The Premier League’s Monday night game this week brings together Crystal Palace and Brighton for another round of the M23 Derby. Perhaps English football’s longest-distance derby – the sides’ stadia are 37 miles apart – it’s nonetheless an absorbing battle, and this December rendition of the occasion finds the two clubs in relatively good form.
In fact, the recent paths of both sides have been weirdly similar in a number of ways; each has picked up four points from their last two games, and they both have a 2-1 loss to Liverpool and a 2-0 reverse at the hands of Leicester on their recent CVs. They’re separated only by three points, with identical goal difference. A win for the visitors here would see the Sussex side jump above their local-ish rivals at the end of the weekend’s play. Here, we will look at the best bets available on this contentious encounter.
Chance for league progress for both sides
The Seagulls have been no strangers to a relegation battle ever since their promotion to the Premier League in 2017. Under Chris Hughton, they successfully won the battle twice, but that wasn’t enough to secure his place in the dugout for another season and they replaced him this past summer with Graham Potter. With a middling year at Swansea between him and the famously innovative setup he had curated at Sweden’s Ostersund, Potter has been trusted by the bigwigs at the AMEX Stadium to develop a progressive culture at the club. A win tonight could catapult his side into ninth place in the league, which would be some credit to Potter.
However, it won’t just be derby day bragging rights hardening Palace’s resolve to give their rivals nothing. A win tonight would lift them from tenth to eighth – not much to shout about, perhaps, but it would put them level on points with Uniteds both Manchester and Sheffield. For a side that has struggled in the bottom half for too long, going into Christmas with the European race within reach would be some prize for the Eagles. This will likely be a cagey match, with neither side wanting to lose for multiple reasons. As such, don’t expect a high-scoring game: Grosvenor are pricing “Under 2.5 Goals” at 7/10, which seems reasonable.
Palace attack looking feeble
A solid defence and excellent game management have allowed Roy Hodgson’s side to find a solid source of points this season, but the other way of looking at this would be to point out that they’ve needed those features due to a frankly abysmal attack. Sixteen games into this season, the Selhurst Park side have managed to accumulate a total of fourteen goals. That’s fewer than one per match. In fact, it is the second-lowest total in the Premier League, saved only from the bottom spot by the side currently occupying last place, Watford.
It’s almost impressive that a side containing one of the league’s most enthralling attackers in Wilfried Zaha could have scored so few goals, but Palace remain tough to beat so it’s understandable that Hodgson maintains the current tactical plan of sitting back and hitting on the counter. It does mean, however, that it’s hard to see them ever building a convincing lead against a Brighton side that doesn’t lack for decent defenders. There is a very real prospect of these two sides playing out a draw; Betway will give you 11/5 on that outcome, and it’s worth taking.
A good-natured match in prospect
Although these two sides are considered rivals, and their fans share few fond feelings for one another, this match does have the feel of a friendly derby, which may be down to the approaches of both managers. Hodgson and Potter, although from markedly different eras of the game, both tend to the more cerebral side and their teams are rarely marked out for their disciplinary misconduct. It’s hard to see this match, Monday night derby as it may be, devolving into a slugfest.
With both teams keen to remain in control and keep building on decent form, the most likely outcome for us is probably a 1-1 draw. Brighton have a better attack, but not that much better, while Palace are stronger at the back, but not massively so. Former Palace man Glenn Murray is unlikely to be in the front line for Brighton this evening, which will probably be a relief for his old club as he has a tendency to score against them. The bad news is that Neil Maupay, secured from Brentford in the summer, has begun his Seagulls career in scoring form, and is unlikely to give the Palace backline much time to rest this evening. You can back a 1-1 draw at 5/1 with 888sport.
Bets of the Day
1-1 Draw (5/1, 888); Drawn match (Betway, 11/5); Fewer than 2.5 goals (Grosvenor, 7/10)