Tottenham v Crystal Palace Wednesday 03 April, 19:45
Justifiable optimism as stadium dream becomes reality
As Spurs finally end their long wait for a new home, it's a good time to reflect on what has been achieved by Mauricio Pochettino and his players during a time of angst and frustration. Despite playing every game for the best part of two seasons on the road (Wembley was never truly a home), Tottenham have reached the knockout phase of the Champions League twice, secured one top-three finish and are in the mix for another, and have reached two domestic cup semi-finals. Pochettino has been consistently banging the drum regarding his players' progress against the odds, and he is right to do so.
Pochettino is the standard-bearer, the fulcrum around which the entire Tottenham project revolves. His continued involvement with the Lilywhites was surely the driving force behind Harry Kane and Dele Alli's decision to sign new long-term contracts, and his capacity to improve players has been consistently remarkable. In his four completed seasons at the helm, he has led Spurs to fifth, third, second and third. Before the Argentinean arrived in north London, Tottenham hadn't finished in the top three since 1990. Fans will doubtless be delighted that Zinedine Zidane has made a dramatic return to Real Madrid, and that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has smiled, encouraged and coached his way into an extended stay at Manchester United.
For Poch's project to survive, forward momentum must be maintained, and a sparkling space-age arena can underpin that progress. For all of the justifiable anger fans have felt about delays and what some perceive as misinformation, those grievances will be forgotten if good results continue to be achieved in a new home that will be the envy of many.
On the pitch, Tottenham have seen their title push fade into nothing after a poor run that has seen them collect a solitary point from the last five games. However, scratch beneath the surface, and there is no need for fans to panic. Four of those five matches were on the road, and performances have not always matched results. For example, defeat at Liverpool was courtesy of a late goal and harsh after a fine second-half display. Also, Spurs have picked up ten points from their last four "home" matches.
Palace almost safe, and can play party pooper role
Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson has an avuncular air, but there is a steely streak underneath that kindly exterior. After his side's deeply unimpressive 2-0 win over now-relegated Huddersfield on Saturday, Hodgson bemoaned a first-half display that had clearly infuriated him. While the Eagles are now just a win or two from safety, they have suffered a wobble of late, losing three of their last five games.
That said, Palace have a habit of ruffling the feathers of the top teams, especially away from Selhurst Park. They won at Manchester City, pushed Liverpool very hard at Anfield in a 4-3 loss and held Manchester United to a goalless draw at Old Trafford.
One thing Palace almost always do on their travels is score. They have found the net in their last eight Premier League away games, but it's also worth noting they kept just one clean sheet in that sequence.
Spurs rightly favourites, but too short to get excited
Tottenham are trading at 1.50 to take the three points, and while they'll doubtless be lifted by their new surroundings, recent results make that price somewhat unattractive. Palace have only lost one of their last six away matches, and seem to raise their game against the big hitters, as they did when they knocked Tottenham out of the FA Cup in late January.
If you're convinced that Spurs will start life in their shiny stadium with a win, you can use the Sportsbook to back a Tottenham/Over 2.5 Goals double at 11/10 or a Tottenham/Both Teams To Score double at 21/10.
Palace's recent away record makes me hesitate when it comes to a home win, so I'll back Both Teams To Score at 1.85.
Son to end his drought?
When Tottenham's talismanic skipper Harry Kane was injured, Heung-Min Son took centre stage by scoring in four consecutive games. Since Kane's return, the South Korean hasn't netted in the league, although he did score recently for his country.
Son was only a substitute at Anfield, so there's every chance he'll start on Wednesday night, and against a Palace defence that always gives up a few opportunities he could well end his barren spell. He is trading at 2.20to score in 90 minutes, while Kane (who has scored in six of his last eight appearances) is priced at 1.68.
Wilfried Zaha was really dangerous against Huddersfield when he was moved into the attack in the second half, and he has scored five goals in his last seven appearances. He is trading at a hefty 4.40 to find the net.