stoke, but their fortunes had plummeted ever since as that remains their last victory in the Premier League.
Since then, they have added just 4 points to the tally and have failed to win in any of their last 12 league fixtures. Their home-record is even worse where they have now lost five matches in a row and have conceded 2 or more in each of them.
There are some signs of optimism though as Palace have managed a spot in the semi-finals of the FA Cup following a 2-0 victory against Reading last week. Pardew will be hoping to build their momentum on that win as he looks to avoid the relegation battles.
However, it won’t be an easy task for the Englishman as an array of difficult fixtures awaits Crystal Palace. The London side will be travelling to in-form West Ham United, before facing trips to Arsenal and Manchester United in two of their next three league matches.
Living the Pipe Dreams
However how much Ranieri and his players try to deny, the Premier League title is now their’s to lose. With just seven games to go, Leicester City sits five-points clear of the nearest rivals Tottenham and with a set of easy fixtures ahead, they are looking comfortably en route to writing the most unlikeliest tale of the Premier League era.
They were beaten just three times in 30 league fixtures this season, and also boasts the best away record in the league this term. They come into the game on the back of consecutive 1-0 wins which has further revealed their steel to win the match at any cost.
However, Selhurst Park has been a difficult place for prospective Premier League Champions in the past. Further, all three of City’s defeats in the Premier League this season has happened against a London side, two against Arsenal and one against Tottenham. So, Foxes should be wary not to slip as the season arrives to its business end.
Ranieri, though, has fond memories about facing Crystal Palace as it was against them the Foxes managed their first clean sheet of the season. “I was so happy the last time because we made the first clean sheet if you remember,” says the Italian whilst admitting of a mistake from the day as he forgot to shake hands with Pardew at the final whistle. “At the end of the match I didn’t say hello to Alan Pardew – I made a mistake. I was so happy I went to the pitch because I recognised it was a very, very difficult match to beat them.”
The injury list too hasn’t been kind to Pardew as he missed several key players through the past months. Kwesi Appiah, James McArthur, Jason Puncheon, Marouane Chamakh and Connor Wickham all remain sidelined with injuries.
Ranieri has no injury concerns at hand except for Andy King who faces a late fitness test.
Crystal Palace: Hennessey; Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare; Zaha, Cabaye, Ledley, Puncheon; Adebayor, Bolasie
Leicester City: Schmeichel; Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs; Albrighton, Drinkwater, Kante, Mahrez; Vardy, Okazaki