Roy Hodgson faced the press on Saturday afternoon, ahead of the Eagles clash with Swedish first division side Halmstads BK on Monday night, and revealed that he is planning to give starting berths those players he believes to be in his strongest eleven.
The manager said: “Against Hensingør, the first 60 minutes was [given to] those players who often didn’t get much of a look in [last season] - but we’ll reverse that. We will start with what we consider to be our strongest eleven at this moment in time. We may make some changes later on in the game, as I don’t know that we’ll have 90 mins of that level of intensity as yet. The changes probably won’t be quite as wholesale, because it is the second game and we’re three of four more days further on in terms of our preparation.”
Hodgson confirmed that Wayne Hennessey will start in goal having not featured in the draw against Hensingør, but Palace’s latest signing Vicente Guaita may also get some time between the sticks.
Asked about how the Spaniard is settling in, Hodgson said: “He’s been very good. His training has been excellent, and on Thursday he got his first 45 mins in a club shirt. That’s good that we’ve been able to do that. He’s blending in well, and it’s very fortunate that we still have Julian Speroni with us because of the communication aspect. He will need to learn better English to communicate.
“He seems very happy. We are certainly happy with him, we think we’ve signed a good goalkeeper. The competition for places will be very strong as Hennessey finished the season very strongly and he’s signed a contract extension. Alongside club legend Speroni, someone who is always reliable, we’ve got very good cover.”
Hodgson is looking forward to meeting familiar faces at the Swedish club that he led to two Allsvenskan titles in the 1970s. But he is disappointed their fortunes have taken a turn for the worse recently, having been relegated from the top division last season. hey currently sit in third place in the Superettan (the equivalent of the Championship) – having already played 15 games this season.
But the manager was keen to stress the fixture is not a ceremonial one for him or his former club. Hodgson’s focus remains on furthering his squad’s preparation for the Premier League season, which is just 28 days away, saying: “This game for us is in no way a prestige friendly – I’m not going to be jubilant if we win, or down if we lose. I just want us to play a second pre-season game under two weeks into our pre-season, and to work hard and to show the right intentions, and to try and do all the things we did last season when we’ve got the ball and when the opposition have the ball. We’ll then see how good they are.
“They have a big advantage to be in the middle of their season, so I expect it to be very tough. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t do the things which I know this group of players can do, or if we don’t work as hard as we expect them to work. But I wasn’t disappointed in that respect in the match against Hensingør, and I don’t expect to be disappointed against Halmstad”.
Hodgson is delighted with the club’s decision to opt for Scandinavia, saying of the trip so far: “It’s been excellent in every respect. When the weather is as good as this, it helps. It’s easier to train in good weather than bad weather. The hotel, the arrangements, being able to train at the Malmö stadium - everything’s gone perfectly. If we have another good training session tomorrow, and the game against Halmstad is as interesting as I think it will be – it will have been a fantastic camp.
“As far as I was concerned, I wanted good quality opponents to play against and ideally not too far from Malmö where we’re staying. When they [tour operator] suggested Hensingør and Halmstad, for me that was a perfect combination. It’s the right sort of distance and the right type of opponents. If Halmstad are as good as Hensingør were and cause us as many problems as they did, then it would be another good game.”
He added: “The players are very happy – they have enjoyed being here in the centre of town, so if they do get some time free from training or meetings, they can have a wander and have a look around. All of those things have worked out perfectly. What I’ve learned is that if footballers aren’t complaining, it means they’re happy! They’re enjoying their training. As long as nothing goes wrong between now and Tuesday morning when we leave, it would have been a very good training camp.”
Halmstads BK v Palace kicks off on Monday at 17:30 BST and is available to stream worldwide, live for free, on Palace TV – via the club’s official app and eagles.cpfc.co.uk. Click here for full details.
Hodgson's pre-Halmstads BK press conference will be available to view soon on Palace TV on the club's official app or eagles.cpfc.co.uk