Swansea have parted company with yet another manager, but may still adopt their usual safety-first approach against Crystal Palace, writes Kevin Hatchard.
"Palace are keeping plenty of clean sheets on their travels, while Swansea are defensively sound but dreadful in attack."
Swansea v Crystal Palace
Saturday December 23, 15:00
Sinking Swans have taken drastic action
As it turned out, Monday's 3-1 defeat at Everton was the final straw when it came to Paul Clement's tenure as Swansea manager. A run of eight defeats in ten Premier League games had left Swansea bottom of the standings, and the second-half collapse at Goodison Park prompted action, albeit two days later.
Clement had worked miracles at the back end of last season to keep the Swans in the Premier League, but the wine turned back into water this term, and the manager was hamstrung by incredible ineptitude in the transfer market. A club that was once known for shrewd transfer dealings allowed star players Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente to leave without adequate replacements lined up, and risky moves like the acquisition of under-performing Bayern Munich midfielder Renato Sanches simply didn't pay off. Clement was left with a squad that lacks depth and firepower.
Whoever takes over will need to spend in January, especially in attacking positions. Wilfried Bony isn't fully fit, and on-loan Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham is in his first proper season as a Premier League player. Swansea have scored just 10 goals in 18 Premier League matches, a pitiful record.
Caretaker player-boss Leon Britton, one of the most dedicated servants in the club's history, says he must give the players clarity and confidence. He must also find a way to fire up the attack, as the south Wales side have drawn a blank in three of their last four home matches.
Hodgson making strides with Palace, but there is still work to do
Just as Swansea aren't yet doomed, Crystal Palace are far from safe, despite a distinct upturn in results since veteran manager Roy Hodgson replaced Frank De Boer in the managerial hot-seat. That said, Palace are unbeaten in seven games, and last weekend they picked up their first away win of the season as they won 3-0 at Leicester City. The result was all the more remarkable for the fact that the Eagles hadn't managed a single goal on their travels in the league all season before that blitz at the King Power Stadium.
What Palace have started to do is keep clean sheets, especially on their travels. At the Liberty Stadium they'll be chasing a fourth straight shut-out on the road, and they haven't let in a Premier League goal away from home since the first week of November. Intriguingly, six of nine of Palace's away games in the league have featured fewer than three goals, while at Selhurst Park, seven of their nine league games have seen an Over 2.5 Goals bet land.
Midfielder Luka Milivojevic is back from suspension, but striker Christian Benteke is banned. Bakary Sako may get the nod to partner the outstanding Wilfried Zaha in attack.
Crystal Palace are on far better form than Swansea, but they have only won once on their travels in the league, and so at 2.546/4 they seem a touch short. If you really want to back them, I'd advise backing them Draw No Bet at 1.758/11. However, the Swans may be given a short-term boost by Clement's dismissal (harsh, but often the way), and it's worth noting they have only lost three of their last six PL home games. I'll be looking elsewhere.
Caution likely to be the watchword for both sides
This is a huge game in the context of the relegation battle, so I don't expect many risks to be taken. Swansea are desperately struggling in front of goal, and Palace have only scored in one away game all season in the league.
It's absolutely no surprise to see Under 2.5 Goals trading at 1.625/8, but I am pleasantly surprised to see No in the Both Teams To Score market trading at 1.9110/11, especially when you consider that bet has paid out in every single one of Palace's away games in the Premier League this term.
A goalless first half is a realistic proposition
Four of Palace's last five away games in the league have been goalless at half time. Swansea haven't scored a first-half goal at home since the middle of October, so you could go down the route of backing 0-0 in the Half Time Score market at 1.981/1.
Kevin Hatchard 2017-18 Premier League P/L
Points Staked: 29
Points Returned: 39.33
P/L: +10.33 points
Back No in the Both Teams To Score market at 1.9110/11