Manchester United will be looking to build on last weekend's comeback victory over Chelsea when they face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Monday night. Jose Mourinho guided his team back to second place with the win, and eliminated many of the doubts about the club’s top four hopes for this campaign.
The home side are battling with a terribly timed injury crisis. Up to 14 players could be unavailable for the Eagles come Monday evening, which may see Jairo Riedewald start in midfield. On a more positive note for Roy Hodgson, he will have several of the absentees back for upcoming fixtures against fellow bottom-half sides.
Palace have slumped with their depleted squad. Now level on points with 18th place, Hodgson’s side could be as low as 19th by the time this one kicks off. Finishing has been the bane of their season. The Eagles have not found the net twice in a league match since January 2nd, and only three clubs – two of which are in the bottom three – have scored fewer goals than them this term.
Manchester United, meanwhile, still hold a solid defensive record. Their inability to limit chances has meant they are a far cry from the granite-strong defences of Mourinho’s Chelsea days, but the David De Gea factor continues to be huge. There is no better shot-stopper than De Gea in the league, and most probably in the world. I can’t help but fancy the Spaniard to keep another clean sheet at Selhurst on Monday at EVS.
Although the south London ground will be hostile for an evening match like this one, anything other than a United win would be a real shock. Palace have done that this season, of course, taking points off Manchester City on New Year’s Eve for instance, but the combination of a rested United squad and limited options for Hodgson make it an away win for me.
Turning to the card betting, I like the odds on Luka Milivojevic to pick up a card. The lynchpin of Palace’s midfield has had a solid season, but has six bookings to his name already this campaign. At 9/5 to pick up a seventh, that is one of the best bets from this round of Premier League fixtures.
The best Manchester United booking price is Ashley Young at 3/1. The winger-turned-full-back has five yellows in the league and could be caught out in transition by Andros Townsend. The tactical foul to stop a break could easily see Young go into the book.
At the more positive end of the match, Romelu Lukaku is my pick to open the scoring. The Belgian is in a good run of form, having scored seven in his last 10 in all competitions and starred during the win over Chelsea. Palace’s makeshift defence will struggle to contain the former Everton man, who looks a steal at 17/5 to open the scoring and 13/2 to score at least twice.
I think this will be comfortable for United. It is unlikely to be a thrashing like Manchester City or Liverpool may hand out, but a dismissive cruise to three points.
PREDICTION: Crystal Palace 0-2 Manchester United (Priced at 23/4 with 888sport)
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*