Weblog: The football punter

Palace can provide tough test for tired Tottenham

Premier League
BT Sport 1, 5.30pm Saturday

Crystal Palace bloodied Arsenal's noses by claiming a 2-2 draw in their last home match and they can do some damage to another north London heavyweight by holding Tottenham at Selhurst Park.

The Eagles are taking on their third of four successive league matches against big six teams and can be pleased with how they acquitted themselves in the first two.

They were worth at least a point against Arsenal, having won the shot count 16 to seven, and were heading for another draw at Chelsea until substitute Eden Hazard came off the bench to change the course of the match.

While Chelsea fans were delighting in Hazard's match-winning contribution, Palace boss Roy Hodgson was bemoaning his team's poor defending for the second and third Chelsea goals.

But there were plenty of positives for Palace to take out of the performance and they can provide a stern test for Spurs, who are completing a gruelling set of five fixtures in 13 days.

Tottenham have shown a steely side by responding to a tight 1-0 loss at home to Manchester City with three hard-fought wins in three different competitions – winning 3-1 at West Ham, 3-2 at Wolves and 2-1 to home to PSV Eindhoven.

Their efforts have kept them in the EFL Cup and Champions League and returned them to the top four in the Premier League.

Not much has come easy for Spurs and their scratchy performances have attracted criticism.

But Tottenham's 24-point tally from 11 games is the second highest they have managed at this stage of a Premier League season and the highest achieved under Mauricio Pochettino.

The record, for the benefit of Harry Redknapp and Gary Neville, was set in 2011-12.

Given the handicap of playing at Wembley and the lop-sided fixture list – Palace away will be their eighth road trip in 12 league games – Spurs can be fairly pleased.

However, they are not playing well enough to trust at odds-on against a Palace team who are probably a fair bit better than their league placing suggests.

Palace's reliance on Wilfried Zaha is always brought up as a point of weakness but other teams in the bottom half will be looking on in envy and wishing they had a top class match-winner in their side.

Zaha has a few moans at officials but seems to relish the responsibility of being Palace's leading man and came up with the goods against Arsenal, winning the second penalty which allowed Luka Milivojevic to stroke home an 83rd minute leveller.

Palace need a stronger supporting cast and may look to add to attacking resources in January but they have a decent defensive base to work with.

They have conceded seven goals in five home league games which is respectable bearing in mind two of those games were against Liverpool and Arsenal.

Set-pieces are an area where they may look to take advantage against Spurs, who lacked height against PSV and took less than two minutes to concede a headed goal to Luuk de Jong.

Palace's centre-backs, James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho, will take a keen interest in corners and free-kicks but the bigger danger could be midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate, who is powerful in the air.

Kouyate is 25-1 to notch first and looks value in a tight game which may finish with honours even.


C Kouyate first scorer

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Match in Focus


Charlton v Sunderland

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Sunderland drew 20 of their 48 league and playoff games this season.
Expert verdict
After missing out on automatic promotion and scraping past Portsmouth, nerves could set in for Sunderland at Wembley. But they are resolute defensively and it could take time for Charlton, who have already been to the national stadium and lost once this year, to wear them down.