With just 11 games left in the Premier League season, there a few sides at the wrong end of the table coming into some form while those around them are heading in the wrong direction.
Crystal Palace’s thumping win over Leicester at the weekend, which incidentally saw the Foxes dispense with Claude Puel’s services on Sunday, has given Roy Hodgson’s men a little bit of breathing space in the fight for survival.
With Fulham and Huddersfield really needing more than miracles to stay up, there are around ten sides who could still fill the remaining relegation spot, Palace being one of them.
Unbeaten since the middle of January, only Burnley in the bottom half are in better form than the South London outfit and Palace’s recent set of results suggest they have just enough to see themselves safe with games to spare.
They do have a crucial period coming up in March after a visit from Manchester Utd closes out February, including an FA Cup Quarter Final which seems to have helped the side achieve their latest league results.
Hodgson has Palace set up as a hard team to break down, their small negative goal difference is testament to that compared to everyone else below them. They’ve coped with missing star men Wilfred Zaha and Andros Townsend at various times in the season, whilst Christian Benteke has missed most of the season through injury.
His replacement Jordan Ayew has struggled to find the net in Benteke’s absence, just one goal in 18 appearances and without Luko Milivojevic’s goals from midfield along with Zaha, Palace would certainly be worse off and possibly looking at relegation to the Championship.
It’s certainly been an up and down season for the Eagles, picking up points in games they didn’t expect to, but following it up with defeat or a draw against the sides around them which must leave Hodgson confused at the best of times.
With only two of the top six to play in their remaining fixtures, Hodgson will be confident his side will pick up the ten points needed to secure their Premier League status sooner rather than later, especially if Benteke discovers his scoring touch once again.
What has also served Palace well has been the continuity of their defenders, which may be why they don’t concede too many goals, five of their back line have all completed over twenty games more the kind of stats you would find in a top four team in one of the best leagues in the world.
Hodgson at 71, is the oldest manager at England’s top level but shows no sign of retirement yet, although it remains to be seen how much further he can take the club, especially should they reach the FA Cup Final.
They can’t compete with their more illustrious London neighbours, but all the while they can keep away from the relegation zone then life will always look a little brighter in this part of south London.
Written by Trevor Knell
Follow Trevor on Twitter @trevk37
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