* All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change.
When you’ve got nothing to play for and your job feels like more bother than it’s worth, what do people really expect of you?
No, that wasn’t the opening verse of a Coldplay song, it was the premise under which Southampton and Crystal Palace will be played. For Palace, they’re once again proving that being exceptionally selective with their efforts, only playing on the counter and having a touch of cynicism does pay off.
For all the good ‘footballing’ sides that come and go with relegation, one thing is a constant: Roy Hodgson. And maybe that’s even more hammered home in a year that saw Sam Allardyce relegated.
Tuesday 20:15 – Southampton v Crystal Palace
Sky Sports Main Event / Sky Sports Premier League
And under one of those ‘footballing’ side expansions lies Ralph Hassenhuttl. Yes, he’s got a lovely name that I’ll continue to spell incorrectly because I can’t find the umlaut on my keyboard and he’s got fine futbol statistics working in his favour.
But, for all the glory that’s due to come from that, they’re still safe from the drop and reliant on James Ward-Prowse’s dead balls.
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Well, they have to – and that feels like enough. If they play at a high tempo, which they’ll have to, Palace will be happy to sit in, in banks of four, and just frustrate. Remember, that works to a degree. They’ve often found success through excessive fouling to avoid play being linked up on the edges of their box, but that’s exactly what you can’t do in this situation.
With Danny Ings expected to still be out, Southampton won’t have that creative spark to grab them a goal from nowhere. It’s going to be a slog, but ultimately one that, should they find themselves ahead, they won’t be challenged for.
Ah the glory that is JWP. I’d comfortably make an argument for him being in the England squad for his set-pieces alone, particularly as they’re not blessed in the department – and he’s more than good enough to hold his own in general play.
Given England have a lot of superb young talent in the squad ahead of the Euros, it might pay to bring Ward-Prowse along. He’ll likely put up another case for his inclusion as Palace constantly hand him opportunities because of their approach.
The price is maybe a bit stingier than I’d like, but nevertheless I feel it’s a punt worth having because of the reasons outlined above. In the case that he’s dead centre, he’ll be going for goal. I just realised how gorgeously cynical I sound that, in a game where both teams are borderline useless, I’ve opted to focus all my plays around set-pieces.
Maybe Big Sam and Roy Hodgson have a point. I fear that a set-piece breakthrough here is probably good enough to have the former back in a Premier League job by next October. What a world.
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