LEEDS host Crystal Palace on Monday night. Jack Wright (@JackWright_BSB ) is on-hand to preview the match-up.
Leeds vs Crystal Palace | Monday 8th February 2021, 20:00 | Sky Sports
Leeds are harder to work out than who was responsible for the voice inside Dragon on the current season of The Masked Singer – a woeful home defeat to Brighton was soon followed by a hugely impressive 3-1 victory at Leicester, with their last outing producing the enthralling basketball style encounter with Everton on Wednesday which could have gone either way, but was a joy for the neutral.
The Peacocks are as short as 3/4 to claim all three points in this one but a team who have lost half their home games (W3, D2, L5) can’t be backed at such a price in my opinion especially against a side who have already swept them aside 4-1 in the reverse fixture at Selhurst Park and I do wonder if some sides are suited to taking on Marcelo Bielsa’s side and the tactics he implements.
On the Eagles part they visit Elland Road in good heart off the back of successive EPL victories with a come from behind success at Newcastle following a 1-0 home win over Wolves which means Roy Hodgson’s side are tied on points with their Monday night hosts with the knowledge that a third straight win would lift them above Leeds and in to the top ten.
In fact, including the 3-0 reversal to Crawley in the FA Cup the men from Yorkshire have now lost five of their last six competitive fixtures, conceding at least once in all of them and the manner of what turned out to be Dominic Calvert-Lewin's winner for the Toffees saw the return of what has been an Achilles heel for Bielsa’s side.
No EPL side has conceded more than the 11 set piece goals Leeds have and when you allow the opposition to win two headers from a corner, as was the case when Ben Godfrey’s simple near post flick on from Gylfi Sigurdsson’s flag kick was nodded home by DCL you are asking for trouble.
Dig deeper and we find that via understat.com Leeds have offered up 48 shots from corners this campaign and a total of 68 from set piece situations not taking in to account direct free kick shots or penalties, that total is the sixth highest in the league with only the likes of relegation threatened Sheffield United and West Brom conceding more.
One man who will be looking to take advantage of that set-piece generosity is Gary Cahill who got off the mark for the season in his last outing with a fine headed goal in the aforementioned win at St. James Park.
With the likes of Christian Benteke and Michy Batshuayi to contend with, it would be no surprise to see one of Palace’s defenders in the form of Scott Dann or Cheik Kouyate find space to test 21-year-old Illan Meslier in the home goal.
However, I am hoping after scoring his first goal for the club, Cahill has the taste for more and with a record of 21 attempts from 25 appearances last season he clearly has the knack of getting his head on the end of any set piece situations the Eagles create.
At time of writing prices are yet to be released by either Sky Bet or Betfair/Paddy Power for my requested headed shots on target – but worth a check prior to kick off – so instead I will settle with the 4/1 on offer from Sky for a Gary Cahill shot on target and at 40/1 I’m also having some loose change on two or more efforts on target from the former England defender – just as he did against Burnley last term.
One possible explanation for the temptingly lengthy quote of 7/2 (SBK) for a Crystal Palace win here is the absence of talisman Wilfried Zaha, who picked up a hamstring injury midweek and while it's still being assessed, he'll miss at least this trip to Leeds.
Although the Ivory Coast international is renowned as a quick healer Roy Hodgson has already ruled him out and it is hard to place a value on just how big a loss not having him on the field will be to Palace, not only is he his contribution of nine EPL goals from just 19 appearances, but because quite often the focus is on him; he frees up space for other attackers.
One of those attackers is Eberechi Eze, who has been a joy to watch in his first campaign in England’s top flight following his summer move from QPR.
Eze recorded an assist from the three chances he created, attempting three crosses of which two were accurate and one corner in Tuesday's 2-1 win in the North East – the assist being for that aforementioned Gary Cahill winner.
The 22-year-old Londoner has strongly benefited from starting as a central attacking midfielder rather than from the left flank, contributing to two of Crystal Palace's three goals across their back-to-back wins and with Zaha’s absence I’m taking him to show he can fill the void left behind, staking claim to become the new favourite of the vociferous Selhurst Park fans…when they return.
Although assists, shots and goals are all within his repertoire I can see this being a game where he can showcase his skill, dribbling, tackling back and all-round dynamism which lends itself perfectly to a high rating in the whoscored.com stats.
A season average of 6.87 sits him only behind the absent Zaha for the visitors and although there are several Leeds players who can better that average IF Palace are to spring a surprise, Eze would be in perfect shape to be the Whoscored man of the match as he has done on three previous occasions.