Roy Hodgson’s men are set to face their first test of the Uhrencup, pre-season and 2019/20 campaign today as they take on Swiss club FC Luzern.
It is the fifth Uhrencup that Luzern have competed in and the clash will be held at the Tissot Arena in Biel/Bienne, a 5,200-seater stadium which also hosts ice hockey, ice skating and curling.
Hailing from the picturesque Lucerne - a German-speaking city in the centre of the country - the local team play in blue and white at the Swissporaena: a modern, multi-use stadium completed in 2011.
Luzern, managed by Thomas Häberli, play in the Swiss Super League - Switzerland’s top tier - which they famously won in 1988/89. Last season saw Häberli’s side finish fifth, a position they have ended their season in for three of the past five campaigns.
Häberli, however, is better known for his time with Saturday’s opposition, BSC Young Boys. The one-time Switzerland international featured over 220 times for the reigning Swiss champions, netting over 50 goals in the process.
Tonight’s match will be Luzern’s fourth of the pre-season and only Palace’s first, giving the advantage to Häberli’s men. In addition, Palace are without key players Wilfried Zaha and Cheikhou Kouyate as the pair compete in the Africa Cup of Nations. The clash, therefore, should be an even affair.
It is the first of two matches Palace will play, with Young Boys falling as the second on Saturday. The winners of the Uhrencup will be decided based on who earns the most points (three per game, with penalties deciding the result of a draw).
Luzern conceded more goals than any team outside of the relegation or relegation play-off spots last season, leaking 61 times from 36 games. On the final day of the campaign, Young Boys put four past Die Leuchten. That said, the Swiss side have kept four clean sheets from their past seven matches and so it is up to Palace to find the key to breaking them down.
At the other end of the pitch, Blessing Eleke is a threat and was the Swiss Super League’s sixth-highest goalscorer as he slotted home on 13 league occasions in 18/19. The Nigerian forward has enjoyed a fairly consistent career so far and bagged three times in his last six games of the league season.
Stat to share
With a total of 17 changes, FC Luzern has the highest number of promotions and relegations to and from the national first tier since the establishment of a single top division in 1933. Since 2006, however, the club have managed to compete in Switzerland’s top league.