Wembley beckons for Palace
Dougie Freedman wasn't hiding the Carling Cup desire within the Crystal Palace ranks when he made wholesale changes for the trip to Blackpool on Saturday and we believe their want will shine through in their performance when they contest the second leg of their semi-final clash with Cardiff on Tuesday night.
The Eagles rested nine players for the game at Bloomfield Road and gave a decent account of themselves but ultimately came up short as the Seasiders overturned a one-goal deficit with a late double-salvo to take the points.
But league results have hardly been a priority for the Londoners of late and based on the resilience they've shown this season in games that matter to them, we have every faith they will finish the job of booking a first Wembley appearance in 15 years, so take the 17/20 quote with Sportingbet about Crystal Palace to qualify.
Back Crystal Palace to qualify at 17/20
The one-goal margin that currently separates the two teams might seem rather precarious but it presents Palace with enough possibilities to stay composed in most eventualities and do what's required of them.
If the visitors bring along the doggedness and determination that has been the over-riding feature of their time under Freedman, it would take a monumental effort from the Bluebirds to win by two clear goals inside 90 minutes and though victory by the odd goal would force extra time, that's when the fresher legs in the Eagles camp might really begin to show.
We don't doubt that this game means a lot to Cardiff but they also harbour hopes of winning promotion and there's only so much burning passion that a dressing room can contain. Palace hearts are yearning for only one thing right now.
Malky Mackay fielded a full-strength line-up at the weekend and they too were subjected to late drama, coming from behind to beat Portsmouth 3-2 with a long-range effort from Craig Conway in stoppage time.
That result pushed the Welsh outfit up to third and they look a fair bet for a top-six finish but we're not convinced their mettle has been tested much yet and we're not convinced there's as much between the two teams as the layers would have you believe.
The league table obviously tells you that Cardiff are the better football side but they had a shocking reputation for choking under Dave Jones and only time will tell how much Mackay has done to rectify that. In the meantime, memories of the many promotion collapses and play-off defeats still linger because such weaknesses can become hard-wired into the DNA of a club.
Palace's recent history, from administration to final-day survival and another character-building relegation battle last season, means they won't be frightened of defeat. And in the death-or-glory moments that so often shape an occasion like this, that could prove to be the difference.
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