Tony Pulis returns to Selhurst Park on Saturday afternoon, as his West Bromwich Albion side open up their Premier League season with a trip to South-East London, where Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace await.
Welshman Pulis departed Palace on the eve of the 2014/15 season, so this fixture in Croydon could be meaningful for a number of reasons, as both teams look to get over their troublesome second-half of the previous season.
Pardew’s Eagles came swooping down the table after New Year, having previously been fifth in the standings in late December 2015, only to finish ten places below that position come mid-May, concluding the season in 15th position.
An FA Cup run to a Wembley final defeat against Manchester United may have caused a Premier League capitulation, though both Pardew and Palace supporters will want to be better equipped to mount a European challenge this time around.
The signings of French international goalkeeper, Steve Mandanda, along with the captures of James Tomkins and Andros Townsend are positive investments for Palace, who are flexing the financial capabilities that come with being in England’s top division.
Meanwhile, the visiting West Brom will be eyeing a more prosperous season this term, after finishing a point and a place above Saturday’s opponents from the capital.
The Baggies, now under new Chinese ownership, having purchased just the solitary player, in the form of Matthew Phillips from Queens Park Rangers for £5m.
Goals could be few and far between in this game. Both of the two sides were two of the four lowest scorers in the Premier League last campaign, along with the relegated duo of Norwich City and Aston Villa.
Yannick Bolasie is not expected to play a part against the Baggies, given the on-going speculation regarding his future, with Everton poised to agree a transfer for the DR Congo international.
Pardew will be without the injured trio of Tomkins (hamstring), Fraizer Campbell (hamstring) and Bakary Sacko (knock).
Zeki Fryers, James McArthur, Mandanda and Pape Souare are all perceived as doubts.
West Brom have just the one concern on the treatment table, as Chris Brunt’s knee injury will keep him side-lined until September, while James Morrison’s hamstring makes him a doubt.
Last Season: Crystal Palace – 15th (42pts): West Bromwich Albion – 14th (43pts)
Last Meeting: West Bromwich Albion 3-2 Crystal Palace – (February 27, 2016)
League Form: Crystal Palace – DDLLWL: West Bromwich Albion – LLDLDD
Key Men: Crystal Palace – Andros Townsend: West Bromwich Albion – Matthew Phillips
Shoot Says: Crystal Palace 1-0 West Bromwich Albion