West Brom-Crystal Palace Preview

TOM BENNETT (STATS European Football Writer)
The Associated PressFebruary 6, 2014

Crystal Palace will be looking for inspiration from their January signings when they welcome West Bromwich Albion to Selhurst Park on Saturday for a crunch game in the relegation battle.

Tony Pulis' Palace (7-2-15) are just one point outside the bottom three, but have won two of their last three games to strengthen their survival chances.

Former Stoke manager Pulis has always enjoyed being active in the transfer window, and last month was no different as he added highly-rated Tom Ince and Welsh international Joe Ledley to boost his squad for the Premier League run-in.

"The gaffer has come in and done an absolutely fantastic job," said Ince, an attacking wing who reportedly turned down moves to Liverpool and Monaco to join Palace on loan. "He's been there and done it. We've been hard to beat, but also had the ability to counter-attack. There is no better man for Palace to have in charge of the team. Palace are on the up and I'm proud to be part of that.

"We have to look at the likes of West Brom and other teams close by us where we will be looking to pick up points. The games against Stoke and Hull at Selhurst and the one on Saturday will be vital."

Pepe Mel's West Brom (4-11-9) have taken points off Everton and Liverpool in their last three games, but are only ahead of Saturday's hosts on goal differential and just two places outside of the relegation zone. Despite their lowly position, Mel has prompted an improvement in style, and defender Gareth McAuley revealed there was a squad meeting this week to further explain the Spaniard's ideology.

"It's hard when you're on the training pitch sometimes to get everything across but when you're sitting down you can see things and talk about them so it's easier," said McAuley. "It was just about getting the understanding right. It was just a simple case of us getting his ideas on board and getting them clarified properly for ourselves so we knew what we were about and what we were doing. It certainly helped and it was positive from everybody's point of view."

Crystal Palace have injury doubts over Jerome Thomas (calf) and Glenn Murray (knee), while West Brom are expected to be without James Morrison (calf), Nicolas Anelka (knee), Jonas Olsson (hamstring) and Stephane Sessegnon (groin).

West Brom won 2-0 when these teams met at the Hawthorns in November, but Palace got revenge with a 2-0 victory when the clubs faced each other at the same ground in the FA Cup third round.

Palace were the victims of West Brom's 'great escape' in the 2004-05 season. The Baggies were bottom of the league at Christmas and eight points off safety - and even went into the final weekend of matches at the foot of the Premier League - but a last-day win saw them leapfrog into 17th to condemn Palace to relegation.