Southampton welcome Crystal Palace on Boxing Day hoping to turn a page after managing only one win in their last five games.
Despite their recent travails, the Saints are still topping the Championship having played, without a doubt, some of the best football in the league.
On the face of it, Nigel Adkins’ men should be clear favourites to grab all three points at St Mary’s, an eventuality quoted at 1/2.
The Saints certainly have the means to cause their opponents quite a few headaches, with the likes of Adam Lallana, Guly do Prado and goal machine Rickie Lambert quick to spot any defensive frailties and punish them accordingly.
This, however, would be to ignore their opponents, Crystal Palace. Because of their financial issues, the Londoners are normally to be found at the other end of the table, nervously looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone.
This time round, they’re a mere two points outside the playoffs and on a hot streak which includes a surprising Carling Cup scalp.
Though many will of course have watched Palace’s 2-1 win over Manchester United, few will remember their previous victims: Southampton, beaten 2-0 at Selhurst Park courtesy of goals from Darren Ambrose and Jermaine Easter.
Southampton’s draw against Blackpool underlined their tendency to start very strongly before suddenly taking their foot off the gas and making silly defensive errors.
While both teams sent out their second strings for that match, there is no doubt that Palace have acquired a certain psychological edge over the Saints, a side they beat at St Mary’s back in 2007 thanks to James Scowcroft’s impressive hat-trick.
This all leads me to one conclusion: the 11/2 odds on an away win might just be worth a punt.
With the seventh-best away record in the league (including five wins), Palace must surely fancy their chances against an opponent whose impressive home record masks some pretty iffy performances on the south coast of late.
Adkins’ men recently had a lucky escape against Blackpool, an escape which highlighted their defensive frailties. Ian Holloway’s side looked to have sealed a shock 2-1 win until Lambert somehow managed to pull a draw out of the bag with a far-post header.
In their previous home match, the Saints had to come from behind to snatch a 2-1 win over Hull City and they have also shown their vulnerability in recent away defeats at Bristol City and Doncaster.
This leads me to believe that a multiple correct score bet on an away win by a scoreline of 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 could offer decent value at 12/1.
In Glenn Murray and Easter, the Eagles have what it takes to hit the back of the net at St Mary’s.
Southampton’s draw against the Tangerines also underlined their tendency to start very strongly before suddenly taking their foot off the gas and making silly defensive errors.
So while it might be a good idea to bet on Southampton netting first (at 21/50), don’t bet on them to hold on to that lead long, which is why a draw may well have its backers at 57/20.
This isn’t merely criticism of keeper Bartoz Bialkowski – Poland’s answer to Scott Carson – but of the team as a whole.
A distracted Saints side allowed Portsmouth’s Joel Ward a late equaliser last week in a south-coast derby the visitors seemed to be in control of.
It is, therefore, also worth putting a few pounds down on Crystal Palace winning the second half, priced at 17/4.
One thing is certain: neither defence is particularly solid, so both teams to score looks to be a surefire winner at odds of 83/100 for the more conservative punter.
New customers can register here to claim a free £25 bet or click here to see all our Championship odds.
Follow us on Twitter @bwinbetting