Crystal Palace registered only their third win under Sam Allardyce when they beat West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns on Saturday afternoon. It was the Eagles’ second win on the spin, having beaten Middlesbrough in a relegation six-pointer the previous weekend.
While two successive wins have taken Palace out of the bottom three, the work is not yet finished at the south-east London club.
A demanding set of fixtures in their final 11 gameweeks of the season could spell the end of Palace’s four-year stay in the Premier League.
The Eagles face all of the league’s top six teams in their 11 remaining games. They are currently sat in 17th, three points ahead of Middlesbrough. What is alarming for Allardyce is the fact none of his club’s relegation rivals takes on as many top-six teams in their games left as Palace.
Only Boro square off to five top-six teams; Sunderland face four of them. Bournemouth and Leicester City have three of their remaining fixtures against the big guns, while Swansea City and Hull City have two.
Furthermore, if we consider the teams currently having accrued less than or equal to a point per game as relegation candidates, Palace have only two six-pointer games remaining against fellow strugglers, while all the teams in and around them have more relegation six-pointers yet to play than Palace.
Lesser number of six-pointers might mean fewer chances for Palace to directly gain ground on their relegation rivals, and survival could be out of their hands come the last few games of the season.
Allardyce saved Sunderland from relegation in 2015/16, but there is a marked difference between the situation at the Stadium of Light last season and at Selhurst Park this season.
Unlike Palace’s unforgiving schedule this time round, Sunderland had a fairly comfortable last 11 games of the 2015/16 season. In those matches, the Black Cats lost only once, something which can be attributed to their eventual survival.
Sunderland had two six-pointers and only Leicester and Arsenal among the heavyweight clubs in their final 11 games last term. This season, Allardyce has an entirely different challenge in that they face six heavyweights, although the number of six-pointers left is the same.
Keeping in mind the strength of the Premier League’s top six this season, Allardyce and Palace have their work cut out to survive.
Ten matches under Allardyce have yielded only ten points, six of which have come in the last two games. What Palace cannot do now is rest assured about their safety high on confidence after back-to-back wins. It is difficult to get into a winning groove, as Palace are in after successive clean sheet victories, but easier to become complacent and cede the momentum.