Arsenal take on Crystal Palace on Monday (8pm, Sky Sports 1), with Arsene Wenger’s men in need of all three points as they attempt to climb back into the top four.
The Gunners were the biggest beneficiaries of the midweek fixtures in the race for the Champions League places, as they ran out 3-0 winners against West Ham United. Heading into this weekend’s games, Arsenal are four points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City, on whom they have a game in hand, and six behind third-placed Liverpool, who have fulfilled two more fixtures than the north Londoners.
Wenger’s men have had a largely miserable 2017, and while supporters remain disappointed that they were once again unable to sustain a title challenge, there is still a chance that the Frenchman could lead Arsenal into the Champions League yet again. The Gunners cannot really afford many more slip-ups between now and the end of the campaign if they are to overhaul one of the teams above them. That means anything less than all three points on Monday would represent a major blow to their top-four chances.
A recent four-match winning run – Palace got the better of Middlesbrough, West Bromwich Albion, Watford and Chelsea – boosted Sam Allardyce’s side’s survival prospects, but a 3-1 defeat by Southampton on Wednesday means they are now just three points clear of the drop zone. Allardyce struggled to lift Palace in his first couple of months in charge, but performances have been much improved in the last six weeks or so, with the Eagles far more resilient at the back than they were under Alan Pardew.
It is still far too early for the south London side to start celebrating another season of Premier League football, though, particularly as Palace have a nightmare run-in which sees them face five of the top six, starting with this Monday night showdown against Arsenal.
Wenger will be without Petr Cech (calf), Lucas Perez (thigh), Laurent Koscielny (Achilles) and Santi Cazorla (leg) for his side’s trip to Selhurst Park, but David Ospina will probably return between the sticks after recovering from a knock.
Olivier Giroud scored after coming on as a substitute against West Ham and could start up front, with Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walfott set to provide the support in behind. Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny will almost certainly resume their midfield partnership after a promising showing on Wednesday, while Gabriel Paulista will continue alongside Shkodran Mustafi at centre-half.
Crystal Palace have something of an injury crisis on their hands, with Yohan Cabaye (calf), Loic Remy (calf), Scott Dann (knee), James Tomkins (calf), Frazier Campbell (hamstring), Jonathan Benteke (knee), Patrick van Aanholt (ankle), Connor Wickham (knee), Steve Mandanda (knee) and Pape Souare (leg) all sidelined. Midfield duo James McArthur (back) and Joe Ledley (wife giving birth) should both return to the matchday squad, though, with the former likely to play alongside Luka Milivojevic and Jason Puncheon in the engine room. Wide men Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend will provide a threat on the counter-attack, while Christian Benteke is dangerous in the air and will have to be marshalled closely by the Arsenal back four.
Turning to this preview’s thoughts about the betting tips, Arsenal possess a terrific record against Palace since the latter’s promotion in 2013, and their victory over West Ham should give them sufficient confidence to pick up another three points on Monday. They may not be able to keep Palace out and record another clean sheet, but overall it is probably worth backing Wenger’s crew to come out on top. Another option worth exploring is a bet on Giroud – who possesses a terrific goals-per-minute ratio in the Premier League this term – to find the back of the net. With the best of the bookies‘ odds, these are this preview’s selections.
- Arsenal to beat Crystal Palace with both teams to score at 9/4 with Bet365.
- Olivier Giroud to score anytime at a best price of 5/4 with Ladbrokes.
- Check all latest Premier League betting.
Greg Lea is a freelance sports writer. Read the articles that he has written at Just Bookies.