Brighton v Crystal Palace: Zaha to play leading role in M23 derby


BRIGHTON host Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon in the Premier League. Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) analyses the encounter.

Brighton v Crystal Palace | Saturday 29th February 2020, 12:30 | BT Sport

Brighton and Crystal Palace reconvene for the second M23 derby in 2019/20, or a low to mid-table battle to those that do not support either team.

To many, this is a strange ‘derby’ with no obvious geographical or historical reasons for the animosity coming about but make no mistake, these two really don’t like each other.

It was in the 1970’s that this rivalry built up as both clubs set their sights on reaching the First Division. Several incidents during or following on from games between the two in that decade led to the hatred growing and in recent times, the two locked horns again in the Championship promotion races in the early part of the last decade and now more regularly as relatively stable Premier League clubs.

Heading into this weekend and it’s safe to say that Roy Hodgson’s Palace are feeling more sure about their top-flight status than the Seagulls with a five-point gap over their rivals and a nine-point buffer to the relegation zone.

On 33 points, Palace know that they are realistically only two wins from safety but with other teams in-and-around them to come in the next few weeks, they can ill afford to take their foot off the gas otherwise they will be dragged right back into the mire.

It’s been a solid yet unspectacular season for Palace. Despite a crippling injury list at times, Hodgson has got the best out of his threadbare squad by, on the whole, becoming tough to break down in games and paying through their wide men on the counter.

No more so than through the creative talents of Wilfred Zaha. At his best, he’s amongst the best wingers in the Premier League but his temperament can be a problem and he’s easily wound up by opposition fans and players when it’s not going his way which leaves his team-mates without a focused key player.

Brighton will likely do the same here – get in amongst the Ivorian and make him the pantomime villain – but with six career goals against the Gulls in 11 matches, including the equaliser at Selhurst Park earlier this season, I think he’ll be up for making an impact and plunging his team’s biggest rivals into further trouble.

Zaha is 11/8 with PaddyPower to land a shot on target and I like the look of that. Sure, Brighton should have more of the ball and the chances but with 44% of the away side’s play coming down the left flank, you would expect Zaha to get in decent positions to run at the slow Brighton back line and get a chance or two away at goal.

I mentioned Zaha’s temper and with four bookings in his last seven meetings with Brighton, I think 6/1 with Bet365 on him to receive a card again is too big.

The referee for this game is Martin Atkinson who has had his fair share of drama with Wilf this season. Firstly, he booked the wide man at the Emirates back in October for diving, only for the decision to be overturned by VAR. Then during a game at Watford in December, Atkinson booked Zaha for a challenge on Kabasele to which the player responded with sarcastic clapping in the official’s face so he was lucky to stay on the pitch.

Atkinson will have remembered this and should Zaha become petulant again, I’m sure he’ll have no hesitation in producing another card for the talisman. It was Troy Deeney who admitted that teams take turns in fouling the winger and share the cards about to stop him from playing so if Brighton do the same here, the frustration could easy build and maybe blow over.

Another player I like the look of on the prop markets is James McArthur. The experienced Scotsman is no stranger to a card himself but it’s the tackle lines that interest me here.

The 32 year-old may have only completed two in the reverse game but he attempted a whopping seven in total so if he gets stuck in the same amount of times here then I’d be confident in him winning more than a couple so therefore, 3+ tackles with SkyBet at Evens appeals.

McArthur’s highest completed tackle rates across the season have come against sides that have dominated the ball against Palace which I think Brighton will do again, maybe matching their 65% possession in the first fixture this season between the two.

The opponents when McArthur has had four more successful tackles this season have been Everton x2, Arsenal x2, Aston Vila, Wolves and Chelsea and with no player attempting more tackles than the midfielder in the Palace squad (4.2 per game), I think the evens price should be taken on.

It’s a tough match to call on the outrights, with the recent head-to-heads being surprisingly goal heavy but if I had to go any way, I’d stick my neck out and say that Brighton will win narrowly in a physical contest. Graham Potter’s men need to start winning again soon and they have a good platform to build on after a decent point at Sheffield United last weekend.

Best Bets

Brighton v Crystal Palace – Wilfred Zaha 1+ Shot on Target (11/8 PaddyPower)

Brighton v Crystal Palace – Wilfred Zaha to be booked (6/1 Bet365)

Brighton v Crystal Palace – James McArthur 3+ tackles (1/1 SkyBet)

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