By Jaideep Vaidya.
Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew believes his gameplan can stop Chelsea being crowned champions against them.
The 12th-placed Eagles’ remarkable run of four straight league wins – including victory over Manchester City – was halted after back-to-back defeats by West Brom and Hull.
While Pardew fears that Palace may have blown their best chance of a top-10 finish with Manchester United and Liverpool still to play, he remains confident his men will respond by spoiling Chelsea’s celebrations after putting in hard graft in training this week.
He said: “I keep resetting goals [for the players]. We have different goals for Chelsea, but trust me when I say that we’re trying to get three points. That will be our ultimate goal.
“We’ve got to try and produce a performance that doesn’t get carried away in the emotion of the day . . . The first goal will be important. I hope we handle the ball well and keep possession.
“Our solution this week has been to work on our fitness levels, our technical skills and our team shape.
“It is very difficult to get to the motivation levels of the teams that are fighting for relegation, fighting for championships. We didn’t reach the levels last week.
“Two weeks ago we’re talking about a top-10 finish. Everyone was commenting on how well we play. But you can come unstuck quickly in the Premier League.
“We always knew our run-in was tough. We need to respond following our recent defeats — for ourselves, and to keep the Premier League title race interesting.”
It has been 33 years since the Eagles last won a match at Stamford Bridge but former Newcastle boss Pardew is one of only two Premier League managers who have tasted victory against Jose Mourinho’s men this season.
The 53-year-old led the Magpies to a 2-1 victory in December – days before sealing a move to Selhurst Park – and has also won four of his last six games against Chelsea as a manager. But he looks set to be without Moroccan striker Marouane Chamakh and Fraizer Campbell as he bids to extend that run to five, while Joel Ward faces a late fitness test.
Speaking of the Newcastle win at the pre-match press conference, he said: “We had a good process to try and stop them. We got goals at the right times and managed to see it out. We had a good gameplan and deserved to win on that day.”
Pardew will also use his insider knowledge of the table-topper’s training methods to help overcome the Special One’s tactics, having been invited by Mourinho to observe their sessions after he was sacked by West Ham in 2006.
Pardew said: “If there is a team that I know well, it’d be Chelsea. I studied there. They will dominate possession and the two thirds of the pitch that we have to defend, but we carry a threat. You can’t really force too much on them, but they can be hurt. We have to find a way.
“Jose always sets a team up with the strengths he has in the squad. He maximises the individuals that he has in a team shape that he thinks works. He has this great ability to take teams to another level.
“He can find warmth in his players and they can find warmth in him. That’s important because this is a cold business. He can keep a squad of 26 internationals relatively happy and that’s not easy. On top of that, you have to make the right directions on matchday.”
But with almost everyone expecting Chelsea to wrap up the league against them, Pardew knows all the pressure is on Mourinho in the title decider. He joked: “It’s a tough job, but I have no sympathy for him. He gets very well paid . . . a lot of money and he deserves it. He delivers trophies and he’s going to try deliver one on Sunday. And we’re going to try and stop him.”
Chelsea will be without star striker Diego Costa, who’s still recovering from a hamstring injury but Loic Remy and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois return.
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