Simon Mail previews the Premier League season opener at Selhurst Park and thinks Southampton are worth backing to claim victory at Crystal Palace...
"Southampton have won on their last three visits to Crystal Palace in the league and with such an impressive away record over the last season will be confident of extending this run."
Crystal Palace v Southampton
Live on BT Sport 1
Eagles need lift after post-lockdown struggles
Crystal Palace limped across the finish line last season and Roy Hodgson will need to ensure their post-lockdown slump does not leak into the new Premier League campaign. The Eagles endured a seven-match losing run after the season resumed, as they finished 14th and could only muster one point from their final eight games. Injuries did not aid their cause, during the run-in, but this worrying set of results does not offer much scope for optimism ahead of their season opener.
Hodgson's troubles have been in the final third with Palace's attacking limitations all too apparent. With just 31 goals last season, only bottom side Norwich scored fewer goals. Star winger Wilfried Zaha appeared unsettled and was a disappointment in terms of his goal and assist return. The signing of QPR attacker Eberechi Eze for £19.5m could provide a much-needed boost to their attack while striker Michy Batshuayi is expected to return for a second loan from Chelsea.
Saints aiming to maintain away excellence
Southampton enjoyed a remarkable turnaround after their season hit rock bottom following a humiliating 9-0 home thrashing against Leicester. Ralph Hasenhuttl appeared to be on the brink of losing his job but the Saints stuck with their man and were rewarded with a superb recovery. A tremendous run over the winter climbed them out of trouble and Southampton almost managed a top-half finish, ending the season in 11th spot.
The team's resurgence was spearheaded by an excellent away record with only Liverpool and Manchester City winning more matches on the road. Danny Ings produced the best season of his career, with the striker earning an England recall after scoring 22 league goals for Southampton. With a seven-game unbeaten run at the end of last season, hopes will be high for the Saints heading into the new campaign.
Palace difficult to trust
Hosts Crystal Palace are the outsiders for their season opener with the Eagles available at [3.3]. The way in which Palace finished last season has to be a concern and Crystal Palace have won fewer points than any other current Premier League side in 2020 with just 16 from 18 games.
The Saints will be relishing this opener after the momentum gained from last season and the visitors are rightfully [2.48] favourites. Southampton have won on their last three visits to Crystal Palace in the league and with such an impressive away record over the last season will be confident of extending this run.
The draw can be back at [3.35] and it would be no surprise if this was a cagey opener. Two of the last three meetings between Palace and Southampton have ended in a draw but preference is for the visitors. Hasenhuttl's side won nine away matches last season and the Saints can ride this momentum with a winning start at Selhurst Park.
No guarantee of high-scoring opener
Crystal Palace's struggle for goals has been well documented and it could be a slow burner in this season opener. The Eagles only scored 15 goals at home during the last campaign - the lowest return of any team in the league. Palace netted just one goal in their final four matches of the season and the misfiring hosts may not find the finishing touch against their south coast opponents.
Under 2.5 goals is trading at [1.73] which is no surprise considering Palace's frailties up front. A better alternative worth considering is Southampton to win to nil at 3/1. The Saints have won their last three games at Palace with a clean sheet suggesting this is generously priced.
The home side has not won any of the last six Premier League meetings between Crystal Palace and Southampton (D2 L4). It is 1/3 for this record to continue with the Saints avoiding defeat this weekend.
Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster
Back Southampton at [2.48]