Swansea lost last time out to Manchester City but they took the lead against the reigning champions at the Etihad Stadium and twice came close to grabbing a late equaliser. Monk’s men are seventh going into back-to-back home games against Palace and Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday and, in a season when several of the traditional big clubs have struggled to put points on the board, it has been suggested that one of the more unfashionable sides could break into the top four. Southampton are the nearest challengers to leaders Chelsea right now and Saints manager Ronald Koeman said a top-four place was a realistic objective for his side, while Monk believes the next nine games will define Swansea’s season. Monk said: “Southampton have done incredibly well and it’s strange at the moment where the league is. “Look at Man United who are improving all the time as a team. Liverpool and Spurs are yet to hit full potential which I’m sure they will do. “Whether the league balances out to its usual top six monopoly we will wait and see. “Southampton have a great chance and I’m sure they will be thinking about top four after the start that they’ve had. “But in terms of ourselves we have nine games that will probably define our season. “When we come out of those nine games we’ll see whether we are fighting for something up the top or lower down the league. “Of course we want to remain in top half, but you are only two games away from people saying you could get dragged back down or two games from people saying you can get into Europe.” Swansea are without central defender Federico Fernandez (calf) for the visit of Palace but other than that Monk has a full squad to choose from and must decide whether to recall Jonjo Shelvey. The ex-Liverpool midfielder was suspended for the Arsenal win after being sent off in the goalless draw at Everton and failed to win his place back against Manchester City, on-loan Spurs youngster Tom Carroll keeping out a player who was called into the England squad for the Euro 2016 qualifiers against San Marino and Estonia in October. “Every player, Jonjo included, have a fight to get into the side,” Monk said. “Everyone wants to play but the side and the squad will change every week. “I want them all fighting for their places and my job is to pick an 11 to win a particular game. “Not everybody will agree with decision but the squad supports each other to know the team comes first.” “We’re doing well now but we have to improve, keep getting better every game and Saturday is another chance to do that.” Asked if veteran boss Warnock, who at 65 is 30 years older than Monk, was employing a bit of kidology ahead of their first managerial duel, the Premier League’s youngest manager replied: “Yeah, possibly, but Neil’s a good man. “He’s an experienced manager but my focus is on us, not what other people say about us. “It’s nice he says those words but whether he’s trying to deflect pressure onto us doesn’t matter. “We know what to expect against a good Crystal Palace side who’ve had a great result against Liverpool. “They will be full of confidence and we know it will be a tough game. “They’ll come here with a plan to stop us playing and make it an ugly game but we have to overcome that. “We expect them to be very physical with us, it’s something we have to stand up to and impose our game on them.” Swansea manager Garry Monk says he will not be distracted by Neil Warnock’s praise ahead of his side’s Barclays Premier League date with Crystal Palace. Press Association Warnock was at the Liberty Stadium nearly three weeks ago for Swansea’s last home fixture against Arsenal and described them as “the best team I’ve seen this season” after their 2-1 victory. “It’s very nice he thinks that, we must be doing something right and it’s a good compliment to the team,” Monk said at his pre-match press conference ahead of Saturday’s game.