In this week's edition of our From The Stands feature, fan blogger Simon Mills celebrates the return of Premier League football and previews Saturday's home game against West Ham United.
It’s back to domestic action after the latest round of internationals and I think I speak for most Palace fans when I say thank heavens for that!
Don’t get me wrong, I still watch and support England whenever they play, but there just doesn’t seem to be the same kind of emotional intensity compared to a match at Selhurst. These days’ international breaks seem to be about praying for no injuries more than anything else.
It just so happens that the return of the Premier League this Saturday brings the arrival of our East London neighbours West Ham and with them, no doubt, another electric atmosphere in this London derby. This game usually has a real spice to it and it will be interesting to see their supporters’ reaction to former manager Alan Pardew – who successfully returned them to the Premier League in 2005.
Palace have enjoyed an excellent record over the Hammers since our return to the top flight just over 2 years ago, winning 3 of the 4 games we have faced them. However, with the departure of Sam Allardyce last season and the appointment of Slaven Bilic (along with plenty of playing recruits) we will come up against a very different kind of beast at Selhurst this weekend.
West Ham’s away form this season is particularly impressive, just like our own, with 3 wins and a draw they are unbeaten on their travels in the league with a defeat in the cup to Leicester the only blemish on that record. Now is the time we need the squad to live up to Alan Pardew’s desire (and the fans too for that matter!) for improved performances on our own patch. Something we have started reasonably well so far this season, with only defeats by a single goal to Arsenal and Man City.
It will be no easy task to keep the Eastenders quiet, with the likes of Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini and Diafra Sakho in their attack, they have some particularly sharp teeth that can hurt their opponents. Payet in particular has impressed since his eight figure move from Olympique de Marseille, scoring 4 times and grabbing an assist already this season, nullifying him is likely to be absolutely vital in keeping West Ham at bay. I for one am looking forward to the potential battle between both he and Cabaye in the heart of the midfield, lets just hope it’s our Frenchman who comes out on top!
At the other end of the pitch our opponents will no doubt be boosted by the recent news that Adrian pledged his future to the club by signing a new 2-year contract. An undoubtedly talented shot stopper, the Spanish keeper has been in fine form and was a big factor in West Ham’s two most impressive victories this season, conceding just once against City and Arsenal.
One thing is for sure, with the kind of talent the Hammers now have at their disposal, Palace will need to be on top form in order for us to get a positive result this weekend. The midfield battle could prove to be key, we will need to stifle their creativity in the attack while maintaining the threat we have demonstrated ourselves going forwards.
A return for Connor Wickham after his injury could be vital up top, while as ever we will need the likes of Wilf, Yannick and McArthur to be on song as well of course, as the aforementioned key role that Cabaye is likely to have.
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