Crystal Palace v Man Utd
Saturday May 9, 17:30
Live on Sky Sports 1
Technically Palace are not safe, but they are to all intents and purposes despite a run of three consecutive defeats without scoring. That leaves them with nothing tangible to play for, whereas United still have to secure fourth place and will be under threat again if they drop points here.
That type of scenario is always tricky for punters late in the season, although the Selhurst Park faithful will demand commitment from their team and Palace do have the minor target of taking four more points to beat last year’s total.
Wilfried Zaha will be keen to prove a point after hardly getting a chance at Old Trafford and there be more options up front with the likely availability of strikers Fraizer Campbell and Marouane Chamakh after hamstring injuries. Mile Jedinak could return in midfield after being rested for last week’s 1-0 defeat at Chelsea.
United need five more points to be sure of fourth place (assuming Liverpool do not turn around a sizeable goals deficit as well as catching them on points) and a win here would be enough if Liverpool are then beaten at Chelsea on Sunday.
There have been a few stumbles recently with three consecutive defeats (all to nil) and that has left them facing a pre-season qualifier for the Champions League assuming they do stay in fourth place.
Robin Van Persie returned against West Brom last week, missing a penalty in the 1-0 defeat, but the injury list included Michael Carrick (calf), Phil Jones (ankle), Jonny Evans (knock), Rafael Da Silva (rib), Marcos Rojo (abdomen) and Luke Shaw (groin).
Carrick could return, while Jones is expected to replace Paddy McNair alongside Smalling in central defence. If Carrick is still out, Ander Herrera could fill the holding position with Wayne Rooney in a more advanced midfield role and Van Persie up front again.
United fans would no doubt like to see Rooney in attack, which was a major catalyst in their best run of the season, but it may not be possible.
United are probably shorter than they should be at [1.94], primarily because they are perceived to be more committed to winning this game. That is a difficult factor to weigh up and it could prove a risky assumption because on form United are far from a solid odds-on chance.
They have managed only five away wins this season – the fewest among the top eight sides – and not one has come against the mid-table group of which Palace are now part. United’s last visit to one of those sides resulted in a 3-0 defeat at Everton a fortnight ago.
Palace have proved themselves capable of beating the top teams at Selhurst Park – both last season under Tony Pulis and again since Alan Pardew took charge in January – but they tend to be hit and miss, and recently it has been mainly miss after successive home defeats to nil by West Brom and Hull.
The form of their earlier home wins against Tottenham and Manchester City (both 2-1) gives them a chance of an upset at [4.6] but there is a question mark over whether they can reach those heights at the moment.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
Both teams have failed to score in their last three games, but the odds may be skewed a little too much towards under 2.5 goals as a result.
The broader form lines point towards goals: before the recent drought, Palace had scored in 10 of their 12 league games under Pardew and gone over 2.5 goals in eight of them, while United had done likewise in six straight away games before they started to stumble.
It is also notable that United have scored in seven out of nine against the mid-table group of teams, with both teams scoring in six of those matches.
Eight of the 10 games in which Palace have scored for Pardew have gone over 2.5 goals and that possibility seems underestimated. At [2.14] Over 2.5 Goals looks the best bet.
Back Over 2.5 Goals at [2.14] (1pt)
Staked: 75 pts
Returned: 77.65 pts
P/L: +2.65 pts