Sam Allardyce has dismissed suggestions Crystal Palace will struggle to cope with the pressure in their crucial clash against Hull on Sunday.
A draw would preserve Palace’s Premier League status and also potentially relegate their visitors, depending on the outcome of Saturday’s match between Swansea and Sunderland.
If Swansea were to win, Hull would realistically also need three points to prevent relegation until at least the final day of the season, when Palace would then visit Manchester United under extreme pressure.
An impressive run of victories, including against Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea, took Palace to the verge of safety until three consecutive defeats ensured they remain in contention to go down.
Allardyce has repeatedly spoken about the need for his team to handle the pressure of the occasion on Sunday, but in previous fixtures Palace have underperformed.
In January, during his third match in charge, they were poor throughout a 2-1 home defeat by Swansea, and a month later they were even worse when they lost 4-0 at Selhurst Park to Sunderland.
Victories against the league’s leading teams also suggests Palace thrive when they are given little chance, but of those defeats boss Allardyce said: “That was a different team. Way back then was before we brought in all the players we did.
“We started our run after Sunderland; we lost to Stoke and then after that started to lift the players by the new signings playing very, very well, and the players already here gaining confidence from that and growing.
“We’ve had big pressure games this season many times, but the pressure comes on when the games go into single figures, and now it’s only two games.
“When it’s still another six, four or nine left, that alleviates the pressure somewhat, but when it’s only two the pressure comes on. On the day, we’ve got to handle the pressure better than them and deliver a performance.”
Mamadou Sakho’s absence through injury, and concerns surrounding the availability of both Scott Dann and James Tomkins – the latter faces a late fitness test alongside Yohan Cabaye – could again leave Allardyce short in central defence.sakho
Martin Kelly was among those to deputise in last week’s 5-0 defeat at Manchester City, after which he said they had not sufficiently worked on using a five-man defence.
The manager said: “I would try and find an excuse if I played that bad too. I used to be a player you know. ‘Sun was in my eyes’. ‘It was too windy on the day’.
“The manager had the problem proving that he was right and I was wrong because there was no video evidence or no analysis, so all the video analysis we get now means there is no hiding place.
“Our mistakes in that game were horrendous. When we had the four-game winning run and we beat Liverpool it was on the fact Liverpool had one shot on target at their own ground. That’s how good we were.
“Because we didn’t make any mistakes they couldn’t capitalise on any mistakes whereas at Man City I needed a calculator to calculate how many mistakes we made.”