Simon Mail previews the Boxing Day Premier League clash at Selhurst Park between Crystal Palace and a well-rested West Ham...
"Crystal Palace's last five matches have each seen no more than two goals scored. Nine of Palace's ten home games this season have also seen under 2.5 goals."
Crystal Palace v West Ham
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Palace holding their own under Hodgson
Crystal Palace are in a relatively comfortable position, sitting 12th in the Premier League, with Roy Hodgson once again keeping the club away from the relegation zone. The Eagles' 2-1 victory at Manchester United in August remains the highlight and their defensive solidity has kept them competitive in all their games.
Hodgson was left frustrated after his side lost 1-0 at Newcastle United on Saturday. Palace's lack of goals proved their undoing again with the team managing just 15 in 18 matches. Wilfried Zaha remains their main creative outlet but the team do tend to be over-reliant on the attacker's ability. Finding a goalscorer in the January transfer window should be a priority for Hodgson if his team are to threaten a top half finish.
Pellegrini under pressure to keep his job
West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini is holding onto his job with intense speculation over his future following a turbulent run. The Hammers are only two places above the relegation zone and the fans' expectations have not been met this season. A seven-game winless run pushed West Ham into trouble before a shock 1-0 win at Chelsea last month.
Back-to-back defeats against Wolves and at home to Arsenal heightened the pressure on Pellegrini but the Irons secured a vital 1-0 victory at Southampton after a first-half winner from Sebastien Haller. West Ham have a four-point buffer over the bottom three but the festive period will be significant with the chance to climb towards mid-table. The Hammers should be well rested after having last weekend off, due to Liverpool's Club World Cup involvement.
Eagles short enough for festive victory
Crystal Palace are 2.3211/8 favourites but the hosts cannot be considered reliable at short odds. Palace are without a victory in three matches and their best performances have again come on the road. With just three wins from nine games at Selhurst Park this season, Palace can be left alone at an unappealing price.
West Ham can be backed at 3.259/4 and the visitors have the advantage of coming into this contest fresh which could be significant. It is hard to know which West Ham side will turn up though, with their inconsistency bewildering supporters. If they reproduce their Chelsea performance, this price could look very generous but the team remain extremely difficult to trust.
The draw is the biggest price at 3.65 and certainly merits consideration. Two of Crystal Palace's last three matches have ended in a stalemate and this looks a closely-matched contest. Three of the last five meetings between the sides have ended in a draw, suggesting this is the best option in a tricky betting market.
Goals could be in short supply
The best bet for this Boxing Day clash could be to back a low-scoring affair. Crystal Palace's last five matches have each seen no more than two goals scored. Nine of Palace's ten home games this season have also seen under 2.5 goals. The Eagles have failed to score in eight of their 18 league fixtures and their attacking limitations could hinder them again.
West Ham have also lacked potency in the final third, scoring just 19 goals in 17 league matches. Four of the Irons' last five away matches have produced two goals or less so there looks a strong chance of another low-scoring contest. It was a surprise to see 2.0421/20 available on under 2.5 goals and this looks well worth backing.
Crystal Palace's home games have seen fewer goals scored than other Premier League sides this season, with just 15 scored at Selhurst Park this season. Under 1.5 goals can be backed at 3.9.
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P/L 2019-20 season
Back under 2.5 goals at 2.0421/20