How long can the hope last?

Pompey take on mid-table Crystal Palace at Fratton Park tomorrow looking to keep the faint hopes of Championship survival alive.

Team News

Michael Appleton is likely to make changes to the eleven who started so abysmally at Doncaster, with Luke Varney and Kelvin Etuhu most vulnerable after being hauled off.

That means Marko Futacs and possibly even Dave Kitson may be recalled to the starting line-up but Tal Ben-Haim is still missing with a calf injury.

Dougie Freedman will be without South African midfielder Kagisho Dikcagoi due to a thigh problem but has no other concerns as he looks to make changes from Saturday's 1-1 draw with Ipswich.

The Match

Just to be clear, here are the relegation permutations once again.

If Portsmouth lose, they are down. If Bristol City beat West Ham, that would also mean Pompey are relegated no matter what happens at Fratton Park.

A draw would see Appy's men take the drop unless City lose at home to the Hammers, but then they would have to hope that the Robins lose their remaining two fixtures whilst they win their final couple of games.

This doesn't even take Coventry into the equation who are still three points ahead of Pompey and have two very winnable home games against Millwall and Doncaster this week.

So, the odds are still well against us going into the final furlong of the season but as long as there is a chance of survival, albeit slimmer than Posh Spice, the belief will always be there.

Palace may well be the stereotypical "perfect" opposition tomorrow given that they have nothing to play for and may be thinking of their holidays already.

Of course, the other side of this clichéd coin is that the Eagles can play without pressure and enjoy a game of football that won't be littered with mistakes from their own players.

Whichever way you look at it, you have to believe we can win this game despite the fortunate circumstances of that astonishing comeback at the Keepmoat Stadium on Saturday.

The defending was poor and at least three of our goals may not have been given if the referee had been different on the day. So there has to be a marked improvement tomorrow night.

If I was Appleton I would hand Futacs a start ahead of Varney who may still have his uses as an impact sub. I would keep Etuhu in the side despite his poor showing because on a good day, he is the best player we've got.

If we do go a goal down, I would hope Pompey don't panic and start hoofing the ball in desperation like they did against Millwall. The lads have proved that they can play some good football at Fratton Park but it needs to be sustained for 90 minutes.

If we're going down, we should at least go down fighting.

Predicted Starting Line-Ups

Pompey

GK: Jamie ASHDOWN

RB: Joel WARD

CB: Ricardo ROCHA

CB: Jason PEARCE

LB: Karim REKIK

DM: Greg HALFORD

CM: David NORRIS

CM: Kelvin ETUHU

AM: Scott ALLAN

CF: Chris MAGUIRE

CF: Marko FUTACS

Palace

GK: Julian SPERONI

RB: Nathaniel CLYNE

CB: Paddy McCARTHY

CB: Dean MOXEY

LB: Paul McSHANE

CM: Darren AMBROSE

CM: Stuart O'KEEFE

CM: Owen GARVAN

RWF: Sean SCANNELL

LWF: Wilfried ZAHA

CF: Glenn MURRAY

Last Time: Portsmouth 1 Crystal Palace 0 (Championship - 22/02/2011)

A fortunate second half goal from David Nugent was enough to put poor Palace to the sword and virtually confirm Pompey's survival in the Championship. If only it was the same this season...

My Prediction

I have a feeling that Pompey might balls this one up given how the Doncaster result masked what was a poor performance for ages. It could well be a draw but I believe that West Ham will win at Bristol City, earning us a stay of execution until Saturday.

Portsmouth 1 Crystal Palace 1