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December 10 2023 1.09pm

Key clashes: Stoke v Palace

May 3 2018

Patrick van Aanholt

Patrick van Aanholt

Hunter Young disects the key player match-ups as Crystal Palace go on the road this weekend to face Stoke City.

Crystal Palace enter this game on a strong run of form with four games unbeaten, two of them being wins. This run has sent the eagles flying up the table into 11th place, and looking secure in the league with two games to go.

Stoke, meanwhile, are fighting for their place in the top flight sitting three points below 17th place Swansea and need a win if they are to have a chance of staying up. Palace won the reverse fixture at Selhurst Park 2-1 in November with a last second Mamadou Sakho winner and the Potters will be hungry for vengeance with relegation on the line.

Patrick van Aanholt v Xherdan Shaqiri

While Patrick van Aanholtís attacking skills continued to show themselves against Leicester City, scoring his third goal of the season, his defence was also strong playing a key role in keeping the clean sheet. After facing Riyad Mahrez, Van Aanholt will face another tricky winger in Xherdan Shaqiri of the Potters. If the Dutchman plays as well this week as he did last time out, it will go a long way toward shutting down the Stoke attack.

Xherdan Shaqiri has proven a key creative piece for the Potters this year, leading the team with seven goals and joint-top with six assists. One of the Swiss playerís goals came in November's reverse fixture when he displayed his two finest attributes, dribbling and distance shooting, to score against Palace. Shaqiri must be closed down quickly to prevent him from finding the space to unleash his long distance shot again.

Luka Milivojevic v Joe Allen

Were it not for the stellar play of James Tomkins, Luka Milivojevic would likely be the front-runner for player of the year. The Serbian is the man in the midfield for the Eagles, leading the team in goals, tackles, and passes. Luka has also made the captainís armband his own and Palace look to him for leadership on the pitch. Milivojevic will spend the weekend going head-to-head with a fellow midfield puppet master in Stoke Cityís Joe Allen.

Joe Allen has proven to be the key cog in making the Stoke engine room run, leading his team in assists, tackles, interceptions, and passes. While northern outfit are in a dire state in the league, it is frightening to imagine where they would be without the former Liverpool man. The winner of the midfield clash between Allen and Luka will be the most key to the outcome of this game as if Allen can be stifled Stoke has little chance.

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Wilfried Zaha v Jack Butland

Wilfried Zaha has been simply unstoppable as of late. The winger-turned-striker has found the back of the net in three of the last four games and could be primed to score again against a Stoke team that has conceded a league-leading 65 goals this season. If Zaha can continue his hot streak, Palace should have no trouble emerging on top.

Jack Butland will serve as the last obstacle between Zaha and the scoresheet on Saturday. Despite a lack of support from his defence, the goalkeeper has still turned in a solid season and is considered a contender for the number one goalie shirt for England at the World Cup in Russia this summer. If Stoke do make the drop to the Championship, expect to see Butland still in the Premier League next season as a player of his quality will be subject to many bids.

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