Crystal Palace v Sunderland
Monday November 3, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports 1
These two clubs were the bottom two at this stage of last season and Palace were propping up the rest with just three points on the board, six fewer than they have now. Despite some good results under Neil Warnock, the Eagles still look set to be in the relegation dogfight all season and at the moment they are just one point clear of Sunderland, who are in the drop zone in 18th place.
Centre-back Scott Dann, who has been out for a month with a knee injury, faces a fitness test, while Damien Delaney is set to return after a one-match ban.
Gus Poyet must have been reasonably happy with a solid start that brought only one defeat in their first seven Premier League matches, although five were draws, but then came the humiliating 8-0 defeat at Southampton.
Sunderland are still reeling from that shock and, after another couple of howlers in last week's 2-0 home defeat by Arsenal, their defence looks like an accident waiting to happen.
Striker Steven Fletcher is reportedly fit after going off with a foot problem shortly after half-time in last week's 2-0 home defeat by Arsenal.
Three of Palace's four defeats have been against teams in the top five (Chelsea, Arsenal and West Ham) and their record against the rest of the Premier League is solid if unspectacular (W1 D3 L1).
Warnock's side have had two good win chances at home and, despite taking only one of them, it is notable that they kept a clean sheet in both games - 0-0 against Burnley and 2-0 against Leicester.
Another shutout would give the hosts a strong platform against Sunderland, whose defence looked far from secure even before it was ripped apart by Southampton (the Black Cats have kept only two clean sheets in nine Premier League games).
As Palace's only clean sheets are the ones against Burnley and Leicester, it is difficult to know whether those results indicate an underlying solidity in this type of match-up or whether they said more about the deficiencies of Burnley and Leicester.
The good news for Palace is that Sunderland have many of the same deficiencies - chiefly, a poor scoring record on the road (three blanks since their opening-day 2-2 at West Brom) and a suspect defence.
It is notable that eight of Palace's nine points have come against teams that rank in the bottom seven for goals conceded - Sunderland are 18th on that measure, although nearly half of those goals came in the Southampton game and they would not be in the bottom seven on goals conceded otherwise.
Sunderland are hard to fancy, with only one win from their first nine games (3-1 at home to Stoke, which appeared promising but was followed by the trip to Southampton).
In the context of this game, however, it may be wrong to read too much into those recent setbacks against Southampton and Arsenal. Sunderland actually have a near identical record to Palace against bottom-half teams (both W1 D2 L1, with Sunderland just ahead on goal difference), although the worrying aspect is that they have not scored in their two away games in that category (1-0 at QPR and 0-0 at Burnley).
The difference in goalscoring capability gives the edge to Palace, although it may pay to look for a bigger-odds option than the home win at 2.1211/10.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
Whether by accident or design, Palace have belied the stereotype of a Warnock team with a succession of entertaining games. The Eagles rank joint-fourth for highest goal average per match (3.22) and joint-third for highest percentage over 2.5 goals (67%).
It is notable, however, that Palace's opponents have all contributed at least two goals in their higher-scoring matches and three out of four against bottom-half teams have had under 2.5 goals.
This market may hinge on how many Sunderland score. All three games in which they have scored two or more have gone over 2.5 goals, but otherwise the 8-0 at Southampton is the only other match with that outcome.
The Black Cats' poor scoring record on the road indicates Under 2.5 Goals is more likely at 1.814/5.
Neither of these teams is good at establishing an early advantage - Palace rank joint-top for games with a half-time draw (six out of nine) and Sunderland are close behind with five.
With Poyet likely to stress the importance of cutting out defensive mistakes, it is easy to see Sunderland concentrating on keeping things tight at the back and the question then will be how quickly Palace are able to break them down.
Remember that in their previous home games against bottom-half opponents Palace could not find a way through Burnley's defence and did not score against Leicester until the 51st minute.
The draw is favourite at 2.0811/10 in the Half Time market, but more attractive is 0-0 at 2.8415/8 in the Half Time Score market.
With Palace likelier winners in the end, however, the bet that appeals most at decent odds is Draw/C Palace on Half Time/Full Time at 5.79/2.
Back Draw/C Palace on Half Time/Full Time at 5.79/2 (1pt)