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Crystal Palace prepare for Brighton & Hove Albion


THE most anticipated game of the season for every single Palace fan is finally here.

Come 3pm tomorrow, Selhurst Park will be a cauldron of passion, flying tackles, fan banter, and perhaps the sight of Wilfried Zaha turning Will Buckley inside out for 90 minutes.

I am, of course, talking about the team from the south coast, situated approximately 45 miles from Selhurst Park, who arrive on the back of three wins and two draws in their last five games.

OK, I'll finally name them. Brighton & Hove Albion are in town and are, like Palace, in good form heading into the match in SE25.

On Tuesday night, they secured a comfortable 2-0 win over Bristol City to move back up into seventh position, just six points behind the Eagles.

Palace, on the other hand, were rather fortunate to come away with a point at Hull City, especially on the back of their first-half display, which could have seen the hosts at least two goals up.

However, it was another clean sheet for Ian Holloway's men and they could have nicked it at the end through Zaha or Yannick Bolasie.

In terms of team news, Holloway could decide to stick with the same starting XI from the KC Stadium, with Brazilian playmaker Andre Moritz believed to be struggling ahead of tomorrow after sustaining a knee injury against Leeds United last Saturday.

Holloway said of the 26-year-old: "I'm not sure if he'll make it yet. We didn't bring him to Hull because he received quite a nasty injury at Leeds above his knee.

"We believe that could go down into the knee joint itself, so we'll have to see, but my physiotherapist is very good."

Glenn Murray is set to come straight back in to face his former club after serving a one-game ban at Hull for picking up five bookings this season. And the striker will know exactly what to expect from the Brighton fans in the Arthur Wait Stand.

The 29-year-old spent more than three years playing at the old Withdean Stadium and scored 56 goals in more than 130 appearances, with 22 of them coming in Brighton's promotion from League One in 2011 before deciding to sign for Palace.

So far this season, he's scored 15 times, of which 13 have come at Selhurst Park, so the stage has been set for him to make his return and put the Seagulls to the sword.

Brighton welcomed back Adam El-Abd to the bench against Bristol City after a recent injury and could bring his experience back into the team at the expense of Lewis Dunk.

Manager Gus Poyet decided to go with Stephen Dobbie and Will Hoskins in attack on Tuesday instead of Craig Mackail-Smith and Ashley Barnes, probably with a view of keeping them fresh for tomorrow.

Former England international left-back Wayne Bridge has also been sidelined through injury lately, but Poyet says he's on course for returning to the starting XI at Selhurst. However, if he were to miss out again, Marcos Painter is ready to continue at the back.

And one of the biggest clashes of the day could come down the flanks involving Will Buckley and Zaha. Buckley is seen as the star player for the Seagulls like Zaha is for Palace, but Poyet claimed earlier this month to local media that his man was the better talent and worth more.

It will certainly be an interesting contest to see who comes out on top, but with the form shown by Zaha at home this season, you'd back the 20-year-old to have the last laugh come 5pm.

Off the pitch, a large police presence is expected at Selhurst and as far as East Croydon station, so it's advised to plan your journey in good time and arrive early.

The Metropolitan Police say that Palace fans exiting from Holmesdale Road after the game will not be able to turn left into Park Road. The same goes for home fans attempting to access Park Road from Whitehorse Lane. Furthermore, Palace supporters with seats in the Arthur Wait Stand will be able to leave the ground through exit four (E4) in Park Road and gain access into Holmesdale Road.

Both sides have an array of attacking talent going forward, so we could either be in for a flurry of end-to-end action and goals, or a tight, dogged affair with many supporters on the edge of their seats for the winning strike.

A result will certainly put pressure on current league leaders Cardiff City, but it will also set Ian Holloway up nicely to face former club Blackpool next Saturday at home.

Crystal Palace prepare for Brighton & Hove Albion

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