This Saturday Gianfranco Zola's travel to South London to play Dougie Freedman's Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in the opening weekend of the NPower Championship. There has been much change at Watford during the close season with new owners coming in and trying to restore order. Where once we were the plucky little underdogs who relied on our academy to fund the club, now we are owned by the Pozzo family who own two other clubs, Granada CF in Spain and Udinese in Serie A. Crystal Palace on the other hand haven't been so fortunate, they have ousted Simon Jordan as owner and have been taken over by a consortium just before the end of last season. They have let their future star's such as Nathaniel Clyne go as well as midfield Maestro Darren Ambrose who left for Birmingham. It is not unreasonable to say that there is a strong possibility that their star player Wilfred Zaha may also be out of the door.
Zola has bought in eight new players, mainly on loan from the two other clubs the Pozzo's own, with ex Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia coming in on a free as well as Fitz Hall from QPR on a season long contract. Four players have come on loan from Udinese, with these being: Steve Leo Belck, Matej Vydra, Almen Abdi and Alexandre Geijo. And from Granada came Ikechi Anya and Daniel Pudil. There was also some players who were released from Vicarage Road with Chez Isaac, Tom James, Rene Gilmartin, Josh Walker, Michael Bryan and David Mirfin leaving the club. Player of the Year Adrian Marriappa was sold to Premier League new boy's Reading for an undisclosed fee, goalkeeper Scott Loach was sold to fellow Championship side Ipswich for £200,000 and Troy Deeney was imprisoned for 10 months.
Palace finished the last campaign 17th in the Championship six places below Watford and have replaced the players that have left. They signed striker Aaron Wilbraham from Norwich on a free, utility player Joel Ward from Portsmouth for £440,000, Peter Ramage from QPR on a free and finally Aaron Martin on a season long loan from Southampton. They have also let Sean Scannell join Huddersfield for an undisclosed fee, Anthony Gardner to Sheffield Wednesday on a free, Lee Hills to Stevenage on a free, Jake Caprice to Blackpool on a free as well as releasing Nathaniel Pinney, Calvin Andrew and Charlie Holness. Palace's key man will be Wilfred Zaha who scored 5 goals last season.
Watford will be without Beleck, Geijo and Steven McGinn for their trip to Selhurst Park due to them not being fully fit. The team is expected to be similar to the team that played at the weekend with Manuel Almunia likely to make his league debut for the Hornet's. Lloyd Doyley and Lee Hodson are epected to be fighting for a starting place at right back. The centre back partnership looks to be Martin Taylor and Nyron Nosworthy with Carl Dickinson and Daniel Pudil vying for a starting spot at left back. A midfield three should consist of John Eustace, Johnathon Hogg and Almen Abdi. The front three ahould consist of Sean Murray and Matej Vydra supporting Chris Iwelumo or Joe Garner.
Palace team news to follow.
Predicted Line Up:
Subs: Bond, Doyley, Thompson, Buaben, Garner, Anya, Jenkins.
Subs: Price, Parr, Easter, Dikgacoi, Ramage, De Silva, Appiah.
Score Prediction: As Palace are our bogey side I can see them beating us 3-2. I would happily take a point though.