Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper believes the Qatar 2022 World Cup break for his side can help ignite their survival prospects, as they prepare to face Crystal Palace in their final game for over a month.
The Premier League takes a break for the international tournament following this weekend’s fixtures, with the City Ground outfit looking to climb off the bottom spot on the table if possible.
The gap between Forest and the rest of the pack is far from insurmountable amid a congested season however, and Cooper thinks the enforced interval could prove to be a blessing in disguise, knowing they are not too far off the pace.
“We can’t be compared to anything that has gone before,” he said. “It’s been something new. Bringing in a completely new dressing room has been the toughest challenge of my career and probably for many of the players a swell.
“Our league position tells us that it is not brilliant but we’re only five points off 12th and we are seeing decent signs.
“If we can finish this first phase with a positive result [against Crystal Palace] that would be great but even if we don’t, we will still restart after the break knowing a few positive results will help our position.”
Opposite number Patrick Vieira meanwhile reflected on Marc Guehi’s omission from England’s squad for Qatar 2022, stating that the defender will still play in a World Cup one day.
The Eagles man was a bubble pick for the Three Lions, with Conor Coady and Ben White ultimately retained in the backline.
“He’s ambitious and wants the best for himself,” said Vieira. “He’s working really, really hard and when you look at his performances in the last year and a half, he’s been really consistent.
“He just has to keep working like that and there will be a time when he plays in a World Cup.”
“Marc will wish England the best, no doubt about that, and he knows what he must do to have a chance to play internationally.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Forest – Dean Henderson
The shotstopper has conceded more goals than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League this season (30). He’s averaging a goal conceded every 42 minutes in the competition this term, compared to an average of one every 97 minutes during his spells at Sheffield United and Manchester United.
Palace – Wilfried Zaha
The Eagles man’s eight goals and assists in the Premier League this season have been worth 11 points to Crystal Palace – only Erling Haaland’s goal involvements have been more valuable so far this term (21 goals + assists, 14 points).
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Nottingham Forest have never lost a Premier League game against Crystal Palace (W2 D2), though this is the first such meeting since a 2-1 away win in April 1995.
– Crystal Palace have won just one of their last nine league games against Nottingham Forest (D3 L5), with this their first meeting since a 2-2 draw in December 2012.
– Crystal Palace are unbeaten in their last eight Premier League games against promoted sides (W4 D4) since a 2-0 loss at Leeds in February 2021.
– Nottingham Forest have won just one of their last 12 Premier League games (D4 L7), though they are unbeaten in their last three at the City Ground (W1 D2).
– Crystal Palace have won three of their last four Premier League games (L1), as many as they had in their previous 12. The Eagles are looking to win three consecutive league games for the first time since a run of four between February-June 2020.