Crystal Palace v Watford preview: Dwight Gayle and Connor Wickham prepare to return
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 13/02/16 2:17pm
Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew could field a new-look strikeforce for their clash Watford at Selhurst Park, as the Eagles bid to earn their first league win in nine.
Palace have struggled to score goals since the turn of the year and needed a second-half equaliser from defender Scott Dann against Swansea City at the weekend to avoid a sixth straight league defeat.
With key players nearing full fitness, including forwards Dwight Gayle and Connor Wickham, Pardew said Palace's hard-earned point against the Swans could get them moving in the right direction again.
The Hornets, meanwhile, travel to Selhurst Park with just one victory from their last eight league matches following their 1-0 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend.
Such form has taken the shine off Watford's early season exploits, but they remain in the top half of the table on goal difference.
Captain Troy Deeney dropped to the bench at White Hart Lane in one of five changes head coach Quique Sanchez Flores made from the side which drew 0-0 against Chelsea three days earlier.
Striker Gayle, who has not played since December 7, could return, while fellow frontman Wickham is back in contention having served a three-match ban for violent conduct after elbowing Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen in the face.
Influential winger Yannick Bolasie, who has been out since December, and attacking midfielder Bakary Sako, will not return in time for Saturday, but could challenging for a starting berth against Spurs in the FA Cup on February 21.
The visitors, meanwhile, have no new injury problems, with defender Miguel Britos set for a comeback after a recent thigh problem.
Palace have won seven and lost just one of the last 10 meetings with Watford in all competitions.
Only Jamie Vardy (8) has scored the opening goal of a Premier League game more often than Odion Ighalo (6) this season.
The Eagles have scored the opening goal of the game from a penalty in three of the last four meetings between the two sides.
Referee Rob Madley has awarded a league-high 10 penalties in the 17 Premier League matches that he has taken charge of in 2015/16.
Wilfried Zaha is the only player to be booked more than once for simulation in the Premier League this season (2).
I'm covering this game for Soccer Saturday and I fancy there to be goals. Despite drawing at Swansea last time out, Palace have got to start winning games to stop the rot. Neither side are in particularly good form if I'm being honest and they're both probably cup teams now, being a win or two away from all but securing their Premier League status for next season. Watford's front two will be exciting as always and Palace always have a go wherever they play, so I predict a Desmond.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-2 (Sky Bet odds 14/1)
Crystal Palace are 5/4 with Sky Bet with Watford 23/10 and the draw trading at 11/5. The Eagles won the corresponding fixture 1-0 and it's 5/1 for a repeat of that scoreline or 11/4 for Alan Pardew's men to win by exactly one goal.