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AFC Bournemouth v Crystal Palace: Howe ready as in-form teams prepare for battle

Two of the Premier League’s form sides meet on Saturday when AFC Bournemouth host Crystal Palace, and Eddie Howe is delighted by the way his team have handled life in the top flight.

Famous wins over Chelsea and Manchester United were followed up by a victory over West Brom, results that see Bournemouth unbeaten in five games and up to 14th in the table, four points clear of the bottom three.

Howe has been impressed by how his players have remained level-headed in their approach through good and bad times this season ahead of the match against Palace.

“I would say we have been pretty consistent – I wouldn’t say the spirit is any higher than it has been at any other time,” he said at his pre-match media conference.

“People may find that hard to believe, but even during the difficult moments we have had this season, the spirit in the camp – the enthusiasm, the lads with each other, the environment they have created – is very strong.

“It needs to be resolute in times of difficulty and in times of success and they have managed to maintain that consistency throughout. I don’t think anything has changed really. 

“Key results [draws] against Swansea and Everton were just the first signs of the belief growing and when you get results against sides likes Chelsea and Manchester United it only reaffirms the belief that you can win anywhere in this league.

“But as much as we are enjoying the run, we have got to make sure that we do find that consistency because we know that very quickly in this league it can turn difficult again. So we are keeping a level head, keeping very stable and trying to concentrate.”

Bournemouth are fifth in the form table based on the last six matches, but opponents Palace are up in second having picked up 13 points over that period.

Alan Pardew’s men sit sixth in the Premier League – level on points with fourth-placed Tottenham – and have picked up an astonishing 35 away points in 2015, with only Arsenal (38) having a better record on the road during the calendar year.

Winger Wilfried Zaha is impressed by the grit Palace have shown in recent narrow victories over Southampton and Stoke City.

“We are doing what we need to do,” he told the Croydon Advertiser. “We managed to dig in [against Stoke], that is what you have got to do sometimes.

“When we get the chances we take them and shut up shop really. We are just managing to put performances together.

“I have seen the club come from nothing really to how it is now – it is a massive improvement. We have come a long way and brought better players in – the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Connor Wickham. The team is progressing really well.”

Bournemouth will assess the fitness of Joshua King, Lee Tomlin and Junior Stanislas (all hamstring) prior to the match.

Palace, already without Dwight Gayle (hamstring), will check on Cabaye (ankle), Mile Jedinak (ankle), Bakary Sako (hamstring) and Wickham (knock) ahead of kick-off.

Key Opta stats:

– Crystal Palace and AFC Bournemouth have not met in a competitive fixture since March 1989.
– Crystal Palace have lost three of their last four league matches played on Boxing Day (W1).
– Bournemouth have seen their opponents pick up five red cards this season in the Premier League; more than any other side.
– Crystal Palace have scored a league-high 11 goals from set-piece situations in the Premier League so far in 2015-16.
– Bournemouth have conceded a league-high 12 goals from set-piece situations so far in 2015-16.
– Bournemouth’s Glenn Murray played 113 league games for Palace between August 2012 and August 2015, scoring 44 goals (more than any other Eagles player in that timespan).

Wed 23 Dec, 2015
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