West Ham United-Crystal Palace Preview

TOM BENNETT (STATS European Football Writer)
The Associated Press

A club in turmoil, Crystal Palace will be looking for the respite of three points when they welcome West Ham United to Selhurst Park on Saturday.

Palace lost manager Tony Pulis just two days before their Premier League opener against Arsenal, but performed admirably in a 2-1 defeat to the Gunners at the Emirates. However, talks to replace Pulis with former Cardiff City manager Malky Mackay were halted at the eleventh hour by news of an FA investigation into behind-the-scenes comments made by Mackay during his time at Cardiff. Sporting Director Iain Moody - who was previously at Cardiff with Mackay - has resigned from his role at Palace on Thursday in light of the investigation.

With matters off the pitch overshadowing the football, caretaker manager Keith Millen will have a tough task in focusing the players on the game - but it is clearly a role he would like to have permanently.

"Would I like it to be my last game? No, I would like to continue. I enjoy being in charge," said Millen. "If the chairman felt it was right for me I would sit down and talk to him about it. I like working at this club and I certainly enjoy working with the players because they are a good honest group that works hard for you. They respect my decisions."

Visitors West Ham are no strangers to off-field distractions, and last week's 1-0 defeat to London rivals Tottenham Hotspur saw no let-up in the pressure on manager Sam Allardyce from the supporters of the east London club. Unsurprisingly given his perilous position, the Hammers boss has this week been keen to speak of the stress that removing a manager at the start of the season can put on a club.

"It's a difficult situation to be in at the start of a season if you lose your manager, but it's something you have to face and the players have to do the job," said Allardyce. "They're professionals and they want guidance from the manager, that's very important, but I think for a short period of time they can do and use what they got during pre-season to go and get results.

"Palace are always very difficult to break down. It'll be a tight game, I think. Don't think there'll be many goals in it, but hopefully it'll be as entertaining as it possibly can be."

The 1-0 defeat to Spurs saw West Ham fail to break down a team that were left with ten men for much of the game, with the Hammers missing a penalty and failing to take a number of chances. Down to ten men themselves for the last few minutes of the game, Allardyce's side showed an alarming lack of pace at the back as they were caught out by an angled run from debutant Spurs defender Eric Dier, who scored the game's only goal in injury time.

The defence is likely to be a problem again for the Hammers, with James Collins suspended and both James Tomkins and Carl Jenkinson facing late fitness tests. Striker Andy Carroll is out until at least October with an ankle injury, so the key decision up-front will be whether Allardyce opts to stick with Carlton Cole or introduce big summer signing Enner Valencia.

This game will be the second London derby of the season for both clubs. Palace did the double over the Hammers last season, and have not been beaten by Allardyce's team in the last six meetings in all competitions.

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