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MATCH PREVIEW: Manchester United vs. Crystal Palace | Carling Cup quarter-final

Many youngsters -- such as starlet Ravel Morrison -- are expected to feature for Manchester United versus Crystal Palace.
Many youngsters -- such as starlet Ravel Morrison -- are expected to feature for Manchester United versus Crystal Palace.

Manchester United are set to clash with Crystal Palace on Wednesday night at Old Trafford for a Carling Cup quarter-final tie. The two sides have not met since the 2004-05 Premier League season -- when the Eagles were relegated. That season saw a 5-2 victory by United at Old Trafford and a 0-0 draw at Selhurst Park. It was the 1990 FA Cup final where United manager Sir Alex Ferguson defeated Palace in a replay to capture his first major trophy. The legendary boss has since gone on to win 37 major trophies in his illustrious career at United. In 1995, it was at Selhurst Park where United's Eric Cantona famously (or infamously) launched a 'kung-fu' style kick at a Palace fan after allegedly being racially abused.


Form Guide - United come into the match 2nd in the Premier League table after 13 matches. In the UEFA Champions League, the Reds are level on points with Benfica atop of Group C after Matchday 5 but are sitting second due to an away goal tiebreaker. A result next week in Switzerland versus FC Basel will assure qualification for the knockout stages. In the Carling Cup, United defeated Leeds United 3-0 away in Round 3 and defeated Aldershot Town 3-0 away in Round 4 to earn qualification for the quarter-final. Their most recent matches include a 1-1 league draw with Newcastle United this past Saturday, a 2-2 European draw with Benfica a week ago, and a 1-0 league defeat of Swansea City prior to that.

Team News - Central midfielders Anderson and Tom Cleverley continue to be out with long-term injuries, as is striker Michael Owen. Defender Jonny Evans and striker Danny Welbeck have sustained recent knocks and their availability for the match is unknown. Central midfielders Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher, and Michael Carrick have all played through minor knocks recently and each is a strong candidate to be rested for Wednesday.


Form Guide - Palace come into the tie sitting 10th in the Championship table. The Eagles have struggled to score goals this -- 18 goals in 18 league matches -- and they currently are on a five-game run without scoring a goal. However, their defensive record is solid as they have only conceded 17 goals in those same 18 league matches. During Palace's run to the Carling Cup quarter-final, they defeated Crawley Town 2-0 in Round 1, defeated Wigan Athletic 2-1 in Round 2, defeated Middlesbrough 2-1 in Round 3, and defeated Southampton 2-0 in Round 4 -- all matches occurred at Selhurst Park.

Team News - Loanee Dekel Keinan is cup-tied due to his prior involvement with Cardiff City so he is unavailable. Another loanee, striker Chris Martin, is expected to be available. Midfielder Darren Ambrose has recently dealt with a knock but he is expected to start. Midfielder Jonathan Williams has a broken leg and he is out for the tie. Defender Lee Hills and midfielder Alex Marrow are also expected to be unavailable.


I don't have enough familiarity with Palace, nor enough content to research to provide a reasonable projected lineup for them. Therefore, speculation only on Fergie's selection choices will be discussed here.

In goal, third-choice Ben Amos has started the previous Carling Cup matches this season for United and it is expected that he will be between the posts at Old Trafford on Wednesday. Backup Anders Lindegaard is in need of a game and he is possible as well.

In defense, it appears that Chris Smalling and Rafael are set for starts after recently returning from injury. The former likely in central-defense while the latter is probable at right-back. Fergie has indicated that youth will be a theme in his selection choices for this match. Therefore, Zeki Fryers -- who started in each of United's previous Carling Cup this season -- is likely to start. The youngster could play at either center-back or left-back. Fabio is a possibility at left-back but Fergie indicated this week that a "complete change" can be expected in his selection choices for Palace. The Brazilian full-back has started twice in the past week for United, including the most recent match versus Newcastle. If Evans is fit to play, he likely receives a game. Youngster Michael Keane -- who made his debut versus Aldershot -- is possible to feature in defense as well.

In midfield, starlet Paul Pogba is a strong possibility to start in central midfield. He made his senior debut as a substitute versus Leeds and he came on again as a substitute versus Aldershot. Darron Gibson appears to be back in the clubs plans for now as he's been on the bench for United in recent matches. He could receive a start as well in the center of the park. Darren Fletcher has only started once in the past four matches and he could feature as well. Ji-Sung Park is also in need of a game and he could start either on the flank or in the middle. Federico Macheda and Mame Biram Diouf are almost certain to start and each could feature either out wide on the flanks or up top as a striker. Youngster Larnell Cole made his senior debut at Leeds and he is a possibility on the flanks.

Up front, Dimitar Berbatov likely receives a start as he too is in need of a match. He likely will be partnered by either Macheda or Diouf. Welbeck is an outside possibility if he is fit and Fergie feels that this match is a good opportunity to get him some playing time as he recovers from a muscle strain. Starlet Ravel Morrison is also possible to play in a withdrawn role from a lead striker -- Fergie has indicated that the youngster will feature at some point in this match.


* United's youngsters - The most exciting aspect of this match is the possibility of seeing so many promising youngsters feature -- most notably Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba. Each are two of the brighter prospects to come through United's academy in recent times and each were pivotal last season for the club's FA Youth Cup winning side. Pogba is scouted to be a powerful box-to-box midfielder that also provides wonderful technique. Morrison is scouted to provide flair in attack while roaming the space between the lines.

Zeki Fryers has shown extremely well thus far in his two Carling Cup starts and he likely features again. He could be a season away from regularly featuring with the senior side. We've seen glimpses of Larnell Cole and Michael Keane so far and they will be two others to keep an eye on if they come on. Youngster Jesse Lingard has also been training with the first-team and he could earn an appearance as well.

* United's squad players in need of a game - Park Ji-sung, Dimitar Berbatov, and Darren Fletcher are regular squad players and each are in need of a game. If they feature, their form and fitness is something to keep an eye out for. Park and Fletcher in particular figure to be important squad players going forward this season. Berbatov is currently fourth-choice at striker and it remains to be seen if he leaves during the upcoming January transfer window.

Two others to keep an eye on are Federico Macheda and Mame Birma Diouf. Both are currently on the fringes of the squad and each has struggled to find much playing time this season. Wednesday should provide an opportunity for each to make a statement of intent. Both players are strong possibilities to go out on loan in January.

* Palace's Nathaniel Clyne and Wilfred Zaha - Palace's right-back Nathaniel Clyne is a player to keep an eye out for. The 20-year-old was a regular for England's U-19 side and he has recently been called into England's U-21 side. He was named player of the month in the Championship for the month of October. Clyne certainly appears to be a bright prospect and will likely be in the Premier League soon.

Another bright prospect for Palace is Wilfried Zaha. The versatile attacker was born in the Ivory Coast but he has represented England's U-19 side. The 19-year-old has 3 goals and 2 assists thus far this season in the Carling Cup during Palace's 4 matches.

DATE/TIME: November 30 / KO 7:45pm GMT (2:45pm EST)

TV: Sky Sports 1 (U.K.), Fox Soccer Plus (U.S.), (internet)

ODDS: Manchester United 1/4, Draw 9/2, Crystal Palace 11/1

TBB Prediction: Manchester United 2-0 Crystal Palace