Welcome to our new match preview post! Phil gives you everything you need to know in advance of tomorrow's match, from tactics to tidbits, while Matt chips in with four lines of text and a couple of pretty pictures.
Brand-new Crystal Palace boss Neil Warnock will be looking for the new manager bump to take full effect tomorrow. He'll walk into the changing room, sans eyebrows, and tell his Eagles squad, "go out there and impress me!" The veteran manager will put an arm around every shoulder and say there are starting places up for grabs and everyone has a clean slate.
Then he'll proceed to pack the middle of the pitch, defend deep, and hope to catch Newcastle on the counter. Let’s be clear: Warnock will not be playing free-flowing offensive football with his new club. The London club has not played with two strikers in either match this season, and Newcastle should expect more of the same tomorrow. It is expected Palace will line up in a 4-5-1 with its lone danger man Marouane Chamakh on his own up front.
The onus will be on Newcastle to break down a back line for the first time all season. We don’t have the biggest sample size from the season so far, but here are the five goals Crystal Palace has conceded this season (thank you, Squawka).
There should be plenty of room in the center of the park for Mr. Rivière and Mr. de Jong. Attack the middle, shoot early, and shoot often.
Team we want/team we'll get
To expose the weak heart of the defense, why not try out the Christmas tree formation? The 4-3-2-1 plays to Rivière's strength perfectly, giving him two teammates to play off with his back to goal. And both Siem de Jong and Rémy Cabella are capable shooters from long range, an area which gave Palace trouble a week ago. Sadly, our manager will likely have other ideas...
How Pardew can screw this up
Mike Williamson served his one-game suspension against Gillingham midweek, sparing the Toon Army from Steven Taylor's jazz hands. That saves one selection land mine. Alan Pardew is not one for mixing and matching his starting XI, but the erstwhile Silver Fox will be forced to make a change to insert de Jong into the starting lineup. My money is on Yoan Gouffran to take up a padded seat on the substitutes bench to accommodate him. He has had a clear-cut chance in each contest and failed to put Newcastle on the scoreboard. That sort of inefficiency in front of goal makes Gouffran's spot in the lineup vulnerable. However, the 4-2-3-1 formation is one way Pardew will likely screw up Saturday. It has not worked for two and a half years and shows no sign of anything but unadulterated tedium under the Newcastle manager.
But the way he will most likely let the three points slip through his hands is with plain and simple complacency. It is my expectation that Palace will show no desire whatsoever to attack. At home against weak opposition, a win is a necessity. It will be imperative for Newcastle to score the first goal, but it's also vital that Pardew reacts quickly to substitutions made by his opposite number. In the past, Newcastle has been exposed by inferior sides that turned around the match in the second half. Two recent examples of this:
Newcastle controlled the opening 45 minutes, but only managed one goal. Brian McDermott introduced Adam Le Fondre, who promptly scored two goals for Reading in the second half en route to the victory.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first match as Cardiff boss. (Look, new manager bump!) Newcastle scored the first goal, but the introduction of Craig Noone and Fraizer Campbell knocked the Magpies out of the FA Cup. Not that they wanted to be there anyway.
In both instances, Newcastle dominated play only to be undone in the last stages of the match. Pardew needs the three points heading into the international break, and must formulate a plan to score early and often against a team that does not need a reason to believe it can win.
Predicted post-match Chronicle headline
If Pardew sticks with the 4-2-3-1, which he will, then the fans will be in for a long afternoon. Palace will concede possession and dare the Magpies to create a chance against a parked bus. Rivière will be stranded on his own up front, to the frustration of the home crowd. However, after many excruciating minutes of anticipation, Newcastle will take home the three points on a last-gasp de Jong winner from just outside the box. The screamer will cascade relief onto the paying crowd and prompt the Chronicle on Sunday to lead with the headline:
Late de Jong strike leaves Pardew feeling (clap clap) "Glad All Over"