As Tottenham Hotspur licked their wounds following their shattering FA Cup semi-final defeat at Wembley at the hands of their title rivals Chelsea, their manager Mauricio Pochettino must have wondered how it would affect his side's confidence ahead of a tricky tie against Crystal Palace.
In their last six games, the Eagles have beaten Watford and Arsenal at home, Liverpool and Chelsea away, and drew with the league champions Leicester. It's unlikely Palace will be fazed by the challenge of Spurs. Following a brilliant Palace display against Liverpool, it could be the title chasers who head into the game with the most apprehension.
Belgian striker Christian Benteke should give Palace fans hope, he has scored five goals in five League games and his performances against both Chelsea and Liverpool, in which the former Anfield man was Man Of the Match, could be repeated here. Benteke is 17/2 with Sky Bet to score a header and that looks a distinct possibility with Crystal Palace scoring eleven goals from set-pieces this season.
The unfortunate thing for Spurs fans is the recurring theme of their side lacking the killer instinct in key games. This was shown during their failed attempt at chasing down Leicester last season, their dismal displays in the Champions League and highlighted by their spirited performance against Chelsea. A poor performance against Palace here could see Spurs yet again fail to win any silverware, despite winning plaudits aplenty during the season.
A game in which both teams will be confidence of gaining the win, Palace are all but mathematically safe, Spurs, despite the loss at Wembley are in great form, and are desperate to continue pushing Chelsea all the way in the fight for the EPL crown. The fixture is a Wednesday blockbuster at a noisy Selhurst Park under the lights, and it could be The Eagles who rule the roost come the final whistle.
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The brief given to Sam Allardyce by the Crystal Palace board must have been to keep the side within the Premier League. Despite not being altogether safe currently, the game against Spurs could be the one which provides the former disgraced England gaffer the points he need to complete his objective.
His first goal upon his appointment would have been to organize his defence and the loan signing of Mamadou Sakho from Liverpool has been inspired, and allowed him to tighten up their back-line considerably. Although Spurs have the attacking talent to put that to the test, in their wins against both Chelsea and Arsenal recently, the French international defender has been sublime in shutting out dangerous opponents and Crystal Palace are a tempting 5/1 with bet365 to keep a clean sheet.
Christian Benteke is a key weapon for Palace, and as Spurs try to attack them he can bring in players such as Wilfred Zaha and Andros Townsend on the break. His ability in front of goal is matched by his hold up play. Zaha has had his best season in the Premier League and with the team in great form at the moment, the former Manchester United man could be the man to set the game alight. Wilfred Zaha is 14/1 with Bet Victor to score the game's opener.
It has been Wilfred Zaha's best campaign the season, and it could be him that halts Spur's title race.
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What Mauricio Pochettino really needed following the Wembley defeat was an easy tie. Unfortunately up next for the Argentine coach, is the League's in-form team away Crystal Palace and the game looks likely to be make or break in Spurs title race. Should Spurs win here, it will ramp up the pressure on their victors on Saturday, and prove that they have the desire to stay in the fight to the last. They will look to start quickly here to dispel any hangover following their loss, and Spurs are 11/2 with Coral to score their first goal in the 11-20 minute period.
There were some encouraging signs, despite the defeat to their London rivals, both Dele Alli and Harry Kane continued their rich scoring streak, both assisted by the hugely impressive Christian Eriksen. The encounter could be a high scoring one and Spurs will need their star men to perform to keep them in the title hunt. Harry Kane is 10/3 with William Hill to score the opener, whilst Dele Alli is 10/1 with Paddy Power to score two or more goals in the game.
There will be high tensions at Selhurst Park and the semi final defeat will have hurt this young Spurs side. As we learned during their attempt to chase down Leicester last season, their discipline can let them down, and at a noisy, confident away ground, their fledgling stars may crack under the pressure of trying to catch the leaders. Dele Alli is 25/1 with Unibet to be sent off.
Can Delle Alli provide the goals that keeps them in the title race?
- In their last four games against sides in the top four, Crystal Palace have won three and conceded just five goals, three in the defeat to Manchester City in the FA Cup.
- Spurs have scored 34 goals in ten games since their 2-0 defeat to Liverpool.
- Spurs win an impressive 15.3 aerial duels per game, but is dwarfed by their hosts Palace, who win a commanding 22.4
- Crystal Palace have won three, lost once and drew once in their last five home games.
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A tough game for Spurs to try to get over their Wembley heartache. An entertaining game looks likely here, I'm going with a 3-2 Crystal Palace win!
The pressure of trying to close Chelsea down couldn't get much harder at the moment with a trip to one of the league's most impressive team currently, and Crystal Palace could prove too much to have too much in a game that could go right to the wire. As Spurs try to ensure the win in a game they are desperate to emerge from victorious in order to keep the League leaders under some pressure, it will likely leave Spurs exposed to a side that are in a rich vein of form.