Jose Mourinho faces Crystal Palace’s “fantastic” supporters hoping they do not inspire Tony Pulis’ men to derail Chelsea’s title tilt.
The Portuguese was gushing in his praise of the travelling Palace fans when the two sides met at Stamford Bridge earlier in the Premier League season.
Following the 2-1 win in December, Mourinho even went as far as applauding the Palace faithful who made the short trip across London for the game before stating: “Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic fans. They support their team until the end, they pushed them all the time.”
Considering that 20 of Palace’s 28 points this season have been amassed at Selhurst Park, Mourinho will be aware of the positive impact that a boisterous atmosphere could make on Saturday to an injury-hit squad scrapping for survival.
Indeed, Palace’s striker crisis shows no sign of easing ahead of the visit of the leaders as Pulis has confirmed that Marouane Chamakh (hamstring) and Dwight Gayle (ankle) will again miss out. The duo have scored eight of the side’s 19 league goals in 2013-14.
That means that either Glenn Murray or Cameron Jerome will lead the line in attack, with Pulis deploying one of the strikers on their own up front in the last three games.
Pulis knows his side are massive underdogs, but that is a situation he has forged his managerial career around.
“You need a bit of luck and you need players who will relish the challenge,” said the Welshman.
“If you’re looking at the two clubs and what they’ve got and what they haven’t got, it’s a very uneven contest, but football’s a funny old game
“If we set ourselves up well and give everything we possibly can you never know in this game.”
On his managerial counterpart, he added: “Jose is one of the elite managers in the world.
“I look at his record and he’s managed the great teams. The great teams need to win and he does that for them. “
Palace, defeated 1-0 at Newcastle United last weekend, are one place above the relegation zone and without a league win at home against Chelsea since August 1990.
Chelsea, by comparison, are searching for a sixth straight win over Palace and will view the game as a chance to shift the pressure on to title rivals Liverpool and Manchester City, who face Tottenham and Arsenal respectively this weekend.
Ramires remains out through suspension and could be joined on the sidelines by striker Samuel Eto’o, who hobbled out of last Saturday’s 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal with a hamstring injury.
It remains to be seen if Ashley Cole has recovered from the knee problem that meant he was unavailable to face former club Arsenal.