04-Feb-2018 14:13:21 | The Guardian
“I believe the reason Mikel Merino isn’t playing week in/week out at the moment (despite him being our classiest player) is due to a reoccurring back injury,” writes James Knight. “He’s mentioned it a few times before, and I think it stops him being able to play in a string of games. Which is a shame, because Shelvey and him have been swapping roles a lot recently and I think most fans would love to see what they can do when playing together ... “
Ah, gotcha. Thanks James!
The players are on their way out at Selhurst! The home fans are Glad All Over. Can we see this being a free-flowing affair? I think it’ll be nip and tuck for the first half at least ...
@NickAmes82 Soooo...Steve McLaren = Rafa? Bless Shaun's heart and I respect him for chancing that opinion. Actually, I'll have two of what he's having as it's been at least three days since I've enjoyed a good hallucination.
At least Shaun forewarned himself here ...
Meanwhile, Benjamin Oates just isn’t having any of it:
“As a neutral, I tend to find Newcastle rather boring. It’s always about them especially whenever they play anyone outside the big 6. Ashley this, Benitez wants that, I get that they’re a huge club, just not as newsworthy as the coverage they get suggests.”
This is an interesting email from Shaun Wilkinson about Newcastle – and particularly Benitez:
“I think most Newcastle fans would tell you they like their team more now than back then. However (dons tin hat) I think my fellow Toon supporters are increasingly becoming victims of the Rafa Goggles; we keep hearing how Rafa is manfully struggling on under impossible circumstances and nobody could do well in this situation, but he has the same conditions as, say, Steve McClaren and doesn’t seem to be doing much better.
As we said at the top of the show, that relegation fight is an absolute battlefield – perhaps more than ever. Palace are a great example of the hope you can give yourselves when you put a run together but what about Bournemouth, who were in such trouble six weeks ago and have taken 15 points from their last seven games? They’d need a collapse to go down now really – but perhaps they can inspire one of these two to do something similar and claw their way out.
Another question for Newcastle fans: why doesn’t Mikel Merino start today? I know he did against Burnley in midweek, but has his form dropped off? He was all the rage in the season’s early weeks!
Worth remembering that Palace, for their part, are now bereft of Bakary Sako – who had looked like he could do pretty neatly over the final months of the season. He has been ruled out for the long term, possibly even into next season, after sustaining a fractured ankle and damaged ligaments at West Ham in midweek. Bad news all round.
Last time Newcastle visited Selhurst Park they were absolutely rolled over. It finished 5-1 and I was there, I remember it well. Newcastle were a total shambles that day, an embarrassment, and I don’t think you can accuse the current crop of being like that even if the quality often isn’t there. Would that be fair to say, Newcastle fans? Surely you like your club more than you did back then?
Crystal Palace: Hennessey; Fosu-Mensah, Tomkins, Kelly, Van Aanholt; Townsend, Milivojevic, Cabaye, McArthur, Zaha; Benteke. Subs: Henry, Ward, Riedewald, Sakho, Souare, Lee, Sorloth.
Newcastle: Darlow; Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett; Ritchie, Shelvey, Diame, Kenedy; Perez, Gayle. Subs: Dubravka, Manquillo, Lejeune, Hayden, Merino, Atsu, Murphy.
It’s not the day’s biggest draw but it’s equally – perhaps more – important. Palace v Newcastle is what the chap down the pub might term a “six-pointer”, although one uses that term advisedly nowadays because pretty much every meeting of sides in this season’s bottom half would qualify for that. But there they sit snugly side by side in 15th (Eagles) and 16th (Magpies), and both could do with the kind of victory that might lever them up and towards the hallowed ground of Mid Table!
Palace, two points better off and with a far bouncier feel about them given the turnaround wrought by Mr Roy, will fancy their chances and have only lost once at home – to Arsenal – since Southampton turned them over in September. Newcastle did win at Stoke on New Year’s Day and West Ham a few days before that, so we can’t say they’re totally bereft of hope away from home – the big question for them is whether the deadline day addition of Islam Slimani, on loan from Leicester, will provide enough firepower to bring them a position Rafa Benitez feels is more becoming. Rafa almost certainly didn’t get everything he wanted in January and, with the takeover situation still clear as mud, these remain deeply frustrating times on Tyneside.
Nick will be here shortly. In the meantime, read Ed Aarons on five players who could be next Messi or Ronaldo:
“A very good question,” mused Cristiano Ronaldo as he basked in the glory of his second successive Ballon d’Or and fifth overall back in December. “I see some with great potential: Asensio, Mbappé, Neymar, Dembélé, Hazard, Rashford … and some others. In the next generation there are at least 10 players with very, very great potential.”
It’s more than a decade since Milan’s Kaká became the last player outside of the Ronaldo-Lionel Messi duopoly to walk away with football’s highest individual honour. But with the Real Madrid forward celebrating his 33rd birthday on Monday and Barcelona’s talisman now the wrong side of 30 having also accumulated a record five Ballon d’Ors since he burst onto the scene as a teenager, the end of their era is almost upon us.
Related: Heirs to the throne: five players who could be next Messi or Ronaldo