Crystal Palace travel to face Huddersfield at the John Smith’s Stadium tomorrow afternoon in a fixture which sees two of the favourites for relegation go head-to-head in an early season six-pointer.
Roy Hodgson did brilliantly well to lead Palace clear of the relegation zone last season after they suffered an ominous opening to the season.
Whilst plenty of fans and pundits were eager to heap praise on Hodgson for helping Palace to remain in the top-flight, there’s no doubt he could have achieved an 11th place finish without the dynamic displays of Wilfried Zaha in attack.
When Palace needed a moment of divine inspiration to unlock the opponent, Zaha was the man to provide it; without him, they were doomed.
Indeed, Zaha’s paramount importance to Palace’s success is evident from one alarming statistic: the Eagles failed to collect a single point from the 9 fixtures in which the Ivory Coast international was absent for last season.
That record continued this season as Zaha was forced to sit out the club’s 2-0 defeat against Southampton prior to the international break and, Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson believes his presence, or lack thereof, will determine the outcome of their clash with Huddersfield tomorrow afternoon.
Ahead of the weekend fixtures Merson delivered his pre-match predictions on Sky Sports and he tipped Palace for a 2-0 victory, but only on the premise that Zaha will feature.
Merson rather abruptly claimed “If Wilfried Zaha plays, Crystal Palace win. If he doesn’t, they don’t. Simple”. Whilst it is typically rather facile to boil a teams success down to the impact of one particular player, the statistics tell a different story: Palace are completely and utterly toothless without Zaha.
The Palace supporters will now face a nervous wait ahead of the game as Zaha’s fitness remains in doubt, but if he manages to recover in time to start the game Hodgson’s travelling outfit should fancy their chances against the Terriers.
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