BY SAM SMITH
Crystal Palace’s home form has been disappointing this season, and manager Roy Hodgson has admitted that his players could be suffering from the weight of expectation at Selhurst Park.
The Eagles would be 19th if only home form counted having picked up just 13 points in South London. They have won just three times at Selhurst – against Leicester, Fulham and Burnley – and Saturday’s 3-1 reverse to rivals Brighton was their eighth defeat.
This is in stark contrast to their away form. Palace boast the sixth-best form away from home in the league and have lost only once on the road in 2019 – a narrow 4-3 defeat at title-chasers Liverpool.
“It could be down to expectations, I guess,” said Hodgson when quizzed on his side’s home form.
“That might be weighing on players, there’s no doubt that expectation will weigh on people. We do our best to prevent that from happening but we don’t play in a vacuum.
“We play in a world where things are written and said. The players feel pressure to do things.”
With relegation-threatened Cardiff and Southampton winning on Saturday, it has been suggested that this could be a high-scoring season at the bottom of the Premier League.
The 18th-placed Bluebirds have 28 points, just five below Palace with eight games remaining. Southampton have jumped to 30 and Brighton are now level with the Eagles on 33 with a game in hand on their rivals.
Hodgson admits Saturday’s defeat to their bitter foes was a missed opportunity to begin looking up the table.
“Thirty-three points is nowhere near enough,” insisted the 71-year-old.
“We missed a great opportunity today playing at home against a team we are capable of beating to get to 36 [points].
“That would have certainly given us a downhill ride in the last eight games and we didn’t take the opportunity. We lost and now instead of being able to have 36 points to look up, we once again have to look over our shoulder.”
Palace take a break from league action next weekend as they play their FA Cup quarter-final tie against Watford. Luckily for the Eagles, the game will take place at the Hornets’ Vicarage Road – as opposed to Selhurst.
Premier League safety and an FA Cup semi-final would still represent a good season for the South Londoners, and Hodgson does not expect to rest any of his key stars in Hertfordshire.
“It doesn’t need to necessarily [require changes for the cup tie] because it’s not a midweek game when you sometimes get concerned that you are playing three matches in a week and putting enormous stress on the same players.
“When you have a week between games, I don’t think that one should necessarily concern oneself about resting one’s players. We can choose the team that we think is the best one to win the game.”