Plucky Crystal Palace set to leave recent form behind them
Middlesbrough's firepower shouid see them past Bentford
Huddersfield v Crystal Palace 3pm
A combination of difficult fixtures and a nightmare injury crisis has seen Crystal Palace drift back into the Premier League relegation zone but things should now be much easier for them on both fronts.
Palace's seven matches without a win and four straight defeats does not tell the whole story - indeed it barely tells the story at all in terms of what is relevant for the trip to Huddersfield.
Their last three losses have been to Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea, all by one goal and two of them were to heartbreaking late goals as plucky Palace battled with a weakened team.
Roy Hodgson still has a few injuries to contend with but his best player, Wilf Zaha, showed in a 45-minute cameo at Chelsea last week just how important he can be in the run-in as the Eagles nearly nicked an unlikely point.
Mamadou Sakho was also on the bench for that London derby and Hodgson says Yohan Cabaye and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are ready to return, although it is Zaha who makes the difference to Palace.
With Zaha in the starting 11 this season Palace have won 30 per cent of their games with 45 per cent drawn and 25 per cent lost. Without him they have won 14 per cent lost 86 per cent.
Since the start of November Palace have lost seven Premier League matches but six of those were to Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea and United. The other was at Everton when Hodgson was missing Zaha, Loftus-Cheek, Andros Townsend and Sakho among others.
Huddersfield are having a fine season which began with their memorable 3-0 win at Selhurst Park. However, two wins in 12 Premier League matches suggest their battle for Premier League survival is far from complete.
Crystal Palace draw no bet
1pt 4-5 general
Brentford v Middlesbrough 3pm
The race for the Sky Bet Championship playoff places looks set to be close but Brentford's hopes could be virtually extinguished by sixth-placed Middlesbrough at Griffin Park.
Brentford play some of the best football in the Championship but they can be found out in both boxes.
The departure of Lasse Vibe to China has unquestionably hurt Brentford in the attacking third, while Andreas Bjelland's latest injury is a further blow to the Bees.
Bjelland is an excellent organiser at the heart of their defence and it is perhaps telling that Brentford have not won any of the ten matches he has failed to start this season.
Brentford have also won just five matches in 2018 and those victories came against Bolton (20th), Reading (19th), Sunderland (24th), Birmingham (22nd) and Burton (23rd).
This is a significant step up in class from those matches.
Boro are putting together a nice run, scoring 13 times in their last five matches, and the counter-attacking talent of Adama Traore supplying Patrick Bamford could be decisive.
Middlesbrough draw no bet
1pt 11-10 general
There are 20 points between the rivals and Grimsby, without a win in 16 matches, are further handicapped by mounting injury problems.
Luke Summerfield, Paul Dixon, Karleigh Osborne and Simeon Jackson are not expected to return and Charles Vernam is definitely out. Lincoln are fancied to build on last week's return to winning ways at Chesterfield.
1pt 14-19 188Bet
Plays of the day
Bayer Leverkusen 4-5
Leverkusen have won three of their last four games and had a first-half red card in the defeat to Schalke. They should make short work of this equally short trip to neighbours Cologne, who are rock-bottom.
Sheffield United 20-23
This is a huge game for Sheffield United as they bid to fight their way back into the Championship top six, but it won't be easy and odds-on prices for them to overcome a Forest side unbeaten in six look skinny.
Fulham 4-7, Liverpool 1-5, Juventus 1-3, Leverkusen 4-5 Hills
Both teams to score
Games at Gillingham 30-29, Oldham 5-6, Barnet 9-11 188Bet
Thought for the week
It was a surprise that Southampton stuck by Mauricio Pellegrino for as long as they did when it had been clear for a while that he had lost his way. It was always going to be a good vacancy for somebody to fill as the current squad have been seriously underperforming.
Mark Hughes was the man who landed on his feet and Premier League experience seemed to be key to the appointment.
Southampton's website said Hughes will bring "extensive experience" Hughes says in the same article "I bring experience of the Premier League" and there is a link to an interview with Matt Le Tissier under the headline "Hughes's experience key."
There are reasons to appoint managers and sack managers but Premier League experience is made-up nonsense. Pellegrino did a bad job full stop and it had nothing to do with being a Premier League novice. Alan Pardew is experienced and look at where West Brom are.
Southampton had great success before Pellegrino arrived and most of that was due to them avoiding the Premier League hype machine.
Mauricio Pochettino, Ronald Koeman and Claude Puel all did fine jobs despite not having worked in England before rocking up at St Mary's.
Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane, Graziano Pelle and Dejan Lovren are just some of those who signed for Southampton without experience of English football and they were all sold for hefty profits. Others easily made the step up from the Football League and were then sold on.
The reason Southampton were doing so well, qualifying for Europe and reaching cup finals, is because they were thinking differently and thinking smarter than other clubs with similar budgets.
It would be a foolish long-term plan for them to become lemmings rather than visionaries.
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