AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to progress when they host Premier League outfit Crystal Palace in second round south of the Carabao Cup tomorrow (7.45pm kick-off).
The prize for the winners is a trip to holders Manchester City who have lifted the trophy five times in the past seven seasons.
Ahead of the clash, afcb.co.uk caught up with Sam Smith who covers the fortunes of Crystal Palace for the South London Press.
CRYSTAL PALACE IN PROFILE
Manager: Roy Hodgson (appointed September 2017)
Captain: Luka Milivojevic
Last game: Palace 1-0 Southampton (Premier League)
2019/20 top goalscorer: Jordan Ayew (nine)
League Cup best: Semi-finalists 1993, 1995, 2001, 2012
League Cup 2019/20: Lost 5-4 on penalties at home to Colchester United in the second round
afcb.co.uk: What was your take on Palace’s 1-0 win against Southampton on Saturday?
SS: The performance was exceptional. It was authoritative and organised – often the prototype of a Roy Hodgson team, but that can’t be said of the form at the end of last season.
Southampton, a deceptively good side who I expect to score many goals this season, were limited to few chances.
Palace counter-attacked effectively and ultimately won the game thanks to a very good finish by Wilfried Zaha, who could have had a couple more.
It was a fixture Palace had lost in the previous three meetings, so it was a very good start to the season.
afcb.co.uk: How does Roy Hodgson tend to approach Carabao Cup games in terms of selection?
SS: Hodgson tends to start weaker teams in the early rounds. However, as some usual first-team regulars did not have much game time in pre-season, there will probably be a few of the bigger names in the line-up.
Ebere Eze and Michy Batshuayi (pictured below) will probably start given Eze only had 10 minutes on Saturday and Batshuayi was an unused substitute.
Max Meyer could also be involved but, otherwise, it will be a team made up of fringe players and under-23s.
afcb.co.uk: Give us a line on Palace’s new signings?
SS: Nathan Ferguson, a 19-year-old full-back, arrived from West Brom on a free transfer but has not played due to a knee injury he suffered with the Baggies.
He looks a top prospect and will hopefully follow in the footsteps of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, while also being a long-term replacement for Joel Ward.
Eze arrived from Queens Park Rangers and had an excellent first half in Palace’s friendly victory against Charlton.
Unfortunately, he suffered a groin injury in that game and was not seen until Saturday’s game against Southampton when he came off the bench.
Providing he continues his good QPR record, he will also be a much-needed source of goals from midfield.
Batshuayi arrived on loan last week but is already loved at Selhurst Park for his previous temporary stay in 2019.
He’s a natural finisher and will link well with Zaha and Eze. Palace fans have fond memories of the Belgian’s brace against Bournemouth on the final day of the 2018/19 campaign.
afcb.co.uk: How big a miss would Zaha be if he were to leave?
SS: A big miss. That he had a disappointing campaign last season but Palace still played better with him in the side is evidence of his worth.
Crystal Palace without Wilfried Zaha (pictured below) would not seem right and nor would Palace fans want that to be a reality given all that he has provided over the past decade.
He seemed to lack confidence in a team in which he was the only attacking outlet, with sole responsibility to turn matches in the Eagles’ favour.
But with Eze and Batshuayi arriving, that pressure has partly been lifted and equally shared around. That may benefit the Ivorian and we may see him back to his best.
afcb.co.uk: Are any players either injured or suspended against the Cherries?
SS: After lockdown, it seemed Palace lost a player to injury every game. The slightly shorter summer break and thus less time for those individuals to recover ahead of the new campaign, has not helped.
Palace’s biggest problem is in defence. Mamadou Sakho and Gary Cahill both suffered thigh tears towards the end of last season and have not played since.
Neither has Patrick van Aanholt who dislocated his shoulder in a 2-1 defeat against Manchester United.
Ferguson arrived from West Brom with a long-term knee injury and has not begun full training.
That is Palace’s best back four all absent and James Tomkins has been injured since early February.
Add in Christian Benteke, who is recovering from a broken foot, and it’s a worryingly lengthy list of absentees with which to begin the season.
afcb.co.uk: If Hodgson decides to ring the changes for this fixture, which young players could be ones to watch?
SS: Brandon Pierrick (pictured below) and Tyrick Mitchell are the two most promising young players involved with the first team.
The latter, a dynamic 21-year-old left-back, has deputised for the injured Patrick van Aanholt and barely put a foot wrong, although given Mitchell’s regular involvement due to the Dutchman’s absence, he could be rested for this game.
Pierrick is an 18-year-old forward who is comfortable both out wide and through the middle.
He made his debut on New Year’s Day and made an immediate impact when he was involved in the build-up to Connor Wickham’s late equaliser against Norwich City. He has since made two more first-team appearances.
Naturally, being a local, academy-produced forward, comparisons have been drawn with Zaha but Pierrick is different in the sense that his dribbling style is more direct and involves fewer tricks. He is definitely one to look out for if he is afforded more game time against Bournemouth.
afcb.co.uk: What’s your score prediction?
SS: I expect a weaker Palace team in a competition that bears no real meaning to Hodgson this season. If it’s a strong Bournemouth team, this will be comfortable for them so I will go for a 2-0 win to the Cherries.
You can follow Sam on Twitter – @smsmth_