Betting Odds: Fulham vs. Crystal Palace
- Fulham: +155
- Crystal Palace: +200
- Draw: +239
- Over/Under: 2.5 (Over -104/Under -111)
- Kick-off: Saturday, 10 a.m. ET
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When Fulham host Crystal Palace on Saturday in an opening day London derby it will be a fascinating test for both a newly promoted and ambitious Fulham team, and a Crystal Palace squad looking to solidify their place in midtable after a rollercoaster year.
The story of Crystal Palace is relatively straight forward. They spent large portions of last season underperforming some fairly healthy underlying attacking stats.
They dug themselves a big hole early, climbed out of it, weathered an injury crisis and eventually scraped their way to a respectable 11th-place finish. The hope for them this season is that they can finish at the same place, but have a less gut-wrenching path to get there.
The team is fairly similar to last term, although Ruben Loftus-Cheek is gone after his loan spell ended. The team has added Cheikhou Kouyate from West Ham, Max Meyer from Schalke and Jordan Ayew from Swansea in order to add some midfield and attacking depth to the squad.
Even so, the team is likely going to do what it did last season, and focus heavily on using Wilfried Zaha as a slightly unconventional way to progress the ball up the field and unsettle defenses.
Palace need to decide exactly how to approach the game. Last season the team had 46.9% of possession, the 11th-most in a Premier League, where having the ball was heavily slanted toward the top handful of teams.
They were not an overly reactive team and were happy to build attacks patiently when the situation called for it last season, but how much will the situation call for it on Saturday?
Usually, promoted sides are incredibly reactive. They try to defend, hold on for their lives, and counterattack if the situation allows for it. That is not what Fulham plan to do. Fulham were the most possession-oriented team in the Championship last season with 57.6% of the ball. They took the third-most shots in that league, on average, with 14.
They’ve fully upgraded their squad with possession-oriented players from midfield maestro Jean Michael Seri to attacking winger Andre Schurrle.
The plan is to use the best players already on their roster, youngster Ryan Sessegnon and midfielder Tom Cairney, and effectively build a new, stronger Premier League squad around them, one that has enough talent to play the way the team did in the Championship.
It’s a bold plan. But, the strategy only works if the side can control the ball against other midtable squads like Crystal Palace.
It’s rare to have a season opener where the most likely tactical outcome is the newly promoted side using possession to take the game to their opponent, but that’s almost certainly what Saturday will bring.
Crystal Palace are a solid, well-managed side, the kind that can handle what Fulham is bringing, but it will be notable if Fulham is able to comfortably control the game, even if they don’t ultimately turn it into a win.
If Fulham can’t keep the ball against Crystal Palace then that doesn’t bode well for their season. Playing a possession brand of soccer towards the bottom of the table is a thankless task. You need to be able to dominate the ball at home against other bottom-half teams.
Palace fit that description. Palace can create goal-scoring opportunities whether or not they have the ball. Fulham need possession. Regardless of who wins, it’s likely this is going to be a wide-open affair.
Last season, Palace’s main calling card was an effective attack, even if they ran cold in front of the net for large portions of the season. Fulham are built to hold the ball, which means when they get down, they’re likely to be vulnerable (that might change as defensive midfielder Andre-Frank Anguissa settles in, but since he was acquired on Thursday he won’t be impactful yet). The game should be close, but it’ll likely have a lot of goals. Back the over 2.5.