Narrow one goal-losses to Tottenham, Manchester United, and Chelsea leaves Crystal Palace without a win for two months. They face a relegation six-pointer against Huddersfield on Saturday, which is arguably the most important game of the season.
With eight games remaining, the Eagles will need their big players to step up and fight for their lives to keep Crystal Palace in the top-flight. With Palace currently in 18th place, one point from safety and level on points with 19th placed Stoke City, they’re going to need all of the support from the Selhurst faithful to lift them out of trouble.
Hodgson had seemingly lifted Palace from their relegation troubles, but a recent drop in form has caused another plummet to place them firmly in another fight for survival.
Roy Hodgson, Saviour?
Croydon-born Roy Hodgson had done a sterling job at Crystal Palace since taking over from Frank de Boer. The Eagles were winless, goalless, and rock-bottom of the Premier League after four games. Since then, Palace are in a far better position and have a manager who has the ability to secure a sixth successive season in the Premier League.
The team were destined for the Championship back in September, but Hodgson somehow managed to drag Palace out of the drop zone by early 2018. Palace are also one of four teams to take points away from the league leaders Manchester City in an entertaining 0-0 draw on New Years’ Eve.
Crystal Palace seemed to have the momentum and ability to escape the relegation zone. However, things took a turn for the worst when key man Wilfried Zaha got injured against Newcastle, and Palace haven’t been the same since their 3-0 loss against Everton at Goodison Park. The South London outfit have gone through their toughest stretch of the season where they haven’t been able to gain a single point. Get ready Palace fans for another rollercoaster end to the season as the relegation scrap looks set for an exciting finish.
Out of all the relegation strugglers, Crystal Palace have one of the more favourable run of games towards the end of the season. They only have one more top-six team to face out of their remaining eight games. Liverpool will be the opponents after Huddersfield in an early kick-off. A point against the Merseyside outfit could be crucial if results don’t go their way.
The Eagles then travel to Bournemouth, before facing their bitter rivals Brighton. Both teams look set to stay up this season, sitting comfortably in mid-table. However, Brighton will be a tough test for the Eagles as they will put everything on the line to beat them in what will surely be a feisty encounter.
Bournemouth, Watford and Leicester City could be on the beach already when Palace face them in April. These are teams that Palace will want to face near the end of the season and they will have to pick up at least 4 points. The final two games of the season are against Stoke City and West Brom, who are both fighting for their lives at the bottom of the table. West Brom could be well adrift by that stage, but Stoke City could be a season-defining game if Crystal Palace aren’t careful in their games leading up to their trip to the Bet365 Stadium.
The return of Wilfried Zaha
The Ivorian star came on at half-time against Chelsea last time out when Crystal Palace were 2-0 down, after little ambition had been shown going forward in the first-half. The winger instantly improved their attack with Palace creating chances making them the better team in the second-half. Without a controversial decision to disallow Alexander Sorloth’s first goal for Palace, they could’ve earned a point with Zaha assisting Patrick Van Aanholt late on to grab a consolation goal.
Zaha will be hoping to make a greater impact when the Eagles travel to Huddersfield in their next game. The Eagles have been uninspiring in their last four games in a difficult run of fixtures that saw them drop into the relegation zone with no points gained. The remarkable recovery from Zaha to return quicker than expected shows his commitment to the Palace badge and that is what Palace need in the final run of games.
When Crystal Palace have had a fully fit squad, they have shown that they can compete against the big teams. However, their injury list could be the daunting factor that decides if they stay in the Premier League or drop down to the Championship.
Crucial matches against Huddersfield, Stoke City and West Brom are on the horizon and these are the games that will decide Palace’s fate.
The talent at Crystal Palace’s disposal such as Zaha, Mamadou Sakho, Andros Townsend, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and Christian Benteke will be enough to keep the Eagles in the Premier League. Fitness will be an issue to the Palace squad but I still think that the South Londoners have what it takes to drag themselves out of danger and secure a sixth consecutive season in the promised land.