Now Crystal Palace are on a bit of a roll, ten points from five games equals untold riches down in SE25, so we need to build on the momentum generated and not allow Chelsea to puncture the Pulis balloon. If we had been facing this fixture a month ago fear and trepidation would have been jostling for pole position in the Attitude Stakes, just ahead of blind panic. We can now face the still daunting prospect of going to Stamford Bridge with a smidgeon of confidence and the players should believe in themselves just a tad. That is not to say that we are in danger of over-confidence because we are up against a team that has not lost in the Premier League at home under Mourinho, ever. Mind you Palace haven’t lost at home under Pulis but Chelsea’s Jose run is 66 and counting whilst our Tony’s stretches to two games but you have to start somewhere. And so expectations are not stratospheric, especially if you bear in mind we have not beaten Chelsea in our last eleven meetings but there is a glimmer of hope that we may not get the shellacking that many had been predicting.
Buoyed by the last handful of games and no doubt urged on by Pulis since he took over the reins, Palace have been pressing the play in much more advanced positions than before. Indeed one of the best and most surprising aspects of our games against both West Ham and Cardiff last week was the amount of work Jerome and, in particular, Chamakh put in on closing down and hassling the opposition defenders. This needs to continue on Saturday because if the Eagles sit back they will be inviting Chelsea on to them and that would be like asking a fox to look after the chickens. Both situations would almost certainly end in a similar vein with lots of feathers flying and some badly disfigured birds. So be bold and get forward is a message that should be coursing through their veins.
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DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE
All this recent positivity is very difficult to accept when you have been watching Palace as long as I have; it does not sit that comfortably in our collective digestive system as we are born pessimists. The team does seem to have turned a corner but we also need to be aware that we have not been transformed into world-beaters overnight and having struggled to beat anyone for the first ten games there are still some cracks in the Palace. We can be confident that Pulis is not allowing the players to rest on any laurels and he will get them ready to scrap for every 50/50 ball and expend blood, sweat and tears for the club. It is doubtful that there is another manager in the Premier League who instils that work ethic more effectively than Pulis, who is a pragmatist and realises that there is a long way to go. In his best Dickensian manner he pointed out “we’ll have good times and bad times”, never a truer word was spoken m’lud.
DO US PROUD
When the lesser teams face one of the Big Boys, especially in their own playground, there is usually only one outcome. True, David did overcome Goliath but that is a few years back. The likelihood of any upset is reflected in the odds of this Shire horse versus Shetland pony contest where Palace are an almost seductive 14-1 to grab all three points. As my father insisted on telling me you never see a poor bookie (or a happy farmer) and I would not urge anyone with any sense to even consider such a punt. All we ask of the team is that they try their hearts out and do the fans proud. They will receive raucous support from the away fans whatever the result, so please reward them with something to take back over Wandsworth Bridge other than a hiding to nothing.
DON’T SCORE TOO EARLY
Considering in our seven away games up to now we have a paltry total of three goals it would be safe to assume that we are not going to score too many, in fact one would be nice. But the point is we should not score our solitary goal too early as that will lead to all sorts of trouble. In our only away game to yield any points so far this season we scored ten minutes from the end but the remainder of that match was a nerve-shredding experience that felt like a lifetime, and not a particularly happy lifetime at that. The very idea that we might have the sheer audacity to grab a goal and then try and hang on to some sort of result gives me the collywobbles. It would be so much better to leave it until the sixth minute of added time and then notch a result after a dubious penalty award. Oh, hang on someone has already copyrighted that idea...