Weblog: The football punter

Palace can play their part in derby thriller

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Arsenal's dismal away record of two wins from nine road trips is undermining their Champions League qualification hopes and another precious two points could be frittered away when the Gunners take on improving Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

Palace are on an eight-match unbeaten run - the best they have achieved in the top flight during the Premier League era - but they cannot afford to rest on their laurels because they remain in the thick of a congested relegation battle.

Given their horrendous start, when they suffered seven straights defeats without scoring a goal, it was an impressive achievement to have climbed out of the drop zone by Christmas Day.

But Palace are far from safe and they know they will have to play well over the next three months to avoid getting dragged back into the bottom three.

Seven of their next 13 matches are against big-six opponents including two clashes with the Gunners, the second at the Emirates in January.

Palace were in a similar position this time last season and got out of trouble with the help of some fantastic results against big teams - winning at Chelsea (3-0), at home to Arsenal (3-0) and away to Liverpool (2-1).

Arsenal's dismal defeat at Selhurst Park last season stands out as the low point of their campaign and they will be determined to avoid a repeat.

However, they were defensively poor in a 3-3 draw at home to Liverpool last Friday and can expect a stern examination from a Palace attack reinforced by Christian Benteke's return from suspension.

Benteke had a big influence on Palace's 3-0 win at Leicester - providing a trademark headed goal and a clever assist - but his campaign has been disrupted by injury problems and the best of his attacking partnership with Wilfried Zaha may be yet to come.

Palace have goals in them but their rearguard is under-strength with Mamadou Sakho - their best defender - out long-term.

Since Sakho's injury they have conceded just two goals in three games but haven't faced anything like the attacking weapons which Arsenal have.

Arsenal always seem to play better when Mesut Ozil is at his best.

Earlier in the season Ozil was getting plenty of stick but he has been outstanding in recent weeks and scored sublime goals in each of the last two league games.

Alexis Sanchez has been far less impressive and Alexandre Lacazette is having a quiet spell - scoring twice in his last eight appearances - but Arsenal's attacking trio came to life in a stunning five-minute spell against Liverpool (each had a hand in the three goals) and they are sure to be feared by the home supporters.

Palace's defence will not be able to cope if Arsenal's talented attackers are on song but Zaha, Benteke and Andros Townsend can cause problems at the other end and may do enough to salvage a high-scoring draw.

2-2 draw

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Leicester v Man City

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Expert verdict
Leicester have navigated consecutive penalty shootouts to book their place in the last eight of the League Cup but their luck looks set to run out against Manchester City. Pep Guardiola sent out strong sides in League Cup defeats of Fulham (2-0) and Oxford United (3-0) and City should ease through.