Alan Pardew took his Crystal Palace squad to Barcelona this week as they prepare for an FA Cup tie with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday afternoon, despite being on an horrendous run of form that has seen just two wins in their last eleven games in all competitions.
Palace's only recent victories along the wretched run have come in the prestigious cup competition; knocking out fellow Premier League opposition Southampton and Stoke City to set up their third all-Premier League tie, this time with Spurs.
Pardew planned the stay based on a tradition that he experienced when he was a player under the management Steve Coppell at Palace in 1990, when a magnificent run to the FA Cup final saw them narrowly lose 1-0 to Manchester United in a replay, following a 3-3 draw in the original tie.
The Palace boss commented in his programme notes from last weekend’s game against Watford, “that run we had to the cup final (in 1990), we used to go away for a week just to focus on the cup.”
Barca' break gives Palace a chance to refresh, but extra travelling is a worry
Certain questions will be raised about the extra travelling as Palace’s recent performances have seemed slow and have lacked the attacking flair that audiences were familiar to seeing at the start of the season, however, much of that has been down to the absence of winger Yannick Bolasie – sidelined through injury since December. A week of preparation at home would have seemed more welcoming, although a new environment is refreshing, team spirit can be lifted and, ultimately, the trip is justified.
Extra travelling could increase fatigue, but Pardew claims that his side will benefit from warm weather training away from their usual base in Beckenham. A chance to focus and possibly revamp the tactical approach to matches is valuable, especially away from the pressure of the media.
Palace’s opponents on Sunday, Spurs, have also had to travel to Europe this week; they met Fiorentina in the last-32 of the Europa League, earning a 1-1 draw and a healthy result to take back to the second leg at White Hart Lane
Manager Mauricio Pochettino fielded a slightly weaker team that excluded the likes of Harry Kane, Eric Dier, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker and Moussa Dembele – who all dropped to the bench, but are likely to return to the starting eleven when they welcome the Eagles at the weekend.
Spurs game could turn recent fortunes around
Palace will see the game at Spurs as a chance to ease some pressure, following a poor run of games which was culminated by the latest defeat to Watford at Selhurst. The main worry for Pardew will be that performances have been sub-standard and usually key players, such as Mile Jedinak, Damien Delaney, Jason Puncheon and Yohan Cabaye, have all suffered a dip in their own individual form.
Bakary Sako, Dwight Gayle and Bolasie have all missed large spells through injury, and he current predicament was made even tougher when James McArthur suffered a setback of his own in the defeat to Bournemouth, as the Scotland midfielder is likely to miss the rest of the season.
The break in Barcelona could be the catalyst for an upturn in results if Palace beat their London rivals on Sunday and advance through to the quarter-finals of the cup, but if the team once again seems slow and lethargic, questions will definitely be raised about how beneficial the training camp really was.