Four games into the start of this season, Palace were sitting pretty in second place having just beaten Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea on what was his one hundredth home game in charge of the club.
Beating the Blues at Stamford Bridge may have surprised both sets of fans at the time, but fast forward four months to the reverse fixture, and it is the home side who are placed above Chelsea in the league - an eleven-point difference between the two teams.
“Going into the game now we’re in good form and unbeaten in six so it’s going to be an interesting game. They’ll be looking to bounce back from what’s been a tough time for them and at the end of the day we can’t be complacent - it’s Chelsea and they’ve got world class players so you’re always going to be wary of what they can do.”
Speaking ahead of the game on Sunday Joel Ward, who was the unlikely match winner at the Bridge in August, has fond memories of the goal which took his tally to three in three seasons since joining the club in 2012.
“It was a great day to beat the Champions on their home patch, and to be involved and get the winner was extra special, I wouldn’t say it was a shock (obviously!) but it was great for the team to experience that so early in the season.”
Palace will be facing a different Chelsea side under interim manager Guus Hiddink, who took over from Mourinho when the Portuguese left Stamford Bridge earlier this month.
“They’re one of the best sides in the world for a reason so you can never underestimate a team like that. Every side goes through a bad period and we’ve still got to do our jobs to make sure we perform well and play to the best of our ability – that is the only way we’ll be able to beat them.”
Palace know a win will see them hold on to fifth spot, something Ward says he is still pinching himself about having been third from bottom this time last year.
“For the whole club it’s been an amazing year. The gaffer has come in and changed a lot. He’s brought confidence, organisation, attention to detail. It has been a crazy season, and we’ve just been going about our job quietly and making sure we’re doing all we can to put ourselves in a good position.”
Now at the halfway stage, the defender believes there is every reason to meet, and potentially better, their target of a top ten finish.
“Our ambition is to stay in the top half of the table and I think if we continue the way we are and the momentum and confidence stays with us there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be up where we are at the end of the season - we’ll definitely be working hard to keep it that way.”