The FourFourTwo Preview: Hull vs Crystal Palace
With six games on Saturday and not a plum tie in sight, a rare opportunity for Hull and Palace to grab top billing on Match of the Day. Over to you, gents...
- Hull 2-4 Man City (Prem)
- WBA 3-2 Hull (LC)
- Newcastle 2-2 Hull (Prem)
- Hull 2-2 West Ham (Prem)
- Villa 2-1 Hull (Prem)
CRYSTAL PALACE FORM
- Palace 2-0 Leicester (Prem)
- Palace 2-3e Newcastle (LC)
- Everton 2-3 Palace (Prem)
- Palace 0-0 Burnley (Prem)
- Newcastle 3-3 Palace (Prem)
Six games into the season and what have Hull achieved? Not much, really. All their excitement this campaign was supposed to come via adventurous escapades to random European outposts in the Europa League, a season of exploration and self-discovery, the exotic, mouth-watering banquet after the toil of last season's battle to both the FA Cup final and hard-fought survival.
Instead, the Tigers were knocked out by Lokeren in the qualifiers, and have so far trudged their way to six uneventful league points by way of an opening-day win at QPR and three draws.
Hull have been nondescript in almost every way in 2014/15. They are the queue for a cash machine or the decision to park in a different bay at work for a change. Hull are this season's Lighthouse Family.
Thus far there's been no real chaos and not much new. Hull look capable of survival but, for the moment, without the sense-heightening terror that they could go down.
Abel Hernandez is about the only man capable of shattering the monotony that has gripped Hull's start to the season, and the Uruguayan is doing a good job of it at the moment with two goals and some neat dance moves. Mohamed Diame has played his part too.
Crystal Palace experienced that terror before the season even started thanks to Lord Pulis and his sudden disappearance.
Defeats to Arsenal and West Ham under caretaker Keith Millen created the dread that is essential to any uplifting tale of survival; the losses paving the way for Neil Warnock to make a triumphant return.
Unbeaten in the league since, a brilliant win at Everton a fortnight ago was then followed by a sturdy, clinical display in dispatching Leicester 2-0 last weekend. Palace may only be two points ahead of Hull heading into the weekend, but the story to their season has crammed in much more drama.
Palace are unbeaten in their last eight league games against Hull, winning both games last season 1-0. Bruce's side also haven't won any of their last five home games, so while his team have a point to prove, the men from Selhurst Park will look to approach the game with the same enthusiasm and optimism that proved so rewarding at Goodison Park on their last away trip a fortnight ago.
Allan McGregor is nursing a sore shoulder and Robert Snodgrass remains a long-term absentee, but David Meyler could be available for selection again for Hull after recovering from a back injury.
Warnock has a fully-fit squad to choose from for Palace, and could give Andy Johnson his first minutes in his second spell back at the club, after rejoining in a player-coach capacity in the summer. Johnson, 33, scored for Palace's U21s against Coventry earlier this week, and while Warnock has admitted the player is still well short of match fitness, he could be involved from the bench.
Player to watch: Jason Puncheon (Palace)
After hitting 7 goals and 4 assists last season, including 4 goals in April during a crucial run of wins that effectively kept Palace in the Premier League, Puncheon has picked up where he left off in 2014/15.
New season, new manager, but same old Puncheon: the 28-year-old has registered 3 assists and 1 goal in 5 appearances, helping the Eagles go four games unbeaten. In fact, Arsenal are the only team to beat Palace this season when Puncheon has played, the former MK Dons, Barnet, Southampton, Blackpool, Plymouth (pause for breath), Millwall and QPR man not involved in the West Ham and Newcastle cup reversals.
Puncheon doesn't just add an important creative streak to Palace's game, he's also a vital cog in their defensive setup. An element of his game that goes oft unnoticed is how he presses, chases and harasses opposition defenders and midfielders, making life difficult for them and forcing them into mistakes
In the 3-2 win at Everton, he pick-pocketed Leon Osman high up the field before playing in Yannick Bolasie for the decisive third goal and also hassled Christian Atsu into giving the ball away in the first half, a defensive effort that ended up with Bolasie clipping the crossbar with a shot from distance.
While some English players walk into Roy Hodgson's squad simply by virtue of changing the colour of their shirt (*cough* Calum Chambers *cough*), Puncheon is one of those players - like the Swansea boys - who continues to be overlooked. His creative productivity over the last two seasons far outweighs Andros Townsend's, for one, yet Townsend somehow strolls into the England squad. Regardless, Puncheon will be an important player for Palace again this weekend.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Palace 1-0 Hull (PL, Jan 14)
- Hull 0-1 Palace (PL, Nov 13)
- Palace 4-2 Hull (Ch, Mar 13)
- Hull 0-0 Palace (Ch, Nov 12)
- Palace 0-0 Hull (Ch, Mar 12)
It'll be all warm handshakes and 'how's your family?'s on Saturday. Warnock lavished Bruce with praise this week, stating his belief that the man with the nose pointing in a thousand directions should have won last season's Manager of the Year award ahead of his Eagles predecessor Pulis. "I know Tony got Manager of the Year but I thought Bruce was head and shoulders the best manager around," Warnock commented in his pre-match press conference. "To make a club like Hull comfortable in the Premier League and get to the FA Cup final - I thought that was fantastic. He's done an incredible job."
Facts and figures
- The away side had a player sent off in both Premier League meetings between these two sides last season which were both won 1-0 by Palace.
- Hull have won just 1 of their last 11 Premier League matches since their FA Cup semi-final win in April (W1 D4 L6).
- Mile Jedinak has made more tackles (33) and interceptions (23) than any other player this season in the Premier League.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Another draw for the Tigers. 2-2.