Roy Hodgson is hopeful that the Eagles will benefit from home advantage this Sunday, as Palace welcome Rafael Benitez’s Newcastle United to Selhurst Park.
In his pre-match press conference, Hodgson said: “All teams appreciate home advantage – there’s no question of that. We in particular appreciate it because of our fantastic set of fans who really back the team and support us wholeheartedly from the first moment to the last. Obviously playing at home is a big advantage, as it was for Newcastle playing up there as they also have a partisan crowd and are a well supported team.”
Hodgson is predicting another hard-fought game, and said of Benitez's men: “They’re an organised team. They know what they’re doing, and we like to think we are too. Both teams are desperate to get points from the game. Each team goes to bed on Saturday night dreaming of the three points which will lift us into a safer position in the league but it’s all about what we can do on the day of the game. We prepare as well as we can and hope if there’s any luck going, that it goes our way.”
Reflecting on October's narrow away loss to Newcastle early on in Hodgson’s time as Palace manager, he said: “We had seven games without a win, and we were really saddened by the defeat up there because we felt we played well and did more than enough at least a draw from the game. To concede that late header from a ricochet off James McArthur so late in the game was a major blow. We lost a point but gave Newcastle all three. It was a blow. But it was a tight game and I’m expecting this game also to be a tight game.”
Whilst a lot has changed for Palace since that October match against the Magpies, Hodgson was keen to stress safety is by no means secured. “It would be foolish to start thinking our problems are now at an end. They aren’t. All we’ve done is to pull ourselves up into a position where we have given ourselves a chance. There was a long period where we were in general terms regarded as chanceless. I think that now we have a chance, and it’s going to be a dog fight these last 13 games – there’s no question of that. Each game is going to be of vital importance to at least two thirds of the league in terms of survival.”
Eight points separate the teams in the bottom half of the table, and just two points separate Palace and Newcastle United. Hodgson mused: “Positions will change all the time because every time a team gets a win they are going to shoot up the table, or if you’re defeated you’ll plummet down the table. We know these games are vitally important, all we can do it try to play well.”
Looking further ahead to the next batch of fixtures against Everton, Spurs, Manchester United and Chelsea, Hodgson was asked how he navigates such a treacherous fixture list, responding. “We don’t play games on paper and suggest ‘well, we can win this one but we can’t win that one’. Swansea have shown recently that you can play Arsenal and Liverpool at home and you can still take six points. As far as we’re concerned, we’ll take each game as it comes.”
Watch the full press conference by clicking here, or if you’re viewing in the club’s official app, simply head to Palace TV on the bottom menu.