West Ham United-Crystal Palace Preview
Even with an unexpected off week, Manuel Pellegrini is still sweating out who will be between the sticks on Boxing Day when West Ham United face Crystal Palace in a London derby at Selhurst Park.
The Hammers (5-4-8), who are four points clear of the drop in 16th place, watched the action unfold around them last weekend since their scheduled match with Liverpool was moved due to the European champions' commitment to the Club World Cup in Qatar. The extra time off, though, did little to clear up the muddled situation in goal, where both No. 1 Lukasz Fabianski and No. 2 David Martin are racing to be match-fit.
Fabianski, who has missed the last three months with a hip injury, is near full match fitness. Martin, who supplanted Roberto as the No. 2 during the time Fabianski has been sidelined, is dealing with a similar hip injury. Given Roberto's struggles earlier this term, Pellegrini's hesitancy in turning to the Spaniard is somewhat understandable as he mulls his options.
"Both of them are recovering," Pellegrini told West Ham's official website. "We will see in the next day what happens and which of them is able to play. I don't think Lukasz or David are able to play two games in 48 hours because they have had some muscle problems.
"We will see tomorrow and Wednesday which one will be able to start the first game. The chances are all - both can be missing, both can be [available to be] playing. We will see in the next two days. It will be very important to have the medical decision, the players' decision and of course my decision."
The Irons have not won back-to-back league games since knocking off bottom-two sides Watford and Norwich City on consecutive August weekends. West Ham have also claimed 12 of their 19 points on the road (3-3-3) despite totaling just eight goals in those matches.
In attack, Pellegrini expects both Manuel Lanzini and Felipe Anderson to be available for selection. Lanzini missed the win over Southampton with a shoulder injury while Anderson was sidelined with an illness. Anderson has yet to score in 15 league matches after netting nine times in 2018-19.
Palace (6-5-7) are quite familiar with a lack of goals, slipping out of the top half of the table and into 12th place following a 1-0 defeat at Newcastle United on Saturday. There were few quality chances among the Eagles' 16 shots as only four found their way on frame, and none of them got past Martin Dubravka.
"Over 90 minutes we played a good game; we performed well. In the second-half they didn't have a shot at our goal until five minutes at the end," lamented midfielder Luka Milivojevic to the club's official website.
"In the last minutes you have to be very focussed because they might create something. But most of the time we had possession, we created chances and today we at least deserved a point."
Palace's 15 goals are better than only last-place Watford (11) in the top flight, and Roy Hodgson's team have bulged the net just seven times in their nine home matches while taking 12 points from those contests (3-3-3). The Eagles, though, are unbeaten against non-Big Six teams, conceding just twice while going 3-3-0.
Hodgson will get reinforcements on the back line as centre back Mamadou Sakho is available after serving a three-match ban for his red card against Bournemouth on Dec. 3.
Palace rallied for a 2-1 victory at London Stadium on Oct. 5 as all three goals were scored in the final 36 minutes. Sebastian Haller staked the Irons to a second-half lead before Patrick van Aanholt pulled the Eagles level from the spot on 63 minutes following a handball by Declan Rice.
Jordan Ayew scored the controversial winner in the 87th minute, with VAR overturning an offsides call. Palace, who snapped an eight-match winless spell to West Ham (0-4-4), have not done the league double over the Irons since 2013-14 and are winless in their last five against them at Selhurst Park (0-2-3).
Updated December 24, 2019