STOKE CITY take a break from Premier League action this weekend… as they make the trip the Championship high-flyers Crystal Palace in the FA Cup Third Round.
In what is traditionally one of the most anticipated weekends of the calendar, Tony Pulis’ side face a tough challenge at Selhurst Park against a team who are only two points off the automatic promotion places in English football’s second tier.
Ian Holloway’s side haven’t lost at home since the first day of the season either, so the task of kicking off another memorable cup run for the Potters will be difficult on Saturday afternoon.
Their recent record in South London is encouraging, however, having won on their last two visits when the two sides were in the Championship.
Crystal Palace Fact-File
Full name: Crystal Palace Football Club
Stadium: Selhurst Park
Chairman: Steve Parish
Manager: Ian Holloway
2011/12: Championship (17th), FA Cup (Third Round), League Cup (Semi-Final).
Record transfer fee paid: £2.75m for Valerien Ismael to Strasbourg, January 1998.
Record transfer fee received: £8.6m for Andrew Johnson from Everton, May 2006.
In Profile – Ian Holloway
Ian Holloway and Tony Pulis’ friendship goes back to when the former was a 12-year-old apprentice at Bristol Rovers… although all niceties will be put on hold for this weekend’s FA Cup clash.
The two were regulars in the Pirates team of the early 1980s, and have kept in contact as they both went on to carve managerial careers that have taken them to the top ladder of English football.
Although Holloway’s Palace currently occupy the Championship, the 49-year-old is best remembered for his turbulent season in the Premier League when at Blackpool.
The Tangerines, led by the influential Charlie Adam, shocked the Premier League by winning seven games before the turn of the year and sitting comfortably in the top half, although a slide in the second half of the campaign saw them relegated on the last day of the season at Old Trafford.
He left Bloomfield Road for Palace earlier this season when Dougie Freedman jumped ship to Bolton Wanderers – Holloway’s sixth permanent managerial position.
Old club Bristol Rovers were his first port of call in 1986, before spells at Queens Park Rangers, Plymouth Argyle and Leicester City.
Tony Pulis has confirmed that he will make several changes to his starting line-up for the game. . and has hinted at a possible inclusion in the side for Michael Owen.
The former England hit-man has been used sparingly during his first four months at the Britannia Stadium; however, he could be in line to make his first start for the Club at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
Owen, who made the switch to the Potteries from Manchester United in the summer, has enjoyed two full weeks of training over the festive period, and Pulis says he will come into consideration for the clash with the Eagles.
"Michael will definitely travel down with us and he will be in the squad," he said at the pre-match press conference on Thursday.
"He has had two or three weeks of full training behind him now and he has trained well. He has also had a couple of games behind closed doors too, which have been important for him.”
The likes of Thomas Sorensen, Matthew Upson and Wilson Palacios will all be hoping to feature at Selhurst Park having found first team opportunities limited so far this season.
One player who will definitely miss the trip down to the capital though is Rory Delap, after he suffered a setback in his rehabilitation back from a calf injury.
There was positive news on Marc Wilson, however, with Pulis confirming that the Republic of Ireland international is just a couple of weeks away from return to action.
FA Cup Third Round Fixtures
Brighton & Hove Albion v Newcastle United (12:30)
Aldershot v Rotherham United
Aston Villa v Ipswich Town
Barnsley v Burnley
Blackburn v Bristol City
Bolton Wanderers v Sunderland
Charlton v Huddersfield Town
Crawley Town v Reading
CRYSTAL PALACE v STOKE CITY
Derby County v Tranmere Rovers
Fulham v Blackpool
Hull City v Leyton Orient
Leeds United v Birmingham City
Leicester City v Burton Albion
Luton Town v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Macclesfield Town v Cardiff City
Manchester City v Watford
Middlesbrough v Hastings United
Millwall v Preston North End
Nottingham Forest v Oldham Athletic
Oxford United v Sheffield United
Peterborough United v Norwich City
Queens Park Rangers v West Bromwich Albion
Sheffield Wednesday v Milton Keynes Dons
Southampton v Chelsea
Southend United v Brentford
Tottenham Hotspur v Coventry City
Wigan Athletic v Bournemouth
West Ham United v Manchester United
Swansea City v Arsenal (Sunday, 13:30)
Mansfield Town v Liverpool (Sunday, 16:00)
Cheltenham Town v Everton (Monday, 19:45)
All fixtures kick-off at 15:00 on Saturday unless otherwise stated.
Head to Head
League: 15 Stoke City wins; 20 Crystal Palace wins; 11 draws
FA Cup: 1 Stoke City win; 0 Crystal Palace wins; 0 draws
TOTAL: 16 Stoke City wins; 20 Crystal Palace wins; 11 draws
Last Five Encounters
Stoke City 1-2 Crystal Palace (Championship) – 07/04/2008
Crystal Palace 1-3 Stoke City (Championship) – 23/10/2007
Stoke City 2-1 Crystal Palace (Championship) – 09/04/2007
Crystal Palace 0-1 Stoke City (Championship) – 11/11/2006
Stoke City 1-3 Crystal Palace (Championship) – 13/03/2006
Stoke City win 7/5; Crystal Palace win 15/8; draw 23/10
Referee – Neil Swarbrick
Neil Swarbrick’s refereeing duties have been spread across all of England’s football leagues this season… although Saturday’s game at Selhurst Park will be his first in the FA Cup.
In his 15 matches this year, he has been to grounds as varied as Stamford Bridge, Bramall Lane and Adams Park, while he most recently oversaw Watford’s 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest at Vicarage Road on December 22nd – in which he sent-off Forest defender Daniel Ayala.
Swarbrick hasn’t refereed in either a Stoke City or a Crystal Palace game yet this season.
His last match involving the Potters was their 1-1 draw with Norwich City at Carrow Road last season.