Our role on Sunday is clear. We are the sacrificial lambs to be ritually slaughtered in celebration of Chelsea’s coronation as Premier League Champions.
The script is laid out whereby we keep them at bay for a little while, making them glow gently with mild apprehension that their rightful place at the top of the table may not be quite so straightforward as it originally seemed. Then the breakthrough arrives and the bunting comes out in the guise of those enormous flags that get waved in unison pitch side and Stamford Bridge is yet again home to the best team in England.
Given the poverty of our recent displays against West Brom and Hull then there seems little hope of Palace proving anything but compliant servants to Mourinho’s mastery. But as this is Palace, a team that generally confounds expectations, so there is a glimmer of a chance that we may become a fly in the ointment.
When the team goes into a match with low expectations then more often than not they produce a display that defies logic, such as last year’s win at home to Chelsea just after the Blues had hammered Arsenal 6-0. Conversely, when confidence is running high and all is going swimmingly well, the wheels come off just as they have done in recent weeks.
Having spent some time at Chelsea studying their methods after he was sacked by West Ham, Alan Pardew knows a little bit about Mourinho and his coaching. It would give him the utmost pleasure to be able to prick the Blues’ balloon and provide him with a feather in his managerial cap.
The fact that under Pardew, Newcastle are one of only two teams to have beaten Chelsea in the league this season, gives faint hope but also underlines how tough it is going to be. Palace have been better away from home this season as befits a team that can soak up pressure then break to devastating effect but Chelsea are pretty much impregnable at home so it is a massive ask.
Such a daunting challenge is probably exactly what the players need right now. With Premier League survival all but secured after the Sunderland match the motivation has been patently lacking recently and Palace are not so talented a team that they can coast to victory.
Without full commitment and application there is no chance that Palace can achieve anything from the Chelsea and even then with all things being equal we may get slaughtered. Here’s hoping for some serious role reversal on Sunday.
Richard’s first book The A-Z of Football Hates is available online and in bookshops, his second book on the history of the Play-Offs, The Agony & The Ecstasy will be out later this month.