The key issue in Crystal Palace v Hull on Saturday may well be whether the visitors can keep a clean sheet. If the relegation strugglers prove incapable of doing so, the stats are strongly in favour of a Palace win at attractive odds of [2.06].
Hull can be obdurate opponents but they have managed only two clean sheets since New Year’s Day and have lost seven of the 10 Premier League games in which they have conceded during that run.
Both of the clean sheets came against fellow strugglers (2-0 at home to Aston Villa and 0-0 away to Leicester) and their last shutout against a team in good form was the goalless draw at Liverpool on October 25.
That indicates problems against Palace, who rank fifth on current form in the Premier League (over the last 10 games) despite last week’s 2-0 home defeat by West Brom.
It is interesting to note that on New Year’s Day – shortly before Alan Pardew was confirmed as the new Palace boss – Hull were 15th in the Premier League, two points ahead of 18th-placed Palace.
Since then Palace have powered away from the relegation battle to such an extent that they are now 11th and 14 points clear of Hull, who have dropped to 17th and are outside the relegation zone only on goal difference.
The divergence in the respective form lines is explained largely by their goalscoring stats. Whereas Pardew has brought massive improvement to Palace by unleashing their attack to such an extent that only four teams (all in the top six) have scored more during his reign, Steve Bruce’s Hull have managed the fewest goals in that same period apart from Sunderland.
That leaves Bruce’s side heavily reliant on a clean sheet, especially against the better teams. Since early December they have taken a solitary point from 10 matches when conceding against a team outside the relegation battle (that is, above the bottom six).
Scoring against Hull is often enough to take all three points. Their record in the last 14 games in which they have conceded is W2 D2 L10 and their scoring weakness is further highlighted by the fact that they have lost all eight games in which they conceded first since the 3-1 win at Sunderland on Boxing Day.
Scoring first would give Hull something to cling on to, of course, but Palace look hard to stop on recent form.
West Brom were only the third team to shut out Palace in 13 Premier League games under Pardew (the others were Everton and Southampton) and the importance of doing that is clear from Palace’s strong record of W8 D1 L1 when scoring for Pardew.
The last time Palace scored and yet failed to win was in the 2-1 home defeat by Arsenal on February 21, and clearly Hull are well below that class of opponent.
There is a slight question mark over whether Palace’s defeat by West Brom was a sign of easing off now they are safely in mid-table, but it is a difficult case to argue either way and the solid form evidence indicates Palace are good value.
Back Crystal Palace to beat Hull at [2.06] (1pt)
Staked: 73 pts
Returned: 77.65 pts
P/L: +4.65 pts