Crystal Palace v Fulham: Cottagers can continue surge towards safety

Andrew Atherley says Scott Parker's side have a big chance to grab three points at Selhurst Park on Sunday...

Breathing space for Palace

Crystal Palace gave themselves some breathing space above the drop zone with Monday night's 2-1 win at Brighton and this is another chance to take three points off one of the teams below them in the table.

Roy Hodgson's team start this match 10 points ahead of Fulham and another victory would move them a big step towards Premier League security. Hodgson may well see a point as a good result, however, and put the onus on Fulham to come out looking for the win.

Palace are still seriously weakened by the absence of Wilfried Zaha with a hamstring injury.

Hodgson's long injury list also includes defenders Mamadou Sakho and James Tomkins, plus midfielders Jeffrey Schlupp and James McArthur.

Fulham have a fighting chance

Fulham are unbeaten in four matches and have given themselves a fighting chance of avoiding relegation, having taken eight points from the last 12.

Last week's 1-0 home win over Sheffield United put them only three points behind Newcastle at the end of the weekend and, thanks to their overall competitiveness going back several months, they have the advantage of a reasonable goal difference.

Scott Parker has done a good job to turn their fortunes around but this is a fresh test of his squad's nerve now that safety is a realistic prospect.

Parker has his key players available again, although Tom Cairney is out with a knee injury and Aleksandar Mitrovic only recently came back into training after suffering from Covid-19.

Momentum with Parker's side

Palace won without Zaha at Brighton but overall they have lost 18 of their last 21 Premier League games in which their talisman hasn't played, with the Eagles failing to score in 16 of those 18 defeats.

The weight of evidence still indicates problems without Zaha. Brighton dominated Monday's game with three-quarters of the possession and 25 shots, and it was a smash-and-grab from Palace as they scored with their only two shots on target.

A more positive reading of that result is that new arrival Jean-Philippe Mateta notched his first goal for Palace, the all-important opener, and Christian Benteke scored the late winner after coming on for Mateta. Those contributions could be taken as a sign that Hodgson's attack has more depth now, with attacking midfielder Eberechi Eze also making a difference this season.

Fulham lost the reverse fixture 2-1 at Craven Cottage on October 24 but it is a measure of their improvement that they have not lost to a side outside the top seven since then.

In fact, in 15 Premier League games since the start of December, their only defeats have been against Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United and Leicester - all teams in the thick of the battle for the title and Champions League places.

The problem for Fulham until very recently was their high draw rate, but they have started to change that with the 2-0 win at Everton and last week's victory over Sheffield United.

Arguably those results have been coming but the addition of Josh Maja up front has also made a difference. Fulham have scored in all three matches when Maja has started, kicking off with his two match-winning goals in his first start at Everton.

Before he was brought into the starting XI, Fulham had failed to score in three of the previous four league games.

Momentum is much more with Fulham but backers are faced with fairly short odds of 2.32, which is more in line with what you would expect for a visiting team that is pushing for European qualification.

It is difficult to argue that Fulham are a great value bet but those Zaha stats are hard to ignore with Palace and an away win seems the most likely result.

Trending towards low goals

Fulham rank second for under 2.5 goals with 17 of their 25 games (68%) ending that way.

The trend has been firmly in that direction with 13 of the last 15 (87%) having under 2.5 goals.

Palace are in the mid-range for goals (13 over 2.5 goals, 12 under), although matches where they concede tend to go high.

Eight of the last 12 games where the opposition scored had over 2.5 goals.

There is the possibility of Hodgson playing a cagey game here and Palace's goals figures are lower at home (58% under 2.5), so under 2.5 goals seems the way to go at 1.65.




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