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Fixture News

Millen: Christmas Fixtures Will Be Key

18 June 2015

Eagles assistant manager Keith Millen has given his views on Crystal Palace's fixtures for the 2015-16 Barclays Premier League season, following Wednesday's announcement, highlighting the Christmas fixtures and the end of season run-in as key periods.

Millen began by discussing the opening day away to Norwich City, insisting that the atmosphere at Carrow Road will be electric, following the Canaries' return to the top flight.

"It's certainly going to be a fantastic atmosphere, going to Norwich," he said. "We know it's going to be really lively there, they're going to be excited to be back in the Premier League, so that's a tough start for us. But away from home to start, generally our form away has been good and it'll be a carnival atmosphere at the start of the game, I think, it'll be difficult for them as well, they're back in the Premier League. It's certainly one for us to look forward to."

The Eagles have been pitted against the fired-up, newly-promoted Canaries, before hosting Arsenal at Selhurst Park a week later. Despite the tricky start, Millen was feeling optimistic about the club's chances from the off.

"Our first home game, the fans will be looking forward to it, especially with Arsenal coming to Selhurst Park. Some times it can be good to play the 'bigger' teams early on, when they're not quite up to speed, so it could be a chance to catch them early. Arsenal will be pushing for the title next season, so that's going to be a tough game, but it's one that we're looking forward to."

Norwich's fellow new boys AFC Bournemouth will host the Red and Blue Army on the south coast on Boxing Day and Millen has predicted a tricky affair against Eddie Howe's men, given the timing of the fixture and the size of their ground.

"The Bournemouth game, it's a tight, little ground there, so we might not be able to get too many of our fans there," he admitted. "It's a game where it will be a great occasion, especially going down there at that time of year. On the back of that we've got two home games and they will be important."

Typically, Palace have enjoyed winning runs since returning to the Premier League, which have played a big role in dragging the Eagles up and out of the relegation zone, contributing to the eventual mid-table finishes both times out. Millen recognised that the club will have to try to put together similar runs next season and has begun highlighting the fixtures where Palace can begin to build momentum.

"The key areas for us are probably the September - Man City, Chelsea, Tottenham, they're three big teams there - and then the reverse fixtures in January. You look at little pockets of games where you might get three or four of the big boys together and they're two occasions which are going to be tough for us," he said. 

"But when you look at the lead up to the Christmas period, on paper, we've got quite a good run of games there, five or six games where we'd like to pick up some big points.

"As soon as they come out I check the fixtures. I try to work out where we can pick up a big block of points and go on a good run. In the last couple of years we've gone on a good run, four or five wins on the spin, and if you can do that, it can keep you up or shoot you up the league. Looking at that pre-Christmas period we'd like to think we could go on a good run, but as I say, it's only on paper."

Palace's 2014-15 run-in looked set to be a tough one, given that visits to Chelsea and Liverpool came either side of hosting Manchester United in SE25, before a final day game at home to Swansea City - though in the end it did not matter.

Before safety was secured, it looked set to be a difficult end to the campaign, but Millen is pleased that this season's final fixtures look far more manageable.

"Last season we had some really tough end of season fixtures, but looking at this year it doesn't seem to be as tough," he said. "We won't have to play too many of the big boys then, so if we do need to pick up points, hopefully there's a run of fixtures where we can do that.

"I know we've had two poor starts to the season (2013-14 and 2014-15), but we've actually finished eleventh and tenth, so that's a fantastic return over the last couple of years. The idea is to have a better start to the season. We put ourselves under a lot of pressure in the last two years by having a poor start and that's something that we've got to address, which will be different. Hopefully we can get into a position where we get off to a good start, get a good position in the league and then hopefully we can maintain that."

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