Leeds vs Crystal Palace | Tuesday 30th November 2021, 20:15 | Amazon
This is a huge week for Leeds.
An underwhelming start to the season sees them just 3 points clear of the relegation zone having won only two of their opening 13 EPL fixtures, where they have looked constantly disjointed.
Even the return of Raphinha and Rodrigo couldn’t inspire the Whites at the weekend where a goalless draw at Brighton saw talisman Kalvin Phillips hooked at half-time for tactical reasons after starting the game at centre-back – as he did against Tottenham the weekend prior – before moving further forward into his usual midfield position.
Talk of a rift between the England midfielder, idolised by the Elland Road faithful, and Marcelo Bielsa, held in equally high regard by the fans, is not helpful ahead of two massive, winnable home games.
The main reason for the magnitude of the upcoming seven days is clear to see given the games that follow are against Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool – four of the current top five with away games at all of the top three teams who seem to be in a league of their own currently.
Twice the Seagulls slapped the woodwork at the Amex, with Neal Maupay missing an open goal for good measure as last season’s xG kings looked to make up for lost ground this campaign – but with both players and head coach cutting frustrated figures as well as key men Luke Ayling and more so Patrick Bamford still missing, I’m not certain Leeds will escape from this clash with any points if they put in a similar performance.
Crystal Palace’s seven game unbeaten run finally came to an end after a weekend defeat at Selhurst Park to a resurgent Aston Villa side, in a performance described as “really disappointing” by boss Patrick Vieira.
The transformation under Vieira’s guidance from Roy Hodgson has been highly impressive with centre-back pairing Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen, playing out from the back with composure, midfield dynamo Conor Gallagher has taken his game to another level in his latest loan move away from Chelsea while the much-maligned Christian Benteke has looked somewhere back to his best with four goals from nine shots on target in his last six EPL outings.
Andersen’s absence with a hamstring injury is a blow, but if replacement James Tomkins can kick on from his first EPL start of the season, although the visitors may lose a little in transition, they could benefit from his focus to stop the concession of goals from set pieces, which has reached a league high 10.
Although the Eagles boss may be inclined to shuffle his pack this game may come too soon for a return to the starting eleven for one of last season’s success stories, Eberechi Eze who got the final half an hour from the bench on Saturday, his first action since his torn Achilles at the end of last season, a role as an impact sub a more likely scenario for the next couple of games at least, but a great card for any manager to have up his sleeve.
Despite Leeds winning the last six home games against Palace only one of those has been in the last nine years and this looks a very different visiting side, coupled with a stern word of encouragement from their gaffer to get back to the standards he expects, I like the look of the 28/13 on offer here from SBK for a Crystal Palace win.
This game does look like it should have goals in it, with Palace conceding two or more in seven of their last eight EPL road trips, the anomaly crazily being a win-to-nil at Manchester City, with over 2.5 goals backers collecting in all bar that clash at the Etihad from those six away games this season.
I wouldn’t put anyone off taking on the 21/20 on offer from Betfair for over 2.5 total goals or at a shorter price Bet 365’s 3/4 that both teams score – however, after digging a little deeper in to the stats, I’m happy to take a slightly different angle along a similar theme.
In their last 10 competitive fixtures Leeds have conceded just two first half goals, compared to eight in the second period over the same set of fixtures.
Looking at both sides and just in their league games this season then we can see that from those 13 games Leeds opening 45 minutes have featured 12 goals with Palace seeing 15 from theirs – giving a total of 27 first half strikes.
Whereas in the second half this season Marcelo Bielsa’s men have seen a combined total of 20 goals and the Eagles games have had 23 after the interval giving a total of 43.
Based on those stats and the apparent trend of Leeds keeping things tight early on I like the 11/10 we can get with Sky Bet for the second half in this one to be the half which features the most goals.