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Crystal Palace’s embarrassment of Arsenal theoretically secured our Premier League status for another season; after our recent run of form it is inconceivable that we won’t pick up four more points in the final seven games. That being said, Saturday’s game against Leicester presents the first opportunity for Crystal Palace to all but mathematically confirm our continued seat at England’s top table. Due to the bunched nature of the bottom ten a win could also propel us a long way up the table, adding a few quid to the transfer pot in the process.
Wins against Arsenal and Chelsea in the last couple of weeks means Palace will head into the game brimming with confidence but it’s important to remain grounded in what will undoubtedly be a difficult encounter. The continued absence of both Dann & Tomkins means that the back four is likely to remain identical to the one that looked so shaky against Southampton but so strong at home to Arsenal (go figure). The exceptional performance of the midfield & attack virtually guarantees their starting berths as well, so don’t expect much change.
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It seems obvious to say that our lone striker’s performance will be instrumental in how the game pans out but I intend to say it anyway. Without scoring, I maintain that Christian Benteke’s exploits on Monday were one of the largest reasons we won the game. One accusation regularly levelled at Christian concerns his work rate, or rather, lack of. For some fans he doesn’t do enough off the ball, he doesn’t retain the ball well enough when it’s knocked into him and not too long ago he wasn’t chipping in with goals either.
In the last three games alone he has addressed all of those criticisms. He’s scored twice in the last three games, once in the loss to Southampton and once against Chelsea with what proved to be the deciding goal while against Arsenal, as I mentioned his contribution was exceptional in many respects. He out-thought and outperformed Arsenal’s centre-halves, fed Wilfried Zaha and star of the show Andros Townsend and was directly involved in all three of Palace’s goals.
Though he is unquestionably an improvement on Connor Wickham, Christian could take heed from the man who’s played second fiddle to him all season. Benteke has more goals in him for sure but last term Connor was a fantastic enabler, he didn’t score a hatful but his contribution was creating space and chances for others, both directly and indirectly. I don’t think Christian Benteke has influenced games enough when he hasn’t scored but the Arsenal performance proved he has it in him.
Crystal Palace’s resurgence has coincided with a remarkable and well documented bounce for Leicester. After a wobble last weekend most likely attributable to the then-upcoming Madrid game they put in a sterling performance against Atletico midweek in a game that they deserved more from. After a six game winning streak the chinks in Leicester’s armour have been revealed once again and the reactionary period that followed Shakespeare’s appointment is surely on the wane. They have questions to answer about whether they can keep their form up, that’s for sure.
Of course, they won’t be worried by the two losses in the last week but nevertheless Palace have every right to think they’ve got a real chance this weekend. The Arsenal performance was the best of the season and Leicester sit all of two points above us – they’re not this untouchable side anymore, this is a winnable game.