Crystal Palace v Watford
Saturday March 7, 15:00
All credit to Hodgson
After a poor run between late January and early February, Palace secured two priceless wins in a row. First up it was 1-0 at home to Newcastle and last week it was another 1-0, this time Brighton being on the wrong end of a low-scoring match.
Those are just the sort of results and performances that have kept Roy Hodgson in jobs long since before many of us were born. The quiet, understated Hodgson is also a nice contrast to the managers who keep reminding us of their achievements and forgetting about the times things didn't go so well. They look relatively safe at present in 12th place, with a couple of wins from now till the end of the season more than enough.
The strange thing is that those two results were without much input from Wilfried Zaha, so often the talisman. If he does leave in the summer as has been speculated, at least they know they can win without him.
Pearson steering Hornets safe
Talking of high-class managers, Nigel Pearson has done a wonderful job as well and is a reminder of the theory that 'managers need time' isn't always the right one. Being appointed when he was rather than giving Quique Flores more of a chance is almost certainly the difference between Watford going down and most likely staying up now. There's still work to be done but they've got every chance of avoiding the drop.
It hasn't all been straightforward under Pearson with a run of no wins in six (including an FA Cup match) before Saturday's shock win over Liverpool but it's the improvement in performances and organisation that's caught the eye as much as results.
He's cut from a very different cloth to Hodgson, but both have seen it all before and are proper football men, as they say.
Match winner market a big conundrum
If head-to-head records are anything to go by, you certainly shouldn't be backing Palace at 2.6813/8.
Opta tell us that they've failed to beat Watford in each of their last five attempts in all competitions. And if stats are the be all and end all for you, then you won't like the 3.052/1 about the draw, either. There have been none of those in the four Premier League meetings between the two at Selhurst Park.
So are Watford a bet at 3.39/4? Not sure they are, either. Remember that was their first win in six on Saturday but then again, Palace did lose two in a row against Sheffield United and Southampton a few weeks ago so they're not immune to poor performances against sides outside the league's elite.
The best option looks to be to keep Watford win and the draw onside but we'll come to that selection in a bit.
Unders highly likely
It's just 1.75/7 on under 2.5 goals and that's not surprising. Palace have scored less goals at home than any other team (11) this season as Opta remind us while Watford have their own quirky stat when it comes to goals- they've failed to score in a league-high 12 matches this season.
The even more important stats are that 85% of Palace's home games and 64% of Watford's away games have had less than 2.5 goals this season. So it's hard to ignore these numbers and just plump for overs at the far bigger price just for the sake of it.
If there are to be goals, who might get one?
Palace have no proven goalscorer at all. None of Cenk Tosun (2/1), Jordan Ayew (11/5) or Christian Benteke (12/5) have scored enough to make us interested at those prices so they're all worth swerving.
Troy Deeney might be worth a look at 15/8. He's got six in his last 11 games and scored a fine goal in that Watford win. There may also be a few takers of Ismaila Sarr at 10/3, featured in the Something for the Weekend column. He scored an excellent brace on Saturday and it should really have been three. If someone's going to come up with a moment of magic in what could be a tight game, it may just be him.
On the same-game multi-bet section we can go with Watford on the double chance market (Watford win or draw) at 4/9 as we've hopefully uncovered enough evidence to suggest that the Hornets should avoid defeat here for the reasons mentioned above.
The stats suggesting this should be low-scoring are pretty damning, too. Under 2.5 goals is 13/20 and we'll take that to complete the double at 2.22. That looks the best bet in the match.