While all eyes are on the Champions League quarter finals on Tuesday and Wednesday, there are still some key matches on the domestic front as teams play catch up on the fixture list. The Premier League and the Championship both feature midweek action with Everton travelling to Crystal Palace to make up one of their games in hand, and two games in the Championship including a Middlesbrough side who could go top with a win at home to Reading.
Palace secured a vital win in their relegation battle with Norwich over the weekend to ease their fears of getting dragged into trouble, and victory on Wednesday night could see them leapfrog Everton and reach the hallowed 40 point mark. However, the Toffees are only on 39 points themselves and a victory would also see them safe in mid-table ahead of their impending FA Cup semi-final. It should be an intriguing game but the away side could be worth backing with Romelu Lukaku in their ranks. The big Belgian has found the net in his last three matches against the Eagles, and he might just be the difference between the two teams.
Crystal Palace v Everton
Everton are a strong away side and odds of +160 with William Hill about them beating the division’s third worst home side are more than acceptable.
Admittedly neither team is in great form at the moment, with Palace’s 1-0 win over Norwich their first league victory in 2016, and Everton currently winless in three games. However, it was only a month ago that they put in a brilliant performance to beat Chelsea 2-0 in the FA Cup, and they missed the calming presence of Gareth Barry in the subsequent two defeats to Man Utd and Arsenal as he served a ban for the red card in that cup tie. The former England midfielder returned in the 1-1 draw at Watford and immediately provided a screen in front of the back four. His defensive abilities could be crucial on Wednesday night, and could set the game up for Everton’s attacking players to take advantage.
The Toffees are 6th in the Premier League ‘away’ table and have won four of the last six on the road. Palace meanwhile, are 18th in the ‘home’ table and have lost six of the last eight at Selhurst Park. Leicester, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs have all won here in recent weeks, but Watford and Bournemouth have also left with maximum points and Palace look fragile at the back.
The Eagles are now on 37 points after a 2-2 draw with West Ham and the weekend win gave them four points, and it should be enough to see them steer clear of safety. They still need to pick up another three or four points to be certain though, and manager Alan Pardew will need to remind his players of that after the jubilant scenes at the end of the Norwich game. The sense of relief around the ground was palatable, but there is a danger the players will think it’s ‘job done’ and take their collective foot off the gas. They have a poor record against Everton – losing two and drawing one of the last three Premier League meetings at home – and the away side are worth backing to come away with three points and give their restless fans something to cheer.
Middlesbrough v Reading
We backed the Smoggies to come out on top against Preston at the weekend and they duly won 1-0 to bring up our 6th winning Championship tip in a row. They are fancied to do the business again as they look to leapfrog Burnley at the top of England’s second tier. After straight defeats against Rotherham and Charlton Boro have beaten Hull, Huddersfield, QPR and Preston to move to within a point of the league leaders. This game in hand would not only take them two points clear at the the top, but it would also open up a massive seven point gap over third placed Brighton, putting automatic promotion within touching distance.
Reading are way back in 14th place in the Championship table with little left to play for but pride. They achieved back-to-back victories recently against out-of-form sides Bolton and Nottingham Forest, but were beaten 2-0 on home ground by Birmingham at the weekend and will not travel to the north east with a huge amount of confidence for this game. They’ve lost four of the last six on the road, while Middlesbrough have won five on the spin at home, and all signs point to another home victory here.
Birmingham v Leeds
This game in hand gives Birmingham a chance to keep their faint play-off hopes alive, and they could reduce the gap on Sheffield Wednesday in 6th to six points from the nine they currently trail them by. It’s unlikely that they’ll close the gap over the remaining five games but they have to give it a go, and the 2-0 win at Reading on the weekend was a great result as Wednesday, Cardiff and Ipswich above them all lost. Leeds are back in 15th with 48 points and no chance of making an impact at either end of the table. They are only playing for pride at this stage and it’s three defeats in the last four for the Elland Road club.
They’ve scored in three of those games though, and both teams to score stands out as the best bet in Tuesday’s game. Both teams have found the net in four of Leeds’ last five games, and in three of Birmingham’s last five. It is also worth noting that both teams have scored in three of the last four meetings between the two clubs and the selection is preferred to taking either side to win the game.
Everton to beat Crystal Palace
Wednesday 13th April, 20:00 GMT
Middlesbrough to beat Reading
Tuesday 12th April, 19:45 GMT
Birmingham v Leeds Both Teams to Score
Tuesday 12th April, 19:45 GMT