A pair of teams trying to claim three vital points to distance themselves from the relegation scrap collide at Selhurst Park on Saturday when Crystal Palace host Newcastle United.
Roy Hodgson's side enter this contest 14th on 30 points, one back of Newcastle and six clear of the drop with 12 matches remaining. Given the compressed nature of the Premier League table this term, Crystal Palace (7-9-10) are also just nine games out of sixth place, a position that potentially offers direct entry into the Europa League next season pending Manchester City's appeal of their two-year ban on European competition handed down by UEFA last week to the Court of Arbitration of Sport.
Palace, though, are in a wretched run of form in league play - they have dropped three on the trot, are winless in their last seven (0-4-3) and have one victory in their last 11 (1-6-4) while scoring just nine goals in that stretch. The Eagles have a Premier League-low 23 goals and have failed to score more than two in any match across all competitions this season.
The Eagles had their midseason break last weekend, which may have come at an opportune time considering their last contest was a 3-1 defeat at Everton on Feb. 8. The usual offensive struggles were exacerbated by rare defensive breakdowns as Palace conceded more than two goals for just the second time all season.
The team took to Dubai for warm-weather training, with centre back Mamadou Sakho, midfielder Jeffrey Schlupp, and January signing Cenk Tosun all partaking. Midfielder James Tomkins, though, could miss out on this match after being forced off in the second half against Everton with a hamstring injury.
Despite the current struggles, club chairman Steve Parrish gave the 72-year-old Hodgson a vote of confidence Thursday, offering the former England national coach a new contract. Hodgson's current deal expires at the end of next season, but Parrish told Sky Sports "We are very relaxed about it, I think we will get that done in the fullness of time."
This matchup is also a case of the movable object meeting the resistable force given the teams' respective forms. Crystal Palace have tallied just 10 goals in their 13 matches at Selhurst Park while Newcastle United have shipped a league-worst 28 in their travels outside St James' Park in league play.
The Magpies (8-7-11) are coming off one of those disastrous road efforts, a 4-0 hiding administered by Arsenal at the Emirates on Sunday. Two goals came three minutes apart in the second half before the hour, and the scoreline was fattened with a pair of stoppage-time goals allowed by Steve Bruce's club.
Despite the loss, newcomer Danny Rose is trying to rally his teammates to bounce back ahead of a winnable stretch of schedule that includes Burnley and Southampton and a fifth-round FA Cup tie versus West Bromwich Albion.
"Looking at the fixtures, I think there's only (Manchester) City, Liverpool (and Tottenham) out of the so-called top six who we're playing against," the former Spurs defender told Newcastle's official website. "All the other games are teams that we are going to be in and around us. We can achieve anything that we set our minds to and that has to be the spirit and everybody's mindset in winning as many games as possible.
"That's going to be my mindset. I come from a club that is used to winning, week in week out. That's always been our attitude and I hope I can install that here. I haven't come here to lose games; I've come here to win and to be part of something special."
Newcastle have gone back-to-back matches without a goal and have one victory in their last eight league matches (1-3-4). The Toons are also winless in their last five on the road (0-2-3), yielding 11 goals in those contests.
The Magpies are seeking the league double after posting a 1-0 home victory Dec. 21. Miguel Almiron's first goal with Newcastle since his arrival in January 2019 separated the sides as the Paraguay international struck seven minutes from time.
Newcastle have enjoyed the upper hand in this rivalry in the Premier League era with a 12-5-3 mark in all competitions. Despite going winless in their last four visits to Selhurst Park, the Magpies have taken at least one point in all but one of their previous 10 matches there (6-3-1).