Turning Selhurst Park into a fortress in the Premier League is high on Alan Pardew’s agenda this season, starting with a Crystal Palace victory over Aston Villa on Saturday.
After their opening-day success at Norwich City, Palace were brought back down to earth by Arsenal as the visitors claimed a 2-1 win last weekend.
Palace won only six league games at home last term, relying on better away form to finish 10th in Pardew’s first campaign in charge since returning to the club he played for.
Plenty of positives were gleaned from the Arsenal setback by Pardew, but he knows Palace must convert good performances into points to improve their home record.
“Every home game we need to be thinking about that [improving], we have got to win our home games,” he said.
“I thought we played well [against Arsenal] but we got beaten by the better team. Our levels were really high and I was pleased with the performance, but we need to turn that into results at home, we need to win more than half of our home games.
“One lesson we must take away [from the Arsenal loss] is their ability under pressure to retain the ball, we have improved on that, our training is geared towards it, but Arsenal were magnificent at that.”
Bakary Sako missed the Arsenal defeat, but the former Wolves winger could make his Palace debut this weekend. Marouane Chamakh (hamstring) and Julian Speroni (hand) remain sidelined.
Statistics suggest that Villa may struggle as the Midlands club have scored just two goals on their last 10 trips to London, while Palace have won three and drawn two of the last six Premier League meetings between the two teams.
Like Palace, Tim Sherwood’s side also began 2015-16 with an away victory – a 1-0 success at Bournemouth – but were unable to build on that as they suffered a 1-0 loss to Manchester United last weekend.
A raft of new players are slowly beginning to settle at Villa since the departure of Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph, with Rudy Gestede making an instant impact with a goal on his debut.
One new face unlikely to start is former Barcelona forward Adama Traore, with Sherwood keen to give the 19-year-old more time to settle into life in England.
“Adama looked very short of fitness to me. He is going to need the exercise to get himself up to speed,” Sherwood told The Birmingham Mail. “I don’t expect too much too soon, he is a player who is developing.
“We are hoping he is something for us immediately but I don’t think we should be putting too much pressure on him.”
Sherwood hopes to have Jack Grealish and Carles Gil back in his squad for the trip to Palace, the pair having been laid low with injuries picked up in pre-season.
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