Crystal Palace may not have won a Premier League game since December 19 but manager Alan Pardew hopes that will count for little when they face second-tier Reading in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup on Friday.
South London side Palace have seen their league form stagnate but are nevertheless nine points clear of the bottom three and in no immediate danger of relegation, having beaten top-flight rivals Stoke and Tottenham in the FA Cup.
And for all that clubs are obsessed with retaining their Premier League status Pardew, a Palace defender when they lost to Manchester United in the 1990 FA Cup final, is determined to go all out for glory.
“We have a chance of winning something and that doesn’t come around often,” he said Thursday. “I don’t see why I wouldn’t play my strongest team, it’s the quarter-final of the FA Cup!
“Games in this competition don’t reflect form in the league,” he insisted.
Pardew, who managed Reading for more than 200 games between 1999 and 2003, expects to be on the receiving end of some verbal taunts from home fans given the acrimonious way he left the Royals to join West Ham.
“I’ve never really had a great reception there, but that’s understandable given how I left,” he said.
It was Pardew who appointed Brian McDermott, now in his second spell as Reading manager, to the position of chief scout with the Royals.
And the Palace boss was delighted to see McDermott back in charge.
“I was so pleased he (McDermott) got the job back at Reading because he knows the club and understands what it takes to get out of the Championship,” he said.
Pardew is set to recall fit-again goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey after Alex McCarthy’s costly error in a 2-1 defeat by Liverpool but Marouane Chamakh is out with an adductor injury suffered in a reserve match.
– Everton pain –
Everton, in action against Chelsea on Saturday, also have hope of silverware with their last major trophy coming when they won the 1995 FA Cup.
The Merseysiders are a modest 12th in the Premier League table with 10 fixtures left. They were beaten in the semi-finals of the League Cup and there was fresh frustration for Everton fans when, not for the first time this season, their side squandered a two-goal lead in a 3-2 defeat by West Ham last weekend.
“When you see the work of the players and then you don’t get the rewards you deserve, it is painful,” said Everton manager Roberto Martinez. “(It is) a pain we share with all the fans,” the Spaniard added.
Everton winger Aaron Lennon (hamstring) is doubtful for the game, along with defender Bryan Oviedo, who was in hospital on Wednesday with a chest infection.
For Chelsea, the FA Cup is the last chance to win a trophy this season after they were knocked out of the Champions League by Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.
“Chelsea is now in a transition period,” said interim manager Guus Hiddink, who has returned last season’s Premier League champions to an even keel after succeeding the sacked Jose Mourinho in December.
“They have to see how to go on and try to regain the lost terrain where Chelsea used to be.”
Sunday’s remaining two quarter-finals see FA Cup holders Arsenal, bidding to win the competition for a third straight season, at home to Watford while Manchester United, in Europa League action against bitter rivals Liverpool on Thursday, face West Ham.