Just eight games in, and the Premier League is taking a familiar shape already.
The only real anomalies are Tottenham and Manchester United sitting down in ninth and 12th place respectively and Everton languishing in the relegation zone.
And the fact that Crystal Palace are sixth.
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson embraces Gary Cahill after their recent win at West Ham
CRYSTAL PALACE’S NEXT FIVE FIXTURES
Manchester City (H), October 19
Arsenal (A), October 27
Leicester (H), November 3
Chelsea (A), November 9
Liverpool (H), November 23
One look at Palace’s next five fixtures though, and it’s hard to argue they won’t be closer to their traditional position of lower mid-table as the season nears its halfway stage. Just as it’s hard to see Spurs, United and Everton in their current predicaments for much longer.
In their next five matches Palace, remarkably, play all five teams above them. That run starts with a home match in the Saturday evening kick-off against champions City before a trip to Arsenal next weekend. Then, Leicester come to Selhurst Park before a trip to Stamford Bridge and, last but by no means the lesser challenge, is the visit of leaders Liverpool on November 23.
While that run may make pessimistic Palace fans nervous, they find themselves in the familiar position of being able to affect the title race again.
A myth of ‘Crystanbul’ in May 2014 is that the draw at Selhurst Park blew Liverpool’s title chances. It didn’t, the defeat by Chelsea the week before did the most damage.
But, on the same day as Steven Gerrard’s infamous slip, Palace were beaten 2-0 by City, before going on to snatch a point off Liverpool the following week, having trailed 3-0 with just 15 minutes left.
Had Palace instead drawn with City and lost to Liverpool, the Reds would have finished as champions, two points clear of Manuel Pellegrini’s side rather than two behind, even allowing for Chelsea’s win.
If Liverpool fans felt like Palace owed them one after that then the favour appeared to have been returned last December with the Eagles’ improbable 3-2 win at City, courtesy of Andros Townsend’s wonderstrike, which left Jurgen Klopp’s side four points clear at the top of the Premier League. They could not capitalise though despite that gap at one stage extending to eight points.
Dwight Gayle hammers home Crystal Palace’s equaliser against Liverpool in May 2014
Luis Suarez sinks to the turf at Selhurst Park with Liverpool’s title dream in ruins
Andros Townsend volleys home an incredible goal against Manchester City last season
Townsend celebrates his goal before Palace went on to win 3-2 at the home of the champions
Where Palace come into play again is that potential points swing. Were they to beat City on Saturday and lose to Liverpool in November, the gap could be opened up to 11 points. Were the opposite to happen, it could be down to five.
In all likelihood though, Palace will lose both fixtures against the best two teams in the division. It is in the other three fixtures of this daunting run that they will see the most hope.
Palace won at the Emirates as recently as April – a major reason the Gunners missed out on the top four – and have beaten Chelsea four times since their return to the Premier League in 2013, including twice at Stamford Bridge.
The Leicester fixture undoubtedly offers the greatest chance of a win for Roy Hodgson’s side. Since the former England manager took over at Selhurst Park, Palace have won all four fixtures against the Foxes, scoring 13 goals and conceding just once.
Jordan Ayew (second right) celebrates Crystal Palace’s winner against West Ham
A mean defence has been the hallmark of Hodgson’s Palace and they currently have the fourth-best backline in the league having conceded eight times. Four of those goals came in the space of 32 minutes in an uncharacteristic defeat at Tottenham.
That half an hour aside, Gary Cahill has marshalled the defence superbly since his arrival from Chelsea on a free in the summer and Palace are well stocked in midfield with seasoned battlers.
Key man Wilfried Zaha has started the season slowly after failing to get a move in the summer but there are signs in recent matches that he is getting back to his best. Zaha loves the big stage and with potential suitors watching these box office games don’t be surprised if he makes an impact.
But, for all the giddy optimism, we return to our original point. Palace lying in sixth place is an anomaly at this stage of the season and they now face the toughest run of fixtures possible.
They will be exposed at times this season for not investing in the summer in a striker and cover at full-back and a top 10 finish would be an outstanding achievement given the resources available to Hodgson.
But that’s not to say they aren’t capable of a couple of their trademark scalps along the way.
Wilfried Zaha has shown signs of returning to his brilliant best ahead of this daunting run