Crystal Palace cooly marched into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup with a very professional performance at the Keepmoat Stadium as Doncaster saw their dream of reaching the last eight for the time first time in their history denied. It never looked for one moment as though South Yorkshire would be the venue for an FA Cup giant-killing, with Roy Hodgson’s men bossing proceedings from the first whistle.
In actual fact, Palace look like a team prioritising the FA Cup despite Roy Hodgson saying the Premier League is still their main concern this season. A look at the Premier League table shows the Eagles in 13th with 27 points, but only three points from safety and higher than 18th-placed Southampton, on 24 points.
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) February 17, 2019
That is far too close for comfort and at any stage, Palace could be swept up in the backwash of a few bad results and drawn back into the scrap for Premier League survival. This could especially be the case if say, Palace took their eye off the ball and had the distraction of an FA quarter-final looming enticingly over them.
There could only be one team in the top four in the draw for the last eight with two Championship clubs also making up the mix. If ever the opportunity presented itself to win an FA Cup it is now and Palace have the squad to make it to Wembley.
The question is, can the Eagles successfully balance survival and the FA Cup? When Wigan beat Man City in the FA Cup final in 2013, they ended up being relegated after throwing their weight behind the cup competition. Had Roberto Martinez’ troops played as they did against Mancini’s Man City for the entire season they would have finished in the top half.
With that in mind, there can’t really be any comparisons of the strength of the Wigan side of 2013 and Palace’s team now. The Eagles have a stronger squad and are led by match winners like Wilfred Zaha and Andros Townsend. Townsend, in particular, has come on leaps and bounds this season and there’s every reason to believe that Gareth Southgate will call him up to help England win the UEFA Nations League. The Three Lions are at 7/4 in international football betting to win and should they do so, it may be Townsend’s second trophy of the season.
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 24, 2018
Would Andros Townsend take winning the FA Cup and UEFA Nations League at the expense of relegation to the Championship? Palace will need to tread carefully and not become totally blinded by the bright lights of Wembley.
In the blink of an eye, the clubs languishing at the bottom of the Premier League table can surge up the league and cause mass panic above as clubs that thought they were out of any danger hit the implode button. Based on last season’s table, three wins would secure Palace their top-flight safety but then again, three FA Cup wins would win them the world’s oldest cup competition. We will soon see what the Eagles want more as they circle around two very different rewards.