This would have read as quite a meaningless game at the start of the season, but the fact that Tony Pulis now sits in the Crystal Palace hot seat has changed the complexion of it entirely. He’ll be desperate to get one over on his former club as well, with Palace approaching this clash sat bottom of the division while Stoke are up in 12th place.
Even though 20th spot sounds atrocious in some regards, the fact that Palace remain just one point adrift of safety should make everyone around Selhurst Park rest a little easier. When Pulis first took over, most thought survival was utterly out of the question so he has initiated significant progress with the Eagles. Additionally, while goal difference keeps them at the foot of the table for the time being, it’s not too dissimilar to a lot of their relegation rivals which could count for everything by the season finale. If we look to the club’s recent form, it would be fair to describe it as encouraging. They lost 2-0 to Tottenham in their last outing, but had they not missed a first half penalty that result could have been completely different. Still, they have lost two of their last five, and just won one match in the process, so Pulis will know the importance of registering three points at home this weekend.
The fact that their opponents find themselves in all sorts of trouble should be of huge help to Palace at least, with Stoke on a poor run of form themselves. The Potters have now won just one of their last eight matches, while a four point cushion from the drop zone isn’t exactly comfortable at this stage of the season. Additionally, having not won an away game in their last eight attempts, Mark Hughes is beginning to feel the strain somewhat. Still, Hughes has at least been able to bolster his squad with several signings this week, although it remains to be seen whether this will be enough to freshen up the Potters and spark a revival.
One man Crystal Palace won’t be able to rely on is Cameron Jerome, who is ineligible due to the terms of his loan agreement with Stoke. There’s not much better news for the home side in other areas of the field either, with Yannick Bolasie doubtful while Jerome Thomas and Kagisho Dikgacoi are definite absentees. Stoke also won’t have one of their strikers available, with Kenwyne Jones not traveling with the team due to disciplinary issues. However, Mark Hughes will be able to select John Guidetti and Oussama Assaidi who have recently signed loan deals with the club.
Tony Pulis was something of a legend at the Britannia Stadium, but he has the potential to go to pantomime villain this time around. Palace might be bottom of the league, but their form throughout recent weeks isn’t too concerning. Stoke meanwhile seem to be in a bit of trouble and with Pulis’ men also holding the home advantage, our tip is going to be a slender 2-1 win for the Eagles.