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Friday, 14 December, 2018

Toiling Newcastle set for more misery at Selhurst Park

Improving Palace look better equipped for the battle

Rafa Benitez would have like to added more to his squad this winter
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Newcastle's January recruitment drive delivered just three loan signings and the limitations of their squad could be exposed by fellow strugglers Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

Magpies owner Mike Ashley has made no secret of his desire to sell up and he was clearly reluctant to splash the cash this winter.

Now it is down to Rafa Benitez to steer an ordinary bunch of players to Premier League safety and avoid the ignominy of a second relegation in three years.

Newcastle went into the weekend just one point above the drop zone, having won only two of their last 16 league games.

They have been crying out for new recruits and the one bit of good news on deadline day was the loan signing of centre-forward Islam Slimani from Leicester.

Despite not being a first choice for the Foxes, Slimani has looked a handful when given the opportunity and is an upgrade on Joselu, who has struggled to win over the Newcastle supporters.

The only other outfield player to arrive in January was Chelsea loanee Kenedy, who turned in an encouraging debut performance as Newcastle drew 1-1 at home to Burnley on Wednesday.

The new boys could make a big difference but Newcastle are still desperately short of quality and likely to be outgunned by a Palace side spearheaded by attacking trio Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke.

Palace suffered a blow during Tuesday's 1-1 draw at West Ham when Bakary Sako, one of their best players in recent weeks, sustained a season-ending ankle injury.

But Townsend and Zaha looked sharp against the Hammers and Benteke produced an emphatic headed finish to double his seasonal tally.

The Belgian has been a massive disappointment for large parts of the season but is a confidence player and at anywhere near his best he will be a handful for the Newcastle defence.

It is to the credit of Palace and their wily manager Roy Hodgson that they have done so well despite Benteke's struggles.

First and foremost Hodgson has made them tougher to beat.

The Londoners have lost just two of their last 14 league games and those were both at the hands of Arsenal, 3-2 at Selhurst Park and 4-1 at the Emirates.

Palace's record of one victory in their last 14 games against Newcastle is abysmal but they look much more likely to stay in the division than the Magpies and are a decent bet at a shade of odds-against.

Crystal Palace
1pt 21-20 bet365, Betfred, Betway

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Team news
Crystal Palace
Bakary Sako (ankle) will miss the rest of the season and Connor Wickham, Scott Dann and Jason Puncheon are also out long-term. Jeffrey Schlupp (knee) and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (ankle) face shorter spells on the sidelines.

Loan signings Islam Slimani and Martin Dubravka join the squad for the first time. Fellow goalkeeper Rob Elliot (back) is available but Jesus Gamez (ankle) and Florian Lejeune (foot) are out.

Key stat
Crystal Palace have lost only once in their last nine Premier League home games.

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Crystal Palace have lost only once in their last nine Premier League home games
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