After the thrills 'n' spills of the weekend's FA Cup games we head down to the south coast for one of football's quirkiest 'derbies' - Brighton v Crystal Palace. The seeds of the rivalry, dubbed 'The M23 Pile-Up' are debated, but not the intensity. When these two clash nicieties are left on the wayside as they go hell-for-leather for victory. Throw in the FA Cup and bragging rights and tonight could see a 'Battle Royale', despite the introduction of VAR - the 'Video Assistant Referee' - which makes its debut tonight.
As we said, historically, this game is another that never fails to deliver and with both teams desparate for the win, we're predicting a thriller - Shamoan! Who wins? We preview the merits of both teams below.
BRIGHTON 2 V 2 CRYSTAL PALACE
If you thought ‘Big Brother’ was an Orwellian dystopia, or a monstrosity created by a sadist at Chanel Five, think again! Foot fetishes and John Barnes’ labour pains aside, this game will go down in the annuals of history when these two clash in the third-round of the FA Cup as it will be the first competitive match in English football in which VAR (Video Assistant Referee) technology is used. Eye on the ball has a totally different meaning now, but enough of that…
Brighton come into this clash on the back of a thrilling 2-2 draw at home to Bournemouth, a result that will have angered manager Chris Hughton - a former International defender of some repute – as the Seagulls twice threw away the lead. That follows a draw away at Newcastle, a theme which seems to repeat throughout Brighton’s season. Hughton’s team are built in his image: tough, competitive, astute, and tough to beat. However, it’s evident that they are beginning to find the strain of #PL football tough, though they remain in twelfth place in the league and, more importantly, remain tough to beat at home, with just two losses and six draws from their last eight at the Amex. Given the relentless nature of the #PL the last thing Hughton will want is another draw, though as an English philosopher once said: “You don’t always get what you want…”
The Eagles will fly down the motorway in search of their sixth match unbeaten on the road, a quite remarkable stat considering the turmoil the club was in before Roy Hodgson took over. That he’s steadied the ship is an understatement and the wily, ex-England national coach has shown he has more than a few tricks up his sleeve: Palace are plying with verve and ambition and he really is getting the best out of Cabaye, Townsend and Zaha, the latter showing just why England’s loss is The Ivory Coast’s gain. He was instrumental in Palace’s 2-1 win at Southampton and Brighton will need to be wary of his trickery. With just one loss in their last eleven games Palace will arrive on the front foot, but will the Eagles of south London soar highest against Brighton’s Seagulls? We’ll see!
The south coast fresh air continues to work its magic on the Brighton squad – long-term absentee Steve Sidwell remains their only injury concern. Crystal Palace arrive with injuries to some of their key personnel - Scott Dann, Jason Puncheon, Mamadou Sakho, and Connor Wickham are all out, whilst Joel Ward and Chelsea loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek both face late fitness tests.
What We Sayin’?
An interesting one to ponder! Crystal Palace have won two, drawn three, and lost one of their last six meetings with Brighton, though those stats fly out of the window given the fact that it’s a FA Cup tie. Brighton are tough at home, palace good on the road… but something’s going to have to give…
Brighton will want this finished on the night. We mentioned the toll the league is taking on the players physically and we expect them to come out all guns blazing. This will inevitably leave gaps that Palace can exploit with the pace of Zaha and Townsend. We can see Palace nicking this 1-2 with a late winner, but also have a sneaky feeling it could be the dreaded draw! Our predictions then?
- BTTS | 21/20
- BTTS, +2.5 goals | 9/5
- Zaha 1st GS | 11/2
- Double Chance – Palace & the Draw | 4/9
- Palace 1-2 | 10/1
- Our scorecast (2-2) | 16/1
Whomever you decide to back, don't forget to follow us on Twitter (@stanjames) as we mark your card with all the latest updates: it's just like being pitchside yourself!
Please do bet responsibly, and the best of luck!
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