16th-place Crystal Palace were unlucky to suffer defeat on home turf in midweek against Manchester United, but they will need to dust themselves down quickly for this weekend’s visit of league leaders Chelsea in Saturday’s early kick-off. Antonio Conte’s men are six points clear at the top of the Premier League and have already secured more victories this campaign than in the entirety of last season, so Alan Pardew’s team will be in for a battle if they are to take anything away from this clash with the Blues at Selhurst Park.
Palace can take heart from the fact that the United defeat was their first in three games, but Conte’s Chelsea will be an altogether different prospect, given that they are on a winning streak of ten consecutive victories.
Until Wednesday’s defeat, it seemed that Alan Pardew and Crystal Palace had turned a corner, following up their last gasp capitulation at Swansea with victory over Southampton and a hard-earned point at fellow strugglers Hull, but the 1-2 reverse leaves them with just one win in ten as they prepare to welcome the league leaders to Selhurst Park.
Palace matches are certainly the ones to watch for entertainment value in the Premier League, with over 2.5 goals scored in the last eight league fixtures featuring the Eagles. Unless they can tighten up at the back though, more of them may well be going into their net than that of the Blues, with Alan Pardew’s side having shipped two or more goals in seven of their last eight games, whilst Chelsea have preserved a clean sheet in eight of their last ten in the league.
Palace are in need of a lift at Selhurst Park, if not anywhere. Despite their only win in ten coming on home turf, they have lost four of their last five at home and are now only three points above the relegation zone.
Chelsea meanwhile are on a run of ten straight victories, are six points clear at the top of the league, and have the edge historically against Palace, winning four of the last six meetings between the two teams, with Palace winning two. Chelsea’s last defeat against the Eagles came back in August 2015, when goals from Bakary Sako and Joel Ward were enough for Saturday’s hosts to win 2-1 at Stamford Bridge, though Chelsea did avenge that defeat with a 3-0 victory in last season’s edition of this fixture. Only managing 1-0 wins in each of their last two however, there is a sense that Chelsea’s free scoring mood is beginning to drop and it may only be a matter of time before they drop points somewhere.
Jason Puncheon was a notable absentee in the 2-1 loss to Manchester United through suspension, and he is expected to be reinstated into the side, featuring centrally in an attacking trio with Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend, operating behind lone striker Christian Benteke.
With James Tomkins on the injury list, the back four that started against Manchester United should remain in place here, Martin Kelly in for Tomkins at right-back, with Scott Dann and Damien Delaney in the centre-half positions and Joel Ward at left-back. Steve Mandanda’s continual absence means Wayne Hennessey should continue in goal, and free-scoring midfielder James McArthur will remain in a deep-lying position next to Joe Ledley.
For Chelsea, Antonio Conte is almost certain to persist with the 3-4-3 formation that has proven the catalyst for a remarkable revival for his team. Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Gary Cahill will continue in the back three in front of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, and after Cesc Fabregas scored the goal that won Chelsea the match late-on at Sunderland during the week, he is expected to continue in midfield alongside N’Golo Kanté, at the expense of the dropped Nemanja Matic.
Eden Hazard didn’t travel with the squad that made the trip to the Stadium of Light on Wednesday after suffering a knock, and with the Belgian remaining doubtful for this one, Willian could profit with another start, featuring on the left of the attacking three with Pedro on the opposite flank and Diego Costa operating as the spearhead.
Crystal Palace predicted starting XI Chelsea predicted starting XI
For the hosts, manager Alan Pardew has no suspension concerns to contend with following Jason Puncheon’s return, but James Tomkins, Bakary Sako, Pape Souaré, Connor Wickham, Jonathan Benteke and Steve Mandanda are all long-term absentees. Former Chelsea striker Loic Remy is lacking match fitness and isn’t expected to feature.
John Terry is a confirmed absentee for Chelsea, whilst Kurt Zouma and Marco Van Ginkel are both doubts due to lack of fitness following their comebacks from injury. Oscar remains a doubt through fitness concerns, but may well have played his last game for the club as a proposed big-money move to China edges ever closer. John Obi Mikel is a doubt following injury, as is Eden Hazard after missing Wednesday’s game at Sunderland.
With Crystal Palace on the back of four defeats in their last five home league matches, with a mere one win in ten, it doesn’t make for pretty reading as they welcome a rampant Chelsea side to Selhurst Park. Though there is something to be said in the fact that this game is the early kick-off of the weekend, and Chelsea may not have it all their own way in South London.
Chelsea have won 10 league games in a row and are currently the team to beat in the Premier League. On initial viewing it may be hard to see where they will next drop points, but Palace’s desperation for a result, coupled with the fact that the Blues have only managed 1-0 wins in each of their last two matches may be a cause for concern for Antonio Conte. It is clear they missed Hazard’s creative presence against Sunderland in the week, which hinted at a vulnerability within the Chelsea ranks when stretched by injuries to key players. They still had enough at the Stadium of Light however to clinch victory, and even if the winning run is to end soon, logic dictates that it is unlikely to happen here, although Palace in a televised game will push them all the way. Our call is Crystal Palace 1-2 Chelsea at full-time.
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