Crystal Palace v Swansea
Monday December 28, 15:00
Alan Pardew's side moved above Manchester United into fifth place after stretching their unbeaten run to five with Saturday's goalless draw at Bournemouth.
Pardew is short in attack, with winger Yannick Bolasie and striker Connor Wickham both expected to be sidelined for four weeks after missing the Bournemouth match, and Dwight Gayle and Bakary Sako already absent. Patrick Bamford, a non-playing sub the previous Saturday for the 2-1 win at Stoke, was also unavailable at Bournemouth but could return here.
Yohan Cabaye, having missed the Stoke game with a heel injury, played the second half at Bournemouth, while fellow midfielder Mile Jedinak came on for the last 15 minutes in his first action for three weeks.
After Garry Monk's once-promising reign ended with a run of one draw and four defeats in his last five matches, the ship has been steadied by caretaker boss Alan Curtis with four points from three games and the Swans climbed out of the bottom three with Saturday's 1-0 home win over West Brom.
That was a second consecutive clean sheet after their goalless draw at home to West Ham in the previous match, having previously gone 10 games without shutting out the opposition.
Wayne Routledge returned to the starting line-up on Saturday after missing the West Ham game with a knee injury and Curtis appears to have no new injury concerns, although he is still without Eder and Franck Tabanou.
On this season's form Palace rate one of the best bets on Monday's programme, with the only doubt arising from the lack of fit attackers, particularly Bolasie.
The only serious blot on Palace's record at Selhurst Park is the 1-0 defeat by Sunderland last month, with their only other dropped points coming against top-six teams (currently or at the time of playing, or both).
Excluding results against the current top six, Palace's record this season is W9 D2 L2 (W4 D0 L2 at home) and a key factor has been that few of the lower-class teams have been able to shut them out.
Palace have scored in seven of their nine games against bottom-half sides, winning each time, with their only dropped points in that category coming against Sunderland (the 1-0 home defeat) and Bournemouth (Saturday's away goalless draw).
Swansea appear to be ideal opponents, having conceded in all eight away games this season for a record of W1 D2 L5. Their only points on the road have come against current bottom-six sides and against teams above that group they have lost four out of four.
The clean sheets in their last two games under Curtis are a positive sign, although both were at home against teams with scoring problems and they still have to prove they can do it against better-class opponents on the road.
The other issue for Curtis is that Swansea are still struggling for goals themselves, having scored nil or one in eight of their last 10 games (the exceptions were both against current bottom-seven sides).
Their record when scoring nil or one this season is W1 D3 L8 (the sole win was Saturday's 1-0 over West Brom) and on the road it is W0 D1 L5, which indicates that Curtis needs to find considerable improvement in attack as well as keeping things tight at the back.
There is little sign of that, with just two goals scored in his three games as caretaker, and odds of 2.186/5 for a Palace win look good enough even with the doubt over the make-up of their attack.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
Both teams rank low for goals, with Palace's games averaging 2.17 goals (third lowest in the Premier League) and Swansea's only slightly above that with 2.22.
Palace are joint-third for games with under 2.5 goals (10 out of 18) and again Swansea are close behind (nine out of 18).
Those stats point firmly to under 2.5 goals at 1.695/7 but much depends on whether Swansea succeed in keeping the Palace attack quiet.
Half of Palace's games with under 2.5 goals have come when they were shut out, and when they have scored eight out of 13 have had over 2.5 goals.
Under Pardew, there is quite a strong link between Palace's wins and over 2.5 goals (six out of nine this season; 14 out of 19 overall since he took charge).
With a home win well-rated on form, Palace to win and over 2.5 goals is worth considering.
Back Crystal Palace to beat Swansea at 2.186/5 (1pt)
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