Having overcome the not inconsiderable hurdle of Stoke at the Britannia two weeks ago the Premier League champions provide the next test of the Pardew-inspired rejuvenation of Palace.
The manager has been a revelation, taking the club forward in leaps and bounds over the few months he has been in charge. It has not been a revolution, as fundamentally he has used pretty much the same players he inherited. What has changed is the noticeable difference in attitude, that now goes beyond the limits of just new manager syndrome. Whilst a change of management often provides a short-term fillip, under Pardew the club has rediscovered a zest and an energy that points to a bright future.
But before we get carried away on a tide of optimism, there needs to be a reality check. Firstly, although most observers are assuming we are safe, we are still four points short of the magic 40 that is considered the level where one can start planning for another season in the Premier League.
With a noticeably tough run-in, the sooner those four points are gained to remove any lingering doubt, the better. However, given our recent record against Man City is a little shy of abysmal there needs to be a radical change in fortunes to get anything out of this fixture. City have won the last seven matches on the bounce, the last goal we scored against them came over ten years ago in January 2005.
As he rightly pointed out in his press conference, Pardew is not kidding himself and is fully aware of the task ahead by pointing out that Man City are still a formidable team despite lagging behind Chelsea in this year’s title race and tripping up against Burnley recently.
For a City perspective I spoke to Ste Tudor aka The Daisy Cutter who said that they have given up on the title, are not expecting a third dramatic turnaround in four years and are even slightly jumpy about securing a Champions League berth. “A 90 minute bombast from a re-invigorated Palace – spurred on by an infamously enthusiastic crowd – is exactly not what City need right now.“ Tudor clearly is not brimming with confidence and is itching to see the back of Pelligrini.
But it would still be a major shock to get anything from the game and that would entail class players such as Aguero and Toure being nullified whilst the likes of Bolasie and Zaha have to be on their very best.
City’s performance last season at Selhurst was a master class emphasising the huge gap that exists between the top clubs and those striving to be in the middle. The hope is that we will harry and hassle them to distraction whilst occasionally getting on the front foot for short bursts and making the most of the odd opportunity. But it will take a phenomenal effort and large doses of fortune to break with tradition and upset the natural order.
Richard’s first book The A-Z of Football Hates is available online & in bookshops; his next book The Agony and the Ecstasy – a history of the Play-Offs will be out at the end of April.
Follow him on twitter @rcfoster