Crystal Palace v Tottenham
Sunday 13 December, 14:15
Live on Sky Sports Main Event
Palace on track for main aim, but can improve
The financial realities of the Premier League mean that a club of Crystal Palace’s means must always put survival at the top of their agenda. Given how badly they ended the last campaign, Roy Hodgson’s Eagles have done well to build a ten-point layer of insulation between themselves and the bottom three. In this chaotic campaign, with players pushed to the limit physically, Palace are only three points off the top six.
While this is far from an uncomfortable situation for Palace to be in, Hodgson is experienced enough to know that not all is well. Palace have a tough run of fixtures between now and the end of the year, and their only wins since Matchday Two have come against promoted teams. Defensively, they don’t look as solid as they often have under Hodgson. Last term they had the best defence in the bottom half, with 50 goals leaked in 38 games at an average of 1.32 per match, This term, they are conceding a slightly higher average of 1.45, and they haven’t kept a clean sheet since the opening weekend.
Mourinho’s brand is being rebuilt
It seems absurd that Jose Mourinho had gone 13 years without winning a Premier League Manager of the Month award before picking up this November’s accolade, but this latest small accomplishment is another signpost towards a redemption of sorts. Yes, the Portuguese tactician can still be incredibly pragmatic, and if this season takes a turn for the worse we may see a return of his snarky and petulant side, but the most important thing he is showing is that he is still relevant.
In a league of big-name coaches that include progressives like Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, plenty of column inches have been devoted to the depiction of Mourinho as a sporting relic. His approach was a thing of the past, his mind games the tools of a football caveman, amusements to enjoy on an old episode of Premier League Years. And yet, Mourinho has so far delivered as good a season as anyone at Spurs could have anticipated in their most fervent dreams.
Tottenham have won their Europa League group, they have an eminently winnable Carabao Cup quarter-final at Stoke to look forward to, and they have played some exciting football on their way to the summit of the Premier League. They have beaten Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City, held Chelsea to a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge, and they haven’t lost in the league since the opening weekend.
Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son are thriving (18 PL goals and 13 PL assists between them), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has made the step from fancy water-carrier to indispensable midfield guardian, and a well-drilled defensive unit has leaked just nine goals in 11 top-flight outings.
Serge Aurier and Tanguy Ndombele have had minor knocks recently but could feature, while Erik Lamela is still sidelined.
Spurs an attractive price to take the win
Palace have a reputation for bloodying the noses of the big boys, and they have already won at Old Trafford against Manchester United. However, their record under Roy Hodgson at Selhurst Park against teams that went on to finish the season in the top six is poor – they have lost 14 of 18 games, won just once and kept just one clean sheet. Even with fans back in the ground this weekend, it appears Selhurst Park is far from the cauldron it once was.
Palace have lost five of their last nine PL home games, and they have lost to technically-gifted sides like Chelsea, Wolves and Everton this term. Spurs have ground out 1-0 away wins at Burnley and West Brom, they have won four of their last five PL away games, and they have enough quality to expose a struggling Palace rearguard. I was pleasantly surprised to see Tottenham trading at 1.814/5 to take the three points, and I’ll back them to win.
Don’t expect fireworks in London derby
Neither Hodgson nor Mourinho will take unnecessary risks here, and Under 2.5 Goals appeals at 1.981/1. Seven of Tottenham’s 11 Premier League games have featured fewer than three goals, including the last four. Palace rarely produce thrillers on home soil – an Under 2.5 Goals bet has landed in 19 of their last 25 PL home matches.
You could use the Sportsbook’s Same Game Multi (see offer below) to double up a Spurs win with Under 3.5 Goals at an attractive price of 2.427/5, or you could be a touch more conservative and double it up with Under 4.5 Goals at 2.021/1.
Dynamic duo worth considering
The combination of Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son is one of the most productive in the Premier League, and both are worth considering in the To Score market. Kane is priced at evens to score at any time, and Son is 6/4. The South Korean has scored in three of his last five appearances.