Sam Allardyce hoping Crystal Palace benefit from a rest
Crystal Palace boss Sam Allardyce is hoping that a fortnight's rest will have given his struggling side a chance to address their poor form.
The Eagles sit 19th in the Premier League ahead of Saturday's visit of fellow strugglers Middlesbrough - having taken just four points out of the 24 on offer since Allardyce was appointed in December.
The 62-year-old former England boss has never been relegated from the top-flight and kept Sunderland afloat against all the odds last season.
But he has an uphill challenge to reproduce similar heroics in south London, although having not played for two weeks gave Allardyce a chance to get his players fitter and stronger ahead of the Boro fixture.
"We've tried to get them a little fitter in this period, with no game," he said.
"Physical and mental go hand in hand. The better you feel physically, the better you feel mentally.
"We've picked up a couple of knocks and injuries along the way, but we gave them a long weekend off to recover from that, and have built up this week towards a massive game against Boro.
"We have to finish on top of the bottom seven I'm thinking about. We need to live up to the expectation and pressure, and deliver on Saturday.
"This two-week break will hopefully have a major impact on us getting a massive result."
While Palace are struggling for home form, Middlesbrough have not won on the road in the league since August - but Allardyce sees Saturday's game as much more than a clash with Aitor Karanka's men.
"We were supposed to beat Sunderland here, lost 4-0. Supposed to beat Swansea, lost 2-1. It's not Boro we're playing against," he said.
"We're playing against ourselves here. We didn't cope mentally against Sunderland or Swansea, so we have to cope better to get our best game on the field tomorrow.
"If we do that, that might take care of Boro. There'll be little in it. Look at their record: if we produce our best, Boro are still very sound defensively, very solid.
"The result has always been the odd goal 20 times out of 25, so it will be tight."
Asked if this was a game that Palace could not afford to lose, Allardyce added: "I've been saying that for a long time, but we keep losing.
"That's the biggest problem for me. A few draws in the last 8-10 games would have made a massive difference in our position now. Respect the point. That's what I've told the players."