A repeat of last year’s F.A. Cup Final this evening sees Crystal Palace play host to Manchester United while looking to earn some revenge for their Wembley disappointment. But what is more important for Palace is not revenge for cup exploits but precious league points to pull them further clear of the drop zone.
They spurned a big opportunity to pull further clear of the bottom three on Saturday after being held to a draw by fellow strugglers Hull. A game that had plenty of twists and turns saw Palace eventually battle back to earn a point thanks to former Hull forward Frazier Campbell’s late equaliser.
That draw meant that Crystal Palace have slipped to 15th after wins for both Burnley and Leicester that same day and they now find themselves just three points clear of the bottom trio of sides. That said it will have to take a phenomenal turn of results in this game and Swansea’s trip to West Brom for them to the end the night in the relegation zone.
But even if the incredibly unlikely scenario doesn’t happen they still won’t want to be looking over their shoulders and they can only do that by getting wins on the board. The visit of Manchester United will certainly prove a tough test as they will make the trip to South London full of confidence after the defeat of Tottenham on Sunday.
A single Henrikh Mkhitaryan goal was the difference as United edge to victory over Tottenham. Not only that but it has closed the gap to the North London side to just three points. They may have had their backs to the wall come the end of the day and perhaps were lucky that Tottenham spurned their chances but it did show an improvement in game management.
A lack of game management has seen them drop a crucial amount of points with them already 13 points behind league leaders Chelsea. The hope for United will be that they can get a run of results under their belts to at least close the gap on 4th place side Manchester City.
The other option is to go all out in the Europa League this season. In a tournament that many have them down as favourties to win it may be the most sensible option as it poses the shortest route to a Champions League return next season.
That is arguably a decision to be made in the final third of the campaign as Jose Mourinho will no doubt still feel his team can win the league let alone scrape into the top four so you will not be hearing the Portuguese manager making any public concessions in regards to United’s title hopes.
They are without match winner Mkhitaryan this evening due to injury sustained in that win on Sunday. The Armenian looks set to miss the next couple of the weeks but the seriousness of the injury doesn’t seem as bad as first thought therefore a return before the end of the year is likely.
Even without Mkhitaryan’s presence I still think United will have enough to go on and win this game. Staying just about in the mix for a top four place and added more pressure to Alan Pardew. I don’t think defeat tonight means the sack for Pardew but he can’t afford too many more defeats right now. An away win for me.