Six Rounds To Go And A Fight To The Finish
Six games to go and no sight of a top side among them thanks to the Premier League fixture schedule favouring Palace for once.
That is what everyone seems to think, six winnable games remain between now and the end of the season – Bournemouth (a), Brighton (h), Watford (a), Leicester City (h), Stoke City (a) and West Bromwich Albion (h).
Fact is, Palace have picked up points from each of those teams over the past eighteen months and will have to do so again. Three wins look like being enough but it could well turn out that two will do it but as we know more than most, it is better to do more than is required.
There is no denying that the talent in this squad is more than capable of survival, but through one thing and another, we find ourselves in a relegation battle. Performances of late have been good enough to make us think there is enough about us to do what is required to secure a sixth successive season in the Premier League.
Roy Hodgson and his staff will not leave a stone unturned on the training ground in the coming weeks so it will not be for the want of trying but what do we need to stay up?
A fully fit and firing Zaha to begin with. He was clearly still getting over the knock received at Huddersfield in the defeat to Liverpool but even with that, there was enough threat from our number eleven. Up to three players were drawn to him throughout the game giving others space but he was not his usual self, holding the ball up rather than running at the back line. It has been a long season for Wilf with the treatment handed out to him week in week out but he really does hold the key to our survival.
Christian Benteke scoring goals. It goes without saying that the lack of confidence and form in front of goal has been a huge problem as much as his teammates not using him to his full potential. He was guilty of glaring misses against Liverpool that strikers should score without even blinking but so were the over-hit crosses time and time again. Remember his goal against Leicester City? Put the ball on his head and he will finish, no problem.
A reunion of James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho at the centre of defence. This partnership is the one that will be another key to our survival. Martin Kelly has stood in very well when required and while Sakho was far from his usual self against his former side Liverpool, the two together will be the foundation on which we can build the performances on that we need.
Find a place in the starting line up for Ruben Loftus-Cheek. While we know the effect of losing Yohan Cabaye during a game, the on-loan Chelsea player provided a real driving force when he replaced the Frenchman against Liverpool. He is strong on the ball and hard in the tackle which has been an asset to the side before injury struck.
Options from the bench particularly up front. The much maligned Benteke has not had any competition, the addition of Alexander Sorloth has not had the desired effect but with the Norwegian an option from the bench, at least Roy Hodgson has a decision to make. However, while Connor Wickham has faced setback after setback, he is desperate to get back in the side and help the cause. He may just have a say somewhere between now and the end of the season.
It could be that a combination of the above will work if they do not all fall into place at the same time. You could also add the importance of Yohan Cabaye completing a game or two rather than being substituted as well as captain Luka Milivojevic continuing his fine form.
The focus will be to secure two wins from the next two games, away at Bournemouth which saw the first win for Sam Allardyce last season, and the much anticipated home game against Brighton.
Being Palace fans we know things never quite go to plan but as long as we have a chance to survive come the final game of the season, then so be it. That in itself will be a feat after losing the opening seven games of the season and making the club favourites to go down but the underdog tag has always suited us.