Manchester United will look to bounce back from their midweek Capital One Cup disappointment with a win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday. However, if they're expecting an easy game, they can think again. Alan 'Pep Pardiola' Pardew has turned a ragtag bunch of Championship players into a formidable Premier League team, and the Eagles find themselves only five points and three places below United in the table. All the signs suggest this is going to be a very tough match.
Crystal Palace haven't beaten United in the league since 1991, though both of United's wins last season were by one-goal margins. Indeed, the Reds were lucky to scrape a 2-1 victory away at Selhurst Park, with a late Marouane Fellaini goal the only thing separating the sides by the final whistle.
United will be without Paddy McNair and Antonio Valencia, as well as Luke Shaw. Memphis Depay and James Wilson are both doubtful.
Crystal Palace will be without Kwesi Appiah, while a handful of regular first-teamers are in doubt. Marouane Chamakh, Yohan Cabaye, Jason Puncheon, Pape Souaré and Connor Wickham all face late fitness tests.
We all may like to laugh at him, but make no mistake: Pardew's work with Palace has been impressive both on the field and in the transfer market. He's turned the Eagles into a very tough team to beat, and armed with the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Wilfried Zaha, they're going to give United a tough test on Saturday.
We can probably expect them to drop off when they lose possession, allowing United to see plenty of the ball in their own half. At Selhurst Park last season United saw plenty of the ball, but struggled to find any space when they ventured past the halfway line. There's no reason to think things will be any different here.
However, it's not just at the back that Palace look impressive, but on the counter-attack too. Pardew's side has pace in abundance, and former Manchester United man Zaha and Yannick Bolasie are both going to be key players in this game. They're capable of stretching even the best defences, triggered by deep passes from Cabaye, and more advanced ones from Jason Puncheon.
So, Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian will have to be at something near their best, and United will have to be very organised in midfield to stop Palace's most dangerous creators from finding the space they need to play a defence-splitting pass. In possession, we'll just have to hope United's passing is crisp and movement inventive enough to trouble a strong unit.
Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1): Wayne Hennessey; Pape Souaré, Scott Dann, Damien Delaney, Joel Ward; James McArthur, Yohan Cabaye; Bakary Sako, Jason Puncheon, Wilfried Zaha; Yannick Bolasie.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): David De Gea; Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Matteo Darmian; Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin; Anthony Martial, Ander Herrera, Juan Mata; Wayne Rooney.