This week, half of the Premier League teams are playing to catch up with the rest of the league’s fixtures. The midweek action involves two derbies. One in Manchester and the other in London. Sam Allardyce awaits with his Crystal Palace, who beat Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday night. Their visitors are Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham, who lost their FA Cup semi-final to Chelsea on Saturday. The contrast in these two sides’ fortunes does not end at the immediately previous results. It includes their overall aim for the season, the end of the table each of them occupy, and their playing styles.
Sam Allardyce had recently stated that he believes 38 points to be enough to beat relegation this season. His team delivered a victory at Anfield and secured that tally on Sunday. But he would want his side to assure survival by using their recent form to stun Tottenham, just like they stunned Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea earlier. Crystal Palace are 7 points above 18th placed Swansea. Given their form and the forms of the teams below them, the Eagles are not in any great danger of relegation but a win or even a draw on Wednesday would move them closer to mathematical certainty.
Tottenham Hotspur on the other hand come into the match having suffered a defeat after a fairly long run of victories. They have won seven league games on the trot but have now lost a very real opportunity to win some silverware this season. They are still in hunt for the league title but it would need a really bad collapse from the Chelsea side that beat them on Saturday for Spurs to get their hands on the league trophy. However, as long as the mathematical possibility exists, Spurs will be keen to make a run for the title. If Chelsea drop any points, Pochettino will want his side to be in a position to capitalise. He will also be keen to put to rest his side’s recently poor record in London derbies.
- The Eagles lost each of their last three league games against Tottenham; they haven’t lost four successive games to Spurs in the Premier League era.
- After failing to win 11 successive top-flight London derbies (D2 L9), Crystal Palace have won their last two – they’ve never won three successive London derbies in the Premier League.
- Spurs haven’t won an away top-flight London derby since their last visit to Selhurst Park in January 2016, failing to win each of the last four trips in London (D2 L2).
- Mauricio Pochettino has led Spurs to seven successive league victories in a run starting two months ago. This is his best-ever winning run as a manager in any league competition.
- Sam Allardyce is unbeaten in his last four at Selhurst Park (W3 D1), with the Eagles keeping a clean sheet in each of those victories.
Crystal Palace’s recent run of form has been dependent on two players supplied by Liverpool. Of them, Benteke who was bought from the Reds in the summer has been the biggest goal threat carried by the Eagles. 14 goals in 33 appearances is not extra ordinary but his goals and the way they are scored, have given Allardyce the platform to pursue his defensively strong tactics. The Belgian does not have a very good history against Spurs, having scored only one goal against them in 5 games. However, just like he had a point to prove at Anfield, he will want to improve his record against Tottenham. His recent goal scoring form also has been really great, having scored six goals and provided one assist in last five league matches.
Pochettino has many goal scorers at his disposal and all of them have been scoring quite freely lately, but the main goal scoring threat from this Spurs side is Harry Kane. Especially so, if the match in question is a London derby. In 24 London derbies, Kane has scored 18 goals (0.75 per game), which is the best ratio among players who have played five or more derbies. His recent form has also been as good, if not better than Benteke’s – having scored 6 goals and provided two assists in last five league matches (10 scored in last 8 in all competitions). This includes a hat-trick and a brace. Against Palace though, his record is slightly moderate having scored two and provided an assist in seven appearances.
For Crystal Palace, Mamadou Sakho is eligible to play again after sitting out against his parent team on Sunday. He will possibly replace Mark Kelly in the side when he comes back on Wednesday. Connor Wickham, Scott Dann and Pape Souare remain sidelined with injuries, while Lois Remy is possibly lacking match fitness. As a result, Allardyce might field the same side that won at Liverpool, barring the inclusion of Sakho.
Tottenham could welcome Ben Davies back, which will mean a role more upfield for Son Heung-min. The other possible change from the side that lost to Chelsea could be that Kyle Walker starts this game in the place of Kieran Trippier. Lamela, Winks and Michel Vorm continue to be sidelined for Spurs.
The Eagles have recently excelled at Selhurst Park, especially in London derbies. Having made a mockery of their extremely difficult (on paper) run of games by winning against Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, their confidence will be high. But they no longer have to fight for relegation, as per their manager’s estimations, and hence might be slightly relaxed. On the other hand, Spurs will want to bounce back urgently after their semi-final loss and will feel that Crystal Palace is great preparation for Sunday’s North London derby. Spurs will also have more tricks in their bag than what Palace faced at Anfield, with multiple players within their attack who can score. Ability-wise and perhaps hunger-wise, Spurs are more likely to edge Wednesday’s encounter, even though Allardyce’s men will make it hard for them.
Crystal Palace 1 – 2 Tottenham Hotspur