West Ham v Crystal Palace: Hammers to avoid defeat in capital clash

West Ham midfielder Tomas Soucek
Tomas Soucek scored West Ham's winner in midweek

West Ham are fighting on multiple fronts, and Kevin Hatchard expects them to keep making progress against Crystal Palace.

  • Palace hit by injuries

  • Hammers on a high after Europa League win

  • Soucek shot the key to Bet Builder

  • West Ham v Crystal Palace
    Sunday 03 December, 14:00
    Live on Sky Sports Premier League

    Hammers balancing things better this season

    They say "all's well that ends well", and that was the case for West Ham last season. David Moyes' side ended a stressful relegation battle by staying up with room to spare, and lifted the UEFA Europa Conference League trophy in Prague after a dramatic final showdown with Fiorentina. West Ham had won their first major trophy in decades, but their efforts nearly came at a high price.

    This season, West Ham are on course to win their Europa League group (they just need to avoid defeat at home to Freiburg in their final match), and they already have 20 Premier League points in the bag. That means they are a healthy 15 points above the dropzone, and they have half the points they had last term.

    West Ham have won their last four games in all competitions, and at the London Stadium they have won their last three, including an eye-catching League Cup win against Arsenal. The Hammers have lost just four of their last 22 competitive home matches, and three of those losses were against Manchester City, Liverpool and Newcastle United.

    West Ham have also increased their attacking output this term. They have already slammed in 23 goals in 13 top-flight matches, having only managed 42 league goals in the whole of the last campaign. They have only drawn a blank once this season, in a surprising 1-0 defeat at home to Everton.

    Michail Antonio is definitely out of this game due to injury, while there are slight doubts over Mohammed Kudus and Jarrod Bowen. Alphonse Areola will return in goal after sitting out the 1-0 win at TSC Backa Topola in midweek.

    Palace in a strong position, but what's the plan?

    I like Roy Hodgson very much. I've always found him to be an engaging and generally co-operative interviewee (except during his stressful period as Liverpool manager), and he has built a hugely impressive body of work that has lasted for decades and has spanned several countries at club and international level.

    However, I don't believe his latest spell as Crystal Palace boss should have gone beyond the end of last season. Having rescued the club from the inertia it suffered at the end of Patrick Vieira's reign, Hodgson should perhaps have moved aside so that the club could pursue a longer-term agenda. You may think that is ageist, but the bare truth is that Hodgson is 76 years old, and the Eagles can't keep using him as a safety blanket every time they get into trouble.

    This season has been perfectly fine so far, with the South London side ten points clear of the dropzone, but they have managed only four wins in the league. They have lost four of the last five top-flight matches, and have scored a paltry 13 goals in 13 games.

    There are of course mitigating factors here. Star player Michael Olise has missed much of the early weeks with injury, and his fellow spark Ebere Eze has been in and out too. Without those two, Palace do seem bereft of creativity. There's nothing overly alarming about Palace's form, but there is an element of drift here, and fans are entitled to wonder if there's a long-term plan.

    The squad has been further weakened by a long-term injury for key midfielder Cheick Doucoure, while Eze and Jesurun Rak-Sakyi are also expected to miss out.

    Hammers can at least avoid defeat

    With West Ham strong at home and Palace patched up, I'll use the Bet Builder to combine West Ham/Draw, Over 1.5 Goals and Tomas Soucek to have a shot at 1.9210/11.

    All but one of West Ham's PL matches this term have featured at least two goals, while Soucek has had at least one goal attempt in 14 of his last 19 games for club and country. The Czech international scored a late winner in the Europa League in midweek.

    Back West Ham/Draw, Over 1.5 Goals and Soucek to have a shot at 1.9210/11

    Bet now

    New markets the key to Bet Builder

    We have some new markets here at Betfair on the Sportsbook for your Bet Builders. You can look at how many saves a team's goalkeeper will have to make in a game, so I'll back Palace's keeper to have to make at least three saves.

    I'll add in Lucas Paqueta to commit at least one foul (he has committed 22 already) and I'll back Jordan Ayew to be fouled at least twice. The Ghanaian forward has been fouled at least twice in all but one of his PL appearances this term, so we'll use this new market. That gives us a combined price of 2.8415/8.

    Back Palace keeper to make 3+ saves, Paqueta 1+ fouls and Ayew to be fouled twice or more at 2.8415/8.

    Bet now

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