Crystal Palace v Newcastle: Take it to the Max at Selhurst
Andy Schooler believes Allan Saint-Maximin can light up a low-scoring game when Newcastle head to Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Saturday...
Crystal Palace v Newcastle
Selhust Park has seen fewer goals this season than any other Premier League ground this season and it's rather doubtful that this match will be breaking the trend for low-scoring games in South London.
The contest pits two teams of similar quality against each other. While neither can yet feel their place in next season's Premier League is secure, it's not exactly panic stations with Palace currently enjoying a six-point cushion to the relegation zone and Newcastle seven.
Draw suits all?
That immediately makes the draw (3.45) look a decent possibility - a result which would arguably suit both sides.
Palace have failed to win any of their last seven in the league and look rather skinny at 2.02, while the visitors (4.60) have won just once since a 1-0 victory in the reverse fixture on December 21.
Both teams have long-standing issues in terms of finding the net - there won't be a player on the pitch with more than six league goals to his name this season.
Tomkins a doubt
Palace have netted only 10 home goals, the lowest such figure in the top flight, while their last three games (home and away) have brought just one goal and three defeats. Recently at Selhurst, they've lost to Sheffield United and Southampton without scoring.
A glimmer of hope on that front is the fact that Christian Benteke (below) broke a lengthy goal drought last time out at Everton. He'll surely therefore keep his spot as centre forward, although that also means top scorer Jordan Ayew (that man with six league goals) is forced to play out wide.
Further back, James Tomkins is an injury doubt so could join fellow centre-back Mamadou Sakho on the sidelines. At least Palace are well blessed with central defenders with Gary Cahill likely to play alongside Scott Dann.
They should help keep things fairly solid - while Palace have been low scorers at home they've also conceded just 13 in as many games on home soil.
Newcastle have also struggled for goals (just 12 in 13 away games thus far) with marquee summer signing Joelinton currently very much filed in the flop category. He's managed just one league goal - in August.
At least Allan Saint-Maximin appears to now be producing the sort of form Newcastle were hoping for when they signed him from Nice. More on him shortly.
Admittedly Newcastle have conceded a league-high 28 goals away but that's a stark contrast to some defensively solid performances they've produced at St James' Park.
Against a pretty toothless attack, they should be encouraged.
Certainly last week's 4-0 defeat at Arsenal was harsh. Two late goals resulted in a scoreline that didn't tell the whole story.
It was actually their first defeat in nine - they've drawn an awful lot of late - and I'd expect them to really focus on keeping things tight at the back here, knowing full well they won't be tested as much as they were by the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang last weekend.
Goals at a premium
Goals certainly look set to be in short supply and there will be plenty who will be happy to back under 2.5 goals at 1.59.
That's a bet which has landed in 85% of games at Selhurst this season and also all five meetings between the sides since Newcastle returned to the Premier League.
However, it's not a price to really be tipping up so I'll instead go back to an old favourite which has regularly delivered in games at this ground - a goalless first half.
Follow the trend
Palace have managed just five first-half goals this season with nine of their 13 league games here standing at 0-0 after 45 minutes. That follows a 2018/19 campaign which saw eight of 19 goalless at the break.
Newcastle have netted 11 times in the first half - still not a great figure - and in their last six (all competitions) they've managed to score before the interval against only League One Oxford. Across the same period of games, they've also conceded only one first-half goal.
Under 0.5 first-half goals is on offer at 2.52 and looks a fair play.
It's also worth turning to the aforementioned Saint-Maximin who has looked far and away Newcastle's most dangerous attacker since his return from injury last month.
From his position on the left-hand side, he's scored in two of his last seven matches and rattled the woodwork in two others.
He loves to get a shot away whenever possible, while his dribbling skills may also cause Palace's defenders problems.
A form player in a game likely to be light on goals on a pitch containing no genuine goalscorers, the Frenchman looks too big at 17.00 to score the first goal.
Those who like to play the stats markets should also take the 11/8 on offer with the Sportsbook about Saint-Maximin having at least one shot on target.
He's done that in eight of his last 11 appearances and four of his last five away.
Expect him to warm the hands of Vincente Guaita - or even better, beat him - at some stage.
Crystal Palace have registered just three wins in 17 Premier League games against Newcastle United (D5 L9), failing to score in nine of those games.
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