Palace on a downward spiral
Crystal Palace, currently priced at 2.130* to beat Middlesbrough, have suffered a torrid 12 months in the Premier League. Their form over the past 38 games (a run stretching back to 03/01/2016) highlights just how big of a challenge Sam Allardyce has on his hands.
In those 38 games, Crystal Palace has picked up 30 points - just 0.79 points per game (PPG). When you consider that the lowest points total to avoid relegation in Premier League history (a 38 game season) is WBA’s 34 points in 2004/05 - the severity of Palace’s problems become clear.
Middlesbrough has the fifth worst goals per game average across Europe’s top five leagues.
A change of manager doesn’t seem to have done the trick and the £35m January spending spree hasn’t got long to make an impact - so is there any hope for the Eagles?
If there’s one thing Sam Allardyce does well, it’s keep a team in the Premier League - he’s never been relegated with a club despite managing several relegation favourites. Winning against relegation rivals is often the key to survival but unfortunately for Palace, they’ve struggled against the current bottom six as well (P: 7 W:2 D:1 L4).
Middlesbrough - no goals at either end
There’s no doubt that Aitor Karanka has put defence first at Middlesbrough - Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United are the only teams in the Premier League to concede fewer goals than them this season. However, they’ve also scored by far the fewest goals in the division - their tally of 19 goals equates to just 0.76 goals per game.
In fact, Middlesbrough has the fifth worst goals per game average across Europe’s top five leagues - only Empoli (0.60), Darmstadt 98 (0.67), Leganes (0.70) and Nancy (0.72) have scored fewer.
In contrast to Saturday’s opponents, Middlesbrough has managed to perform against those near them in the table - their record against the current bottom six reads P:6 W:3 D:2 L:1. However, they’ve only managed 9 points from 12 games away from home so even at odds of 4.220* the away side aren't so appealing.
Pressure determining performance
Expect Middlesbrough to sit back and be well organised for 90 minutes, using the wide threat of Adama Traore as an outlet - he’s completed 5.6 dribbles per game so far this season (the most in the Premier League).
Crystal Palace has picked up just 30 points in the last 38 games - that's 0.79 points per game.
Palace will most likely control possession, try to utilise the flanks with Andros Townsend and Wilfred Zaha on either side and make Christian Benteke the focus of almost every attack - the Belgian frontman has won 212 aerial duels this season (a league high).
It would take a brave bettor to choose a side in what is sure to be a tense relegation showdown. The draw at 3.130* might be an attractive option but under 2 goals (1.917) is a safer bet. Neither side has scored in their last two league games and both will certainly be wary of conceding in such an important game.