Former Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock will make a return to Selhurst Park today with Cardiff City for a 15.00 kick-off and will face an energised, strong Crystal Palace side playing with momentum and buoyancy having recently defeated the champions of England, Manchester City.
It will be the first meeting between the two clubs in over four-and-a-half years since Palace won 5-0 on aggregate in the 2013-14 Premier League season when the teams last faced-off.
Since then, Cardiff have spent four seasons in the Championship before finishing second in their last campaign to earn automatic promotion back to the Premier League for only their second spell in the competition.
Warnock will face Roy Hodgson’s team as they are playing in good form, the Eagles having won their past two home matches and three of their last five games overall.
Most notable of all of these will be last Saturday’s 3-2 triumph at the Etihad Stadium, in which Palace recorded a striking 3-2 victory over Manchester City to stun the football world and bring jubilance and confidence to their corner of London.
Palace fans will be hoping for a red and blue Christmas that yields yet more points though, as a hit-and-miss Bluebirds side will provide a challenging but clear opportunity for the Eagles to enjoy three consecutive wins as they reach the year’s denouement.
Encouragingly, Cardiff’s record away from home is poor and the club have only taken one point from eight matches on the road this season.
However, the Welsh side have managed to notch up two wins from their past five games but will be knocked for confidence as they most recently lost to former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s Manchester United 5-1. For Palace, the key will be to keep the visitors on the back-foot, as Warnock’s side have conceded 11 goals from just four games but, perhaps more importantly, have also scored in each of their last five.
It’s clear, though, that this attacking threat derives from midfield and while no single player stands out in particular as a worry to the Palace defence, Junior Hoilett may be one to keep an eye on as the winger has scored both of his two league goals in Cardiff’s last five matches.
Elsewhere, a crucial fixture for Palace will be taking place on the south coast just moments after full-time at Selhurst which could carry the Eagles up to 13th place should they steal three points from Cardiff. Historic rivals Brighton and Hove Albion will play host to a visiting Arsenal side as the Seagulls sit just three points ahead of Palace with a goal difference only better by two.
Should the Gunners triumph at the AMEX Stadium and Palace win by a large enough margin, the Eagles will leapfrog Brighton and end Boxing Day in a strong league position.
One man who will likely feature in that match, of course, is former Palace man Glenn Murray, who may be in the memory of some fans for his heroics in red and blue in this exact fixture six years ago.
With Palace trailing against the Bluebirds 2-0 within just 15 minutes of play, Murray, then 28, bagged a brace of second half penalties sandwiching a 62nd minute goal to net a hat-trick and take all three points for the Eagles in a valiant fightback under the stewardship of then-manager Dougie Freedman.
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Boxing Day has proven to be somewhat of a poisoned chalice for Cardiff in recent times, and the Bluebirds have lost their past five matches played on December 26 with their last win coming against the Eagles in 2012.
Lee Probert will take charge of this fixture, his last Palace game having been when the Eagles beat Burnley 2-0 at home just three weeks ago on December 1. He will be assisted by Simon Beck and Andy Garratt while Andy Woolmer will act as fourth official.
Palace man Cheikhou Kouyate was forced off the field as the Eagles beat Leicester two matches ago and didn’t feature against Manchester City while Martin Kelly was also sidelined with a slight injury. In addition, shot-stopper Wayne Hennessey has suffered recently from back spasms but may be available for selection on Wednesday.
For Cardiff, defender Joe Bennett was unavailable to play against Manchester United and is likely to also miss the match against Palace. Danny Ward has a knock but has only featured for 16 minutes in City’s last 10 matches.
Return here for updates from both teams as they arrive.