London rivals Crystal Palace and Chelsea meet this Saturday lunchtime in a game that neither side will want to lose.
The Eagles’ bright start to the campaign has quickly evaporated and they have since been sucked into the dreaded relegation scrap, having won only once in their last 10 league matches. Last Wednesday’s home defeat to Manchester United will have been a bitter pill to swallow but Alan Pardew’s men must regroup quickly if they are to have any hope of halting the Chelsea juggernaut.
Antonio Conte’s team have been in breathtaking form having won their last 10 matches in the league so it’s no wonder they have opened up a six point lead at the top. With the Premier League record of 14 consecutive wins insight, the Blues will be desperate to keep their run going before the Christmas celebrations can begin.
This fixture has been fairly kind to Chelsea but last season both team’s picked up a win against each other. Palace stunned Jose Mourinho’s team in September by winning 2-1 at the Bridge, as Chelsea’s title defence began to quickly unravel.
When the two teams met a few months later, the Blues had turned to interim manager Guus Hiddink to end the small threat of relegation and his first win came at Selhurst Park as Chelsea eased to a 3-0 victory thanks to goals from Oscar, Willian and Diego Costa.
Scott Dann vs Diego Costa
Palace captain Scott Dann will need to lead from the front if his side are going to stop Chelsea’s Diego Costa. The Spaniard has been in red-hot form this season and having not scored for a whole 90 minutes – on current form – you would think the striker is probably due a goal.
But if Dann can match Costa’s energy and physicality, then he will certainly make it a tough afternoon for the Blues forward.
Christian Benteke vs David Luiz
The hosts are unlikely to get many chances against this miserly Chelsea defence, so they will need their record signing Christian Benteke to be at his clinical best. David Luiz is likely to be the one marking the Belgian for much of the match, so the centre back will be looking to limit the striker’s chances, especially in the air.
Palace will welcome back Jason Puncheon after the midfielder missed the defeat to United through suspension. Mathieu Flamini is the only fresh injury problem following Wednesday’s match and although there are a handful of long term absentees, manager Alan Pardew is hopeful that the likes of James Tomkins and Loic Remy can return in the coming weeks.
Chelsea meanwhile are expected to welcome back star man Eden Hazard, as the Belgian has shaken off the minor knock that caused him to miss the win over Sunderland. Captain John Terry is unlikely to feature but otherwise, Antonio Conte has a full pool of players to choose from.
Possible Crystal Palace XI: Hennessey; Kelly, Dann, Delaney, Ward; Cabaye, Ledley; Townsend, Puncheon, Zaha; Benteke
Possible Chelsea XI: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Pedro, Costa, Hazard
This match has Chelsea win written all over it. Although Palace came close to drawing against United two days ago, they were hardly worthy of a point. The away side are on a role and though they haven’t been at their best in recent weeks, they continue to grind out results.
Saying that, they should win this one fairly comfortably as the Eagles’ defence has been leaky at best this season and with Hazard returning for Chelsea it could be one-way traffic.
Crystal Palace 0-3 Chelsea