Hull City-Crystal Palace Preview
Steve Bruce's Hull City face a massively important weekend in their bid for Premier League survival.
Hull (6-10-16) have picked up just two points from their last six league games to slip dangerously close to the relegation zone. Bruce's side are out of the bottom three thanks only to a superior goal difference over Leicester City and have six games remaining to pull themselves to safety.
Unfortunately for Hull, they still have fixtures against heavyweights Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United, making Saturday's trip to Crystal Palace even more important if they are to avoid leaving themselves needing a string of shock results in order to survive.
"A month ago, there were probably eight teams in trouble but if we're being honest it now looks as though there are five of us," Bruce said. "Obviously we now aim to finish above at least three of those. Of our six remaining games, four are at home but then you're going to throw the 'but' at us.
"There's no question that it's going to be difficult, however the way I see it is that we need to win at least two games. We're going to Crystal Palace first up on Saturday and of course they've had a great run of late, but we know we're capable."
Hull are without a win in seven away from home and have won just two of 16 on the road all season, but no team in the division has lost more home games than Crystal Palace (11-9-13).
However, the Eagles have been a different entity in the second half of the season, with the impact of new manager Alan Pardew lifting them into the safety of mid-table. Palace have won eight of 13 league games under Pardew and had recorded four victories on the bounce prior to last weekend's 2-0 defeat against West Bromwich Albion.
Despite his club's fine form and favourable league position, Pardew is well aware of the test that awaits against struggling Hull.
"Hull's desire will be ten-out-of-ten, so if we can match that then we'll have a great chance of winning the game," Pardew said. "That's something we need to make sure is right. Against West Brom I felt our focus was good but we made some tactical errors in that game, which I must take some responsibility for as well. It's important to understand we all make mistakes but make sure our motivation levels are really high on Saturday.
"My pure focus is to win this game. I do want a top ten finish now, because we've got ourselves in that position, and it certainly wasn't the case when I walked in."
Palace are without strikers Frazer Campbell and Marouane Chamakh due to hamstring injuries, while Hull are missing Nikica Jelavic and Robert Snodgrass. Gaston Ramirez and Curtis Davies face late fitness tests for the visitors.
Bruce's side won 2-0 when these teams met at the KC Stadium in October. That result ended a three-match winning streak for Palace between the two clubs in all competitions and was only the second game in which Hull had managed to find the net out of seven head-to-head fixtures.