Brighton and Crystal Palace will battle, Rafa Benitez’s job is at stake and Chris Wood begins a rescue mission in Newcastle.
Match to watch: Brighton vs Crystal Palace
Alan Mullery has a lot to answer.
Brighton, Hove Albion and Crystal Palace had not played each other for 11 years by the opening day of the 1974/75 season, when the two met at the Goldstone Ground. Brighton won that match 1-0, but the headlines the next day were largely about fans’ problems both on and off the field.
There were more hateful meetings between the two sides, but things really escalated when they were tied to play each other in the first round of the FA Cup. After deadlocks at both Goldstone Ground and Selhurst Park, a second rerun was scheduled at Stamford Bridge. Palace took an early lead and won 1-0, but Brighton controlled most of the remainder of the match, scoring two arguably disallowed goals, one of which was due to a penalty infringement, which resulted in a salvaged ball being returned.
After the final whistle, Mullery approached the referee and was escorted by police from the stadium as he hoisted V signals and swears at Palace supporters in the stands. Then the Brighton manager allegedly walked into the mansion’s locker room, threw a five pound note on the floor and told Venables: “Your team doesn’t deserve it.” Mullery was fined £100 by the FA for ruining the game’s reputation; Rivalry is born.
Four and a half decades after this rivalry was born, Brighton and the Palace have finally found balance. The former have a better nominal record at the moment – they are currently four points ahead with a game in hand – but both teams have drawn 18 of their 39 games this season, while Brighton’s goal difference is zero and Palace is -1. Perhaps it’s no surprise when they met earlier this season It ended in a 1-1 draw.
The Africa Cup of Nations means that both teams are a bit short, but again this seems to be in Brighton’s favour a bit. They only have two players in Cameroon at the moment, one of whom – the other is Yves Bissoma – is not a first-team player. The Missing Palace of Sheikho Kouyate, Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew. But having said that, the historical record is certainly in favor of the palace. The two sides never met between 1991 and 2002, but since then, Brighton have won five of their 21 encounters, while Palace have won eight.
This might be a mid-table game on Friday night, but the weather at The Amex will definitely be hot.
Follow-up team: Burnley
The second lowest scorer in the Premier League has sold one of the main offensive threats, This is not good news, despite only scoring three goals in his 21 games in all competitions this season. Add Maxwell Cornet away in the Africa Cup of Nations mission, and Burnley will view this match with a bit of trepidation.
If they are to be in the Premier League by the end of this season, home games against mid-table opponents are exactly the kind they need to win, and Leicester City are not too bad a side to be opponents. After all, only four clubs in the Premier League – Leeds United, Watford, Newcastle and Norwich City – have conceded more goals this season, so perhaps the scarecrow in the fake shirt Sean Daichi supposedly started up front will score himself.
Only Cornet, Wood, Ben May and Jay Rodriguez have scored more than one goal for Burnley so far – and that’s in all competitions – while Leicester have been a model for inconsistency.
Player to watch: Chris Wood
No pressure, Chris.
The new £25m Newcastle striker is likely to start against Watford, and Newcastle could certainly do with him by scoring a goal or two on his debut. A Newcastle win would take them out of the bottom three and drop Watford in, and it is surely the time to play the Hornets, as they have lost their last six consecutive Premier League games since beating Manchester United 4-1. Almost two months ago. Coincidentally, the date of Watford’s last win was also when Wood last scored for Burnley: the second goal in a 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace.
Surely he may not get many better opportunities. Watford have lost the second most Premier League game after Norwich City this season, conceding two goals per game. Three out of 21 matches doesn’t look like the kind of great comeback that will keep Newcastle in the Premier League, but Newcastle fans appear confident their season will change with Kieran Trippier’s display of the ball and his eventual header Wood. Who do you know? Maybe you will succeed.
Follow up Manager: Rafa Benitez
His side may have beaten Hull City in the FA Cup, but Rafa is still under a lot of pressure as Everton travel to Carrow Road to face Norwich City. It wasn’t an easy week. Lucas Digne’s saga may have come to an end, but it’s over bite in the tail Farhad Moshiri still appears intent on signing Anwar El Ghazi from Aston Villa, although the manager has already rejected the player three times. His arrival was announced just in time to be scored for this match.
The match is a double-edged sword for Rafa and Everton. On the other hand, Norwich City is probably the team everyone wants to play at the moment. Since the end of November, they have lost all six of their Premier League matches, have not scored any goals and have conceded 16 times. But having said that, records of this nature should be out for some time and Norwich will likely look into this. With a hunger as big as Everton, I’m well aware that the fragile Toffees have been almost as weak as they have been for the past two months, despite Everton’s 2-0 win over them in September.
If Norwich takes all three points, the pressure to replace Rafa will reach a new peak. At the time of writing, the hot favorite to be the new Premier League manager is leaving the position, along with Claudio Ranieri.
Football League Match to Watch: Luton Town – Bournemouth
For those of us who aren’t keen on Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea on Saturday lunchtime on BT Sport, there’s an attractive-looking alternative playing simultaneously on Sky Sports.
Having reached the end of October undefeated and all the way to the top of the championship table, Bournemouth’s season is starting to fall apart a bit – at least in terms of results, if not place in the league. This was followed by a streak of one win in eight matches, and it was only recently that the team emerged from that hibernation with a victory over Cardiff City and an FA Cup win at Yeovil Town outside the league, which tells us nothing of where it is at the moment. .
Meanwhile, Luton Town were models of inconsistency, though they’d be pleased enough to be roughly mid-table, and some distance from the scrap to avoid relegation, despite sitting a relatively low 16th. They haven’t played in the league at all since December 11, but their 4-0 FA Cup win over Harrogate Town was comforting enough to suggest that this forced break did no damage to the players’ energy levels. Luton is capable of defeating anyone in his day and with just three points between the top three in the division, Bournemouth cannot afford to lose any of them.
European match to watch: Atalanta vs Inter Milan
It’s fourth against the Serie A leaders from Bergamo on Sunday night, in a battle of the Nerazzurri that may be seen as a must-win for Atalanta’s persistent hopes of becoming Italy’s champions. They are currently eight points behind the league leaders Inter. Reducing that gap to five could reignite the belief that Atalanta could win the First Division for the first time.
But the task ahead of them could not be more difficult. Inter won the Italian league last season by 12 points. They are at the top of the table this time, one behind Milan, having won the quarter-finals while claiming their first title under Simone Inzaghi: Supercoppa Italiana, won in overtime against Juventus. But Atalanta conceded six goals (with five different ones) at Udinese last time, so this will be a tough test for the defending champion.