Crystal Palace v West Ham
Saturday October 17, 15:00
Alan Pardew's Palace are purring along in the Premier League. Eight games have yielded five wins, with defeats only coming against the high-class trio of Arsenal, Manchester City and Spurs, and the Eagles currently occupy a Champions League spot. Their performance last time out - a 2-0 home defeat of West Brom - had Pardew making comparisons with his Newcastle side of 2011-12 which finished fifth. After some tough seasons, these are good times in south London.
Pardew may be able to welcome back defenders Joel Ward and Damien Delaney for this clash but given Palace have won their last two, keeping clean sheets in both, the defensive duo will probably have to settle for places on the bench. Connor Wickham may also be available.
The Hammers come into the game on the back of a five-game unbeaten streak and sit just one point and two places behind Palace. Slaven Bilic's side have put together one of the most unpredictable sequence of results in Premier League history with their away form far outstripping that displayed at the Boelyn Ground - four points gained in front of their own fans, but a mighty 10 on their travels. The two title favourites, as well as Liverpool, have been beaten but Bilic's men have only beaten Newcastle at home. Their last two games have not been too impressive either, needing a last minute goal and a second half comeback respectively to secure a point each from a home match against Norwich and a trip to Sunderland. It's very wild and hugely difficult to predict.
Winston Reid has been struggling with a back injury but could feature while Angelo Ogbonna may make a return.
Match Odds - Palace fancied but is the price too short?
Palace's good current form coupled with home advantage means they trade as even money favourites to take the three points. West Ham - the Premier League's best away side - are 4.216/5. The draw is 3.711/4.
But ultimately, while I fancy a home win, I don't find that Palace price persuasive enough to recommend a bet.
What can you say about a West Ham side that failed to add Sunderland to a list of victims that comprised three of the five teams trading in single figures to win the Premier League title? Most assume those early results as anomalies that will soon be replaced by defeats and draws. I guess I am in agreement.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals - Defence v Attack as parsimonious Palace meet free-scoring Hammers
The market can't split the two options here, both trading at just under the even money mark. Can we find an angle?
There is a very clear low-scoring trend in Palace's recent games - Man City and Spurs both defeated the Eagles 1-0 thanks to second-half goals, Watford were then beaten the same way, while the Baggies went down 2-0 at Selhurst Park after Yannick Bolassie and Yohan Cabaye scored after the break. So, three of the last four have gone Under 1.5, and there would have been plenty of trading mileage in the Under 2.5 market last time out.
Unfortunately, we can't say the same of West Ham, who rival Claudio Ranieri's madcap Leicester side for goalscoring. It's been six Premier League games since the Hammers scored less than two in a match.
So, will Palace's defence handle Dimitri Payet and co? It's tough to be too confident, but I find the Palace trend persuasive. West Ham will probably approach this as they did their trips to the big boys and allow the home side more possession while trying to hit on the counter. If the well-drilled Palace back four can avoid conceding an early goal then this should pan out like recent games at Selhurst Park.
On balance the recommendation is back!
Half With Most Goals/Halftime-Fulltime
Given seven of Palace's eight Premier League games have seen the second-half deliver more goals than the opening 45 minutes you could be excused for taking the 21/20 available on the Sportsbook about that happening again.
One other option for those swayed by the trend would be to back Draw/Palace in the Halftime/FT market. Early quotes of 5.24/1 are tempting - Palace's last four victories have come after the game was level at the break.
2pts Back Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.981/1
1pt Back Draw/Palace Halftime/FT @ 5.24/1
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