Crystal Palace host Leicester while still searching for first league win in 2016
This season is refuses to stop being completely wild. Palace are still winless in the league in 2016 but cruising in the FA Cup, now through to the semifinals. Meanwhile, Leicester City are still top of the Premier League and are eight games from one of the most famous title wins ever.
It's starting to look very much like all the unthinkable will happen, as if the Hollywood ending is actually going to unfold before our eyes and then the credits will role. Everyone expected parity to be restored by now, and for Leicester to have lost form and been knocked off top spot but a bigger club. They may have also expected Palace to have got a league win in 2016 and started to climb back up the league but no... the drama rolls on.
However on Saturday, there is a good chance those things will indeed happen. It would be the most Palace thing ever to beat the Foxes and finally register that first Premier League victory of the year, only to instantly become the most hated team in the UK because everyone seems to want Leicester to win the title.
To be honest, even Eagles fans do. It would be such a fantastic story, one we'd all talk about for years to come. It would do the Premier League a world of good to have the apple cart upset for once by a smaller, unfashionable team who doesn't just ruffle some feathers but plucks them all out together. Teams like Palace should look at what the Foxes have achieved this season as inspiration, not frustration.
Who's to say that with a bit of investment, organisation and a little dash of good old fashioned luck that Alan Pardew's men can't do something similar next season? The likes of Stoke, West Ham, Southampton and Everton will all be asking themselves the same question. Palace arguably boast a better squad than Leicester but Claudio Ranieri has managed to maximise his players' potential to that absolute limit. This is what Pardew was doing with his squad in the first half of the season but since the turn of the year it just hasn't happened.
But they continue to roll on in the FA Cup where they have reached the semifinal stage and face Watford, probably the best tie they could have hoped for. Quite why Palace are great in the cup but struggling in the league remains a mystery. Maybe it's psychological. Pardew should parade a fake FA Cup around the dressing room before league games, or tell his players they will be out of the Premier League if they lose. That second part isn't too far from the truth the Eagles are already looking over their shoulder at the relegation zone and while they should be alright, another defeat would certainly make the final stretch of the season a nervy one.
But a win over Leicester -- which is totally possible despite the Foxes seemingly destroying all before them -- would probably be enough to end any worries about the drop. It would take Palace to 36 points, which will almost certainly be enough points to stay up this season. And with the way Pardew's team like to go on runs of wins and defeats, it would probably act as a catalyst for a cluster of victories over the next few weeks.
How can the Eagles beat Leicester? Simple: they should let them play and have the ball. The Foxes like to play to the counter attack as do Palace, so Pardew's men will have to try and beat them at their own game. With Yannick Bolasie back, Wilfried Zaha in great form and Emmanuel Adebayor starting to settle they have every chance of doing so. There are rumours that Jason Puncheon could start too, especially if Mile Jedinak isn't fit enough to play; it could be the perfect game for the South Londoner to make his return.
Leicester will be favourites and Palace are more comfortable as the underdogs in any event. They proved this in the FA Cup against Tottenham and Southampton. Now they just need to sort out that league form and a win against the league leaders isn't out of the question. That might be the first time anyone's ever said such a thing about the Eagles.