Southampton vs Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace travel to the St Mary’s stadium tonight to take on Southampton. The last time these two sides met in March, Premiership survival was at stake. In a memorably emotional encounter each team effectively cut the throat of the other. A week after the 2-2 draw relegation became reality for both clubs.
The paths of the two clubs have diversified since the summer however, and Palace go into this game as favourites. Unlucky not to beat leaders Reading on Friday, Palace know that a victory is needed to regain momentum for an assault on the second automatic promotion place. The Saints are not enjoying this season. Managerial musical chairs, player sales and faltering form have impinged progress. Somewhere within it all Sir Clive Woodward must be wondering whether he made the right choice in quitting the genteel world of Rugby Union.
Having sold three strikers, Crouch, Phillips and Walcott, already this season rumours suggest that Leon Best could be on his way to Selhurst Park from St Mary’s. The 19-year-old Republic of Ireland youth international has attracted interest from Sheffield Wednesday and Plymouth already this season, and with Palace already flush for striking options, it remains to be seen how much truth there is to this story.
Fast and powerful Best would seem to have a bright future in the game. He joined Saints, along with another talented youngster, David McGoldrick, from Notts County at the age of 16 for a tribunal decided fee of £50,000. The transfers left a sour taste at the time, with County feeling short changed by the rules affecting youth player transfers. With Southampton complaining about having their hand forced during Theo Walcott’s to Arsenal, it is worth pointing out that they have benefited from the same loophole themselves on more than one occasion.
Danny Granville and Danny Butterfield remain the only long-term injury doubts for Iain Dowie’s side. Marco Reich has resumed training but is unlikely to rejoin the squad until Saturday’s FA Cup trip to Preston at the earliest. Tony Popovic and Mikele Leigertwood return from injury, but are unlikely to displace any of the team that featured against Reading. Should Dowie decide to go for a more attacking line up one possible change could see Wayne Andrews coming in for Tom Soares on the right of midfield.