It's a big week for Arsenal with the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 at home to Monaco on Wednesday night, but they need to concentrate on this game first. A top four finish is the bare minimum in the league and right now that's far from certain for Arsenal with the season two thirds over. The glamour of the Champions League may be only a few days away, but right now the three points on offer at Selhurst Park are more important.
Palace looked to be in real trouble not too long ago, but they parted ways with Neil Warnock and replaced him with Alan Pardew. The change in their fortunes was instant and they're now five points clear of the relegation zone after losing only once in their last seven league games. They have taken 10 points from their last five games, but their away form has been better than their home form.
They have only won three of their 12 home games so far though and only three teams have scored less goals at home than Palace. Two of their three home wins came against Liveepool and Spurs and those wins show they can raise their game against the better sides in the league. Arsenal have a very good record away to Palace, but they will have to be careful they don't go the way of Liverpool and Spurs.
In team news there shouldn't be too many changes from the team which beat Leicester 2-1 in Arsenal's last league game. Hector Bellerin will face a test on his injury to see if he can continue at right back and Calum Chambers will come in for him if he doesn't make it. Otherwise the defence should be the same as the Leicester game despite how well the players who were picked against Middlesbrough did in the cup last week.
There are decisions to be made in midfield and attack, but I think Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are all bound to play from the start. The other two places are up for grabs and I think the chances are Olivier Giroud will play as centre forward which would leave only one place left in the team. For me that last place is a choice between Tomas Rosicky, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott and the player chosen will give us an idea of the tactics to be deployed.
I have a feeling Welbeck will get the nod in an attack minded team which would probably see both Ozil and Cazorla playing attacking roles in front of Coquelin. That would leave Welbeck and Alexis in the wider roles and Giroud to play as the central striker. There's an awful lot of attacking flair in that team, but they will have to fight hard to get the upper hand on a Palace team who work very hard.
Arsenal have a chance to move into the top four or even as high as third with Southampton not playing until Sunday and United playing away to Swansea. It's very important for them to take the chance to put pressure on the other teams chasing a top four place whenever that chance arises and then see how those other teams react to the challenge.
As long as the defence and Coquelin can keep on top of their game I think the attacking players will create plenty of chances and should be able to put enough of them away to win the game. They can't have another game like the ones away to Stoke, Southampton or Spurs though and have to be up for it right from the kick off. They cannot afford to give Palace the chance to get a strong foothold in the game or to let the home crowd get behind their team.
Ozil and Cazorla are in great form at the moment and they have the ability to hurt any team in the world while Alexis will hopefully be back to his best after a few injuries have hampered him recently. Even when things aren't going as expected he has the individual brilliance to go out and win a game all on his own and players like that are few and far between.
With Champions League and FA Cup games coming up Arsenal are going to need all the players they can get. Jack Wilshere could well be on the bench against Palace after recovering from his injury while both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey should be back quite soon too. The competition for places will be intense if all of those players are available and the options for the team will be almost endless too. Wilshere might have to bide his time as he tries to get back into the team, but I have no doubt he will give his all and has a lot to offer.
I'm looking forward to a strong attacking performance from Arsenal as they look to get into top gear ahead of the game against Monaco on Wednesday night. Arsenal's home form is excellent at the moment while Monaco have a magnificent defensive record which should make for a fascinating game. First of all Arsenal have to go to Palace and show how much they want to finish in the Champions League places for next season by taking all three points.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.