Doncaster Rovers: ‘Crystal Palace should take this cup tie seriously’ – the opposition view ahead of FA Cup tie

This is the one you have all been waiting for but what is the size of the task awaiting Doncaster Rovers in their first FA Cup fifth round tie in 63 years?

Thursday, 14th February 2019, 9:37 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th February 2019, 9:42 pm
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson

A high-quality, top flight opposition of course. But just how strong and focused will Crystal Palace be when they visit the Keepmoat on Sunday?

We spoke to the Press Association’s Crystal Palace expert Declan Warrington to get the lowdown on Roy Hodgson’s side.

Q: How has this cup tie been received by all concerned with Palace?

DW: Largely with optimism, which given the circumstances - they are far from excelling in the Premier League but at minimal risk of relegation and are one victory against a team in a lower division away from reaching the FA Cup quarter-finals - you’d hope would be the case. Crystal Palace emerged from the January transfer window with a superior squad, and they also have few injuries, so they’ve become exactly the profile of club that should be making the cup a priority, particularly given those already eliminated. 

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Q: How seriously are Palace taking the FA Cup and how strong do you expect the side to be on Sunday?

DW: Before this weekend, not remarkably seriously, but again, given the opportunity they have been presented with, it is expected that that will change. Roy Hodgson selected weakened cup teams before now, and particularly in the past round against Tottenham - who were also not expected to prioritise the FA Cup - that appeared to indicate he saw the competition as no more than a bonus. A significant difference since then is that their relegation fears - which were already far from overwhelming - have since eased, so even if the pragmatist in him makes changes, they are unlikely to be wholesale, and only in areas where they have players who were already pushing to start. 

Q: How do you assess Palace's season so far?

DW:. It’s actually been slightly disappointing, but a good run in the FA Cup could change that significantly. That perhaps seems harsh when so much of last season they were struggling with multiple injuries and against relegation, but by its conclusion, Hodgson had made them a very good team who were capable of at least a comfortable mid-table finish. Even though they have been undermined by the departures of Yohan Cabaye and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, more was expected of them than they have so far shown, which largely owes to the fact Wilfried Zaha hasn’t been nearly as influential.

Q: What system and style of play does Roy Hodgson favour?

DW: After regularly setting his team up in both a 4-3-3 and a 4-4-2 - it was the latter Hodgson got such impressive results with last season - it appears 4-3-3 has become his slight preference. Without Cabaye and Loftus-Cheek any midfield four he starts with isn’t as effective as 12 months ago, whereas a front three gives greater freedom to Zaha and Andros Townsend, two of his most potent players. Either remain likely, however; a decision will be determined by whether he starts with one out-and-out striker, or given his recent recruitment of the on-loan Michy Batshuayi, two.

Q: Who are the main dangermen for Palace?

DW: For almost all of last season and much of this one, it was difficult to recall a Premier League team more reliant on one individual than Palace have been on Zaha - perhaps Gerard Houllier’s Steven Gerrard-led Liverpool was the last. They have recently won in his absence, however, and have greater strength in depth. Townsend is playing with confidence and an eye for goal, as is Batshuayi and the fit-again Christian Benteke. Luka Milivojevic and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, respectfully a holding midfielder and full-back, are far from traditional “danger men”, but have been Palace’s finest players this season and will again be key.