Strange as it may seem, there is a general consensus that following last Monday’s dogged and uplifting win against Man City, that Palace are now safe.
Whilst a long way from mathematical certainty, the feeling is that 39 points is more than enough to survive. With the expected survival tally likely to be nearer to 35, the easy breathing exercises are now warming up down at Selhurst.
Considering where we were on Boxing Day, having been pummelled by Southampton and languishing in the relegation zone, this has been a remarkable transformation; even if my inner pessimism will not allow me to feel it is done until it is finally done.
So with little else to play for but pride and prize money it will be interesting to see how the team approach the remaining seven matches. It would be natural for the players to relax a tad but Pardew is insistent that they have to keep on performing at the highest level and one would be foolish to argue with him.
The next target is to beat last year’s creditable 11th place and get more than 45 points so there is work to be done. If the club really wants is to become a Premier League fixture there is no way that there should be any easing up.
Facing a Sunderland team buoyed by their derby win and Defoe’s cracking strike as well as the desperate need to stay out of the relegation mire will make the trip to the Stadium of Light a tough assignment. But we do owe Sunderland one from earlier in the season when they beat us 3-1 shortly after they had been hammered by Southampton 8-0 in their previous away match. That night still rankles as one of the low points of the season and it would be a neat symmetry to breach the 40 points mark at the Black Cats’ expense.
A crucial issue is whether to change the line-up now that club captain Mile Jedinak is available after serving his four match suspension. Having won three matches in a row there is a sound logic in not tinkering with the successful formula and there is a feeling that Jedinak should not expect to waltz straight back into the team.
With this newfound embarrassment of riches in midfield, this is not the moment for squad rotation. As has been mentioned before, momentum and confidence are two essential characteristics of the team dynamic and these should not be risked.
So I am in favour of sticking with those who have performed so well recently to ensure that this match continues the positive vein of form. After all, this winning lark is quite enjoyable.
Richard’s book The A-Z of Football Hates is available online and in most bookshops. His next book The Agony and the Ecstasy on the history of the Play-Offs will be out at the end of April.
Follow him on twitter @rcfoster and @AZFootballHates