West Brom-Crystal Palace Preview
Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion will have already started looking ahead to next season when they face off at Selhurst Park on Sunday, the final day of the Premier League.
But next year poses very different futures for the two clubs after starkly contrasting campaigns.
Palace (10-11-16) began the season with seven pointless and goalless matches to leave themselves written off as guaranteed relegation fodder. But the arrival of former England manager Roy Hodgson sparked a revival, and such has been the Eagles' improvement under their veteran coach that they could even seal a top-half finish on Sunday if other results go their way.
"I am very proud of what the players and the staff have done," Hodgson said on Friday as he spoke to the assorted media. "At all football clubs it's the players and the manager who get all the credit, but a club is always about the team behind the team and I have been very fortunate here that everyone has done a very good job, incredible coaching team and medical, sports science and video analysis staff."
However, Hodgson has also urged his club not to become complacent after pulling off such a great escape.
"My advice to everyone would be to be happy for the time being that we are in the Premier League, as we could so easy have not of have been," he said. "In such a difficult league if you start thinking 'it's gone quite well this season and next season we will push on for a European place' that could be one of the quickest ways to get you relegated."
In stark contrast to Palace, Sunday's visitors West Brom (6-13-18) began the season well with back-to-back wins, only to then capitulate and succumb to relegation after a miserable seven month run under the leadership of first Tony Pulis and then Alan Pardew - both of whom were sacked.
At least a season in the second tier awaits the Baggies, but the club does have some reason for optimism after putting on an impressive late show in recent weeks in the hands of caretaker coach Darren Moore.
Moore has picked up 11 points in his five games in charge, not yet tasting defeat and doubling the club's win tally for the season. And that remarkable run is even more impressive given that the Baggies have faced Premier League heavyweights Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham in that time.
"We've got some wonderful results against some really good football clubs," Moore said this week. "All five games have been excellent results and we continue to work on extending that. We need to keep that mentality going in the football club."
Moore's remarkable impact has seen him backed by many to take on the manager's position permanently, but the club have yet to make a decision, and Moore moved to clarify the situation on Friday.
"Once we get through game six, and next week once I've spoken to the chairman and the board of directors, then I'm in a clearer position where I can share the news, whatever that may be, with you.
"But my message to everybody is 'feel proud of what's gone into the club in recent weeks.' We've filled the club with hope and vision and pride."
West Brom will be without midfielders James Morrison and Gareth Barry for Sunday's game due to injury, while Palace are missing Scott Dann and Bakary Sako.
The last meeting between these clubs ended in a goalless draw at the Hawthorns in December, continuing a remarkable even run of results in the fixture. Since 2013 the results between Palace and West Brom in all competitions have seen two draws and four wins apiece, with an aggregate score in that stretch of 11-11.
Updated May 11, 2018