Sunderland-Crystal Palace: 3 areas the Black Cats must get it right

Jermain Defoe tries to get the better of Jan Vertonghen.  Picture by FRANK REID

Jermain Defoe tries to get the better of Jan Vertonghen. Picture by FRANK REID

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Defeat is not something Sunderland can really contemplate when they come face-to-face with Crystal Palace.

With 99 points still up for grabs, tomorrow’s Stadium of Light showdown can hardly be labelled a must-win game, though it is certainly a must-not-lose match.

Three points could lift David Moyes side out of the relegation zone

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Three points though could lift David Moyes’ side out of the relegation zone and here are three key areas which could prove central to the outcome of the contest.

Defending set-pieces:

Stoke City were one-time kings of the set-piece, so when Crystal Palace give them a going over then you know there could be problems ahead.

Palace scored twice from set-pieces at Selhurst Park last Sunday – both from centre-halves – while the deliveries from Andros Townsend were always a danger.

Sunderland, who conceded from a corner at QPR, following leaking a gift from a cross at Spurs, need to be resolute against the Eagles and Moyes will be reminding his troops of the importance of not giving away corners and free-kicks.

Getting a grip on Andros Townsend:

It’s not that long ago that Sunderland were linked with the England winger, who instead joined Newcastle in the winter transfer window.

Following the demise of the Magpies, Townsend returned home to London with Crystal Palace to stay in the Premier League.

Townsend capped an excellent display with a fine solo goal in the second half.

Last Sunday, Stoke found the 25-year-old almost unplayable with the midfielder Townsend sealing a great display with a super solo goal.

On the same afternoon in the north end of London, Sunderland had a testing afternoon against Heung-Min Son, who excelled down the left.

Sunderland must quell the threat presented by Townsend, especially when you look at the forward talent he would be supplying.

Providing service to Jermain Defoe:

After getting a well-earned breather at QPR in midweek, the striker will be back tomorrow against the Eagles.

Given the possession stats at White Hart Lane (74-26 in % terms to Spurs)– it was no surprise Defoe hardly saw the ball – one of his shots came following a route-one ball from Jordan Pickford.

However, that has to change tomorrow.

While Crystal Palace arrive on Wearside with a spring in their steps after back-to-back Premier wins (and six goals), they also have injury problems at the back.

James Tomkins left Selhurst Park on crutches after hurting his knee last Sunday, while fellow centre-half Scott Dann is also a doubt after damaging his hamstring in the midweek EFL Cup defeat at Southampton.

If Alan Pardew comes to the Stadium of Light either without his first-choice stoppers or with less-than-fully fit defenders then that is the cue to get the ball to Defoe and get them stretched.