Sunderland-Crystal Palace Preview
Though their longest winless stretch of the Premier League season is in the past, Crystal Palace still must find a way to turn around things at home.
They can start by extending Sunderland's road misery Monday night at Selhurst Park.
Alan Pardew could not have been more pleased with Palace's spirited performance in a 2-1 victory at Liverpool on Nov. 8. Not only did the triumph halt the Eagles' 0-1-2 league slide, but brought a sense of confidence back to a club that lost their way while winning twice during a seven-game stretch that followed their 3-0-1 start.
"Sometimes it is about our own belief," Pardew told Palace's official website. "(We had) been unlucky in the last few games and the problem with this team is it doesn't trust how good it can be.
"We have started really well this year. We need to make sure we capitalise on that."
In order to do that, Pardew's team must improve on their 2-1-3 mark in south London. They haven't won in the last two matches at Selhurst but did play Manchester United to a scoreless draw in the most recent fixture there Oct. 31.
Palace (6-1-5) has managed six of their 14 league goals at home, but could get a significant boost coming out of the international break with ex-Sunderland forward Connor Wickham and fellow striker Marouane Chamakh likely to be available together for the first time. Wickham scored 11 Premier League goals while playing his first four seasons with the Black Cats, but a calf injury limited him to just his fourth game for Palace against Liverpool.
Plagued by a hamstring problem, Chamakh hasn't played since scoring in a 1-0 victory over Swansea City on May 24.
"We're in good shape," Pardew said. "We had a good victory in our last game and we have one or two players coming back to us this week."
Though the Eagles fell 3-1 at home to Sunderland (1-3-8) on Nov. 3, 2015, the Black Cats are 2-8-10 away from the Stadium of Light since then and 0-2-6 on the road since winning at Everton on May 9.
Stuck in the relegation zone, Sunderland snapped a three-game road goal drought in a 6-2 loss to Everton on Nov. 1, then went dry again for a 1-0 home defeat to Southampton six days later.
Those offensive struggles have led to the team's occupying the 19th spot in the table. With every negative result, the club falls under further duress that can be consuming at times.
"Mistakes generally come through pressure," said manager Sam Allardyce, who is 1-0-3 since replacing Dick Advocaat last month. "You've got to be able to handle the pressure. There's tremendous pressure from what position we're in ... But don't play with fear because fear is a terrible thing in football."
While it's uncertain Allardyce's side can handle the pressure coming out the break better than they did before, at least Sunderland will be fit with plenty of healthy bodies.
"We're expecting by Monday to virtually have a full squad available," he said.
Steven Fletcher had scored in two straight Premier League matches prior to the loss against Southampton. The veteran midfielder scored twice at Selhurst Park last season.