The Big Match Tactical View: Crystal Palace v Tottenham

Roy Hodgson
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It's a London derby on Saturday evening, with Tottenham crossing the river to take on Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. Michael Cox looks at the tactics and Alan Thompson discovers an interesting trend to bet on...

"Kieran Trippier endured terrible games against both Manchester City and Wolves in Spurs’ last two league fixtures, and might be targeted by Wilfried Zaha."

Crystal Palace v Tottenham
Saturday 17:30,
Live on BT Sport 1

Match Odds: Crystal Palace [5.0], Tottenham [1.9], The Draw [4.0].

Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham Hotspur have a fine recent record against Crystal Palace, winning their last four games against the Eagles - all, incidentally, having been drawing at half-time.

Whether that pattern from the last couple of years has much significance ahead of this contest is questionable, but it's undeniable that Tottenham have the stronger squad, and therefore more options from the bench.

Zaha and Townsend to start upfront

Roy Hodgson, on the other hand, has often been criticised by Palace supporters this season for not using his bench enough. But the reason seems fairly obvious: Palace aren't blessed with great strength in depth, and often have few promising replacements capable of changing the game. Christian Benteke remains a valuable Plan B, despite his lack of goals, but the Belgian is out injured.

Hodgson, therefore, is likely to continue with a 4-4-2 system here. It's an unusual formation that essentially involves two wingers playing upfront together, with Wilfried Zaha usually starting in an inside-left position and cutting inside to shoot, and Andros Townsend on the opposite flank, generally coming inside onto his left foot, although statistics suggest he's one of the Premier League's most ambidextrous players.

Zaha and Townsend thrive on the counter-attack, and Palace will look to break quickly here, particularly in behind Tottenham's full-backs. Kieran Trippier has endured terrible games in a defensive sense against both Manchester City and Wolves in Spurs' last two league fixtures, and might be targeted by Zaha here. It's worth looking at Trippier's odds to be shown a card if he starts ahead of Serge Aurier.

Palace dangerous from the left

Palace will field a workmanlike midfield quartet, with James McArthur likely to tuck inside from the right flank and compete in the midfield zone alongside Luka Milovojevic and Cheikhou Kouyate. On the left, Max Meyer will have the most attacking freedom, and might help Zaha to overload Trippier. Further attacking ammunition down that flank will come from Patrick van Aanholt, among the Premier League's most efficient full-backs in terms of goalscoring.

On the other flank, Aaron Wan-Bissaka is a fine talent although does have a habit of conceding possession cheaply. James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho will continue at centre-back, protecting Wayne Hennessey.

Pochettino's starting XI is considerably more difficult to predict. He's chopped and changed in terms of formation this season, and he could well decide that a three-man defence makes more sense against Palace's mobile front two. If Jan Vertonghen was fit that would surely be the right approach, but he's out injured and Juan Foyth probably won't be risked after conceding two penalties last weekend at Wolves.

Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez are likely to be the centre-backs, with Trippier and Ben Davies either side. They'll find Zaha and Townsend scampering into the space behind when they overlap, so might need to be cautious with their positioning.

Midfield problems for Pochettino

In central midfield Pochettino has serious problems. He's without Mousa Dembele, while both Victor Wanyama and Eric Dier are considered doubtful. Pochettino will probably be keen for either of them to start - if not, it's likely to be the ultra-technical combination of Harry Winks, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli, who started in midweek against PSV. There's a danger they might be overrun by the physicality of Palace's midfield.

Going forward, Erik Lamela is in good goalscoring form on the right, and Lucas Moura has adjusted reasonably well to his position on the left, and his battle against Wan-Bissaka should be very lively. Upfront, Kane isn't recording good numbers in terms of shots, but remains good at finding pockets of space and his link play has been impressive this season.

I think this could be a really interesting tactical battle. Spurs are clearly the more adaptable side, but if Palace pressure them in midfield and the home crowd gets going, the home side could cause an upset. Spurs seem a little too short, at [1.9], so I'll lay the away side at that price.

The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson

Spurs kept their slim Champions League hopes alive with a victory over PSV midweek and travel to Selhurst Park having won six of their seven Premier League away games.

They will face a Palace side who have failed to win any of their first five home fixtures although they battled well to get a 2-2 draw against Arsenal last time out at Selhurst.

Tottenham are rightly favourites for this, trading at what I consider a very fair price around [1.9] for the away win against a side who have registered just one goal against the visitors in their last six Premier League games.

Goals throw up some interesting stats when looking at this fixture. Opta tell us that 25 of the last 26 goals scored in Premier League games between Crystal Palace and Spurs have been netted in the second half – there has been just one first half goal scored in the last 14 meetings.

This is a general trend for Eagles home games; there have been only two first half goals this season so far with just two of their last 16 home games seeing over 1.5 goals before the break.

I will be splitting my stake taking Spurs to win to nil at anything over [3.5] and, on the Sportsbook, backing 'Second Half in the Half with Most Goals market' at evens. That looks like a bit of value.

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