While the spoils may not be all that great, victors of Sunday’s season finale between Crystal Palace and Bournemouth at Selhurst Park will be assured of no worse than a 12th-place finish in the Premier League for 2018-19.
For the Cherries (13-6-18), 12th place would be maintaining the status quo in back-to-back seasons in their fourth campaign since winning promotion for finishing atop the Championship in 2015. Eddie Howe’s team had fleeting moments of greatness – most notably their 4-0 hiding of Chelsea on Jan. 30 – but Bournemouth were also unable to sustain the momentum of a bright start in which the claimed 20 of their 45 points in the first 10 matches.
Some of that could be chalked up to injuries as starting XI regulars Callum Wilson, Simon Francis, and Lewis Cook all missed substantial time. In the cases of Francis and Cook, it has been for an extended period as both the right back and central midfielder tore their ACLs three weeks apart in December.
When healthy, Wilson formed a potent partnership up front with Joshua King as the pair combined for 25 goals in league play. Midfielder Ryan Fraser enjoyed a breakout season for the Cherries, and the Scotland international enters the final match day second to only Eden Hazard (15) in the Premier League with a club-record 14 assists. He is rumoured to be on Arsenal’s radar for a move to the Emirates, but has offered no indication he is interested in leaving Bournemouth for north London.
“I’ve got a year left,” Fraser told Metro UK. “There’s a very good chance I’ll be here next season. If that’s that then I’m going to try my best as I always do and I’ll enjoy it. I love the group here and the fans. There’s no bad side to what’s happening. There’s a good chance I’ll be here next season and I’ll try and beat my assists record next season as well.”
Fraser and Wilson have combined on 12 goals, one shy of the Premier League record set by Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton for Blackburn Rovers in 1994-95 when the clubs played 42 matches.
Bournemouth picked up their second win over a “Big Six” side last weekend, edging nine-man Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 at home. Nathan Ake’s stoppage-time header on a corner by Fraser separated the sides as the Cherries made good on the two-man advantage they enjoyed the final 42-plus minutes.
On the other side of the pitch, 19-year-old Mark Travers made five saves to earn a clean sheet in his Premier League debut and landed a spot on Ireland’s provisional squad for their upcoming European Championship qualifiers versus Denmark and Gibraltar next month.
“He was brilliant when he came into the squad for the games against Gibraltar and Georgia in March, on and off the pitch,” Ireland coach Mick McCarthy told the Bournemouth Echo. “Mark’s attitude around the camp impressed everyone and on the training ground he was different class with the way he trained and applied himself.”
Crystal Palace (13-7-17) would maintain 12th with a draw, but a victory coupled with a West Ham United loss and a swing in goal difference of three would result in the Eagles finishing 11th. A win would also give Palace their highest point total in the six seasons they’ve been in the top flight since securing promotion in 2013.
Roy Hodgson’s side are unbeaten in their last three matches (2-1-0) and banished Cardiff City back to the Championship last weekend, with Palace’s 3-2 victory in Wales ensuring the Bluebirds would be relegated.
Wilfried Zaha, Michy Batshuayi and Andros Townsend all scored for the Eagles, offering a tantalising glimpse of what could be their front three if Hodgson opts for a 4-3-3 formation. The biggest challenge to keeping the trio together is preventing a larger club from poaching Zaha, which has been rumoured near constantly over the past few seasons.
Zaha’s goal was his 10th of the term, marking the first time Palace had two players reach double figures in goals. Luka Milivojevic has a team-high 12, with 10 of them coming from the spot.
This will be the Serbia international’s last chance to equal the Premier League mark of 11 goals via penalty set by Andy Johnson for Palace in 2004-05. Milivojevic has converted all but one of his tries from 12 yards, with the most recent one coming against Newcastle United on April 6.
This match will also serve as a farewell for keeper Julian Speroni, who will depart Palace when his contract expires at season’s end. A 15-year veteran with the club, Speroni’s 405 appearances are the most of any keeper in club history and fourth among all players. He recorded a club-record 112 clean sheets and was a key component of Palace winning promotion in 2013.
“Julian has devoted the best 15 years of his playing career to our club and will go down in the record books – but perhaps more importantly, will be remembered as a true club legend by all Palace fans and everyone at the club,” chairman Steve Parish said on the club’s official website.
“You just don’t get many people like Julian in elite football any more – he is a model professional, ultra-committed, immensely loyal, and has set impeccable standards to his team-mates down the years. His contribution to this club cannot be overstated, and we will be eternally grateful for his service.”
Palace will be looking to end their home slate on a positive note, having taken just 17 points from their 18 matches (4-5-9) while scoring just 14 goals.
Bournemouth are seeking their first top-flight double over Palace after winning 2-1 at Dean Court on Oct. 1. Junior Stanislas converted a penalty on 87 minutes for the winner after Mamadou Sakho caught Jefferson Lerma with a forearm to the face. David Brooks scored in the fifth minute for the Cherries before Patrick Van Aanholt pulled Palace level on 55 minutes.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Crystal Palace 2, Bournemouth 2.
OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 38 PREVIEWS
Brighton and Hove Albion (9-9-19) vs. Manchester City (31-2-4)
Liverpool (29-7-1) vs. Wolverhampton (16-9-12)
Tottenham Hotspur (23-1-13) vs. Everton (15-8-14)
Leicester City (15-6-16) vs. Chelsea (21-8-8)
(Callum Wilson/Joshua King/David Brooks photo courtesy AFC Bournemouth official Twitter account)
(Julian Speroni photo courtesy Crystal Palace F.C. official Twitter account)