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CRYSTAL PALACE

Stamford Bridge, London

December 14th 2013, 1500 BST

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Crystal Palace make the 8 mile journey north west to Stamford Bridge to play in yet another London derby for Chelsea having already played in four previous ones this season. The last time these two sides met was almost a decade ago with Chelsea winning the game 4-1 at The Bridge. Not surprisingly, they did a double over them that season. Interestingly, it was only Mourinho’s second game in charge of the Blues.

Chelsea come into this one with a defensive problem having conceded 7 goals in their last three Barclays Premier League games. However, more than the goals conceded, Mourinho will be regretting dropping points at a crucial stage of the season. Chelsea lost the previous game against Stoke City by 3 goals to 2 thereby allowing rivals Liverpool to slide into second position in the Premier League table. With a busy Christmas period coming up, the Blues will certainly not want to repeat the mistakes they made against Stoke. Also, Jose Mourinho will be looking to extend his unbeaten-at-home run to 67 games in the Premier League.

Crystal Palace come into this fixture with the best possible form having won the last 2 games and keeping clean sheets to boot. Having conceded just 1 goal in their last 4 games, winning 3 of them, Palace have certainly been rejuvenated under Tony Pulis. They will look at this as an opportunity to keep Chelsea down and continuing their good run. Having moved from the bottom of the table in the last 2 weeks, the Eagles come into this one in a buoyant mood. The appointment of Pulis has regenerated hope among the Selhurst Park faithful and will be happy with a good performance from their boys at The Bridge. Any points they get will obviously be a bonus.

Overall, these sides have met 33 times in League and Cup, with Chelsea winning 14 of the games and the same number of games ending up in a draw. At Stamford Bridge too, Chelsea have the upper hand having won 7 out of 16 games and Palace winning just once in West London.

Team news and tactics

Chelsea FC

Given Mourinho’s penchant for rotation, it is always difficult to predict Chelsea’s lineup. Having fielded a relatively weak starting line up against Steaua Bucharest in the midweek game, one can expect a full strength team to feature. Chelsea have an unblemished home record this season and will look to continue the same.

Oscar, who returned after injury in midweek, played for 66 minutes in the game and will be expected to feature in this match at some point. Chelsea have only one long term absentee in Marco van Ginkel and will have almost the full squad to choose from. Cech, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Ramires and Mata who were all rested midweek will be expected to return to the starting lineup. Ashley Cole, in the meanwhile, started against Steaua but is expected to be benched in favour of the Spanish right-back Cesar Azpilicueta.

Cesar Azpilicueta

Azpilicueta: Keeping Cole on the bench

As always, Chelsea will play in the 4-2-3-1 formation with Ramires and Mikel/ Lampard sitting in front of the back four. Chelsea’s major concern will be their defensive woes off late. A team that prides itself in keeping clean sheets is now leaking goals. With a solid defensive performance against Steaua, they are looking to continue that form going into this match. A team which heavily relies on counter-attacks, Chelsea must tighten up their defence first in order to start winning matches and picking up points consistently.

Eden Hazard has been the player to watch for Chelsea in the past few weeks and is expected to light up The Bridge yet again. Having scored 2 and assisted 1 in the previous home match, all eyes will be on the Belgian international. He has had an indifferent start to the season but is now looking like his old self. Palace defenders will certainly be kept busy by the pacy left-sided winger. Also, Chelsea’s other in-form midfielder will be looking to win his place back from Oscar who started the midweek game.

Possible starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Cech (GK), Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Ramires, Lampard, Mata, Schurrle, Hazard, Torres

Chelsea vs Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace

Of all the teams in the bottom six, Palace have had the most wins – four. Given that 2 of those victories were in the last two matches, their poor start to the season is the reason why Palace find themselves second from bottom in the table.

Unlike their opponents, Palace do have a few injury worries to contend with. Moxey, who suffered a hamstring pull against Cardiff, is expected to miss out. Also expected to sit out are Jerome Thomas, Jack Hunt, Guedioura and Glenn Murray with groin, ankle, ribs and knee troubles respectively. Paddy McCarthy is a long term absentee. There is also a return from suspension for midfielder Yannick Bolasie though he isn’t expected to make the starting eleven.

Crystal Palace are expected to line up in the 4-4-2 formation with the impressive Jedinak in the middle of midfield. With Chelsea’s strong wing play and attacking full backs, both Puncheon and Jedinak will have to track back from time to time. With Mariappa expected to fill in for the injured Moxey, the defence that has conceded just one goal in their last four games will look to perform well yet again. With a difficult run of matches to come up for Palace, they will certainly hope that the defenders continue to excel.

Marouane Chamakh

Chamakh: In great form for Palace

Both Chamakh and Cameron Jerome are in good form and will look to continue their run against the current Europa League champions. Chamakh has scored 2 in his last 2 and Jerome is a dangerous physical presence in the box. With Chelsea conceding goals by the dozen so far this season, Jerome’s presence will certainly upset the likes of Terry and Cahill. Another player that has been in great form for them is Barry Bannan. The diminutive Scotland international is looking to help Palace survive in the Premier League with his pace and dribbling abilities. His good form has also coincided with the arrival of Tony Pulis who will be looking to make it 4 wins out of 5 to make a dream start to his time as Palace boss.

Possible starting lineup (4-4-2): Speroni (GK), Ward, Gabbidon, Delaney, Mariappa, Puncheon, Digkacoi, Jedinak, Bannan, Jerome, Chamakh

Player to watch out for

Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

Chelsea

Eden Hazard is in great form for Chelsea

The Chelsea midfielder had been off to a slow start in the season. However, an eye-catching display against Sunderland earned him praise from all quarters. With his brace against Sunderland, he also became Chelsea’s leading goalscorer so far this season and will look to continue his form against a team fighting for relegation. Hazard is fast turning into a overall package as a goal-scoring and assist providing midfielder and Chelsea will be looking to him, Oscar and Schurrle for continued success in the seasons to come.

Key Facts

1) Chelsea have already conceded more goals this season (17) than they did in one WHOLE season when Mourinho first took charge of Chelsea in 2004-05.

2) Chelsea are yet to lose at home this season while Palace have lost 6 of the 7 games they have played away. Chelsea are also unbeaten in the last 7 London derbies in the Premier League.

3) Both teams have the same record in the last 4 games, with 3 wins and a loss. Palace have conceded just one during the time, while Chelsea have conceded 7.

Prediction

Chelsea 3 – 0 Crystal Palace

All said and done, Chelsea should have a comfortable outing at The Bridge. Palace have been vulnerable defensively earlier in the season and Chelsea will be looking to take advantage of that. Also, there are no real threats at goal for Chelsea if they manage to keep Chamakh quiet. Chelsea will want to bury the demons from the defeat at Stoke and Palace seem just the right opponents.

Blast from the past

The last time these two sides met in the Premier League, Chelsea won 4-1. Here is a look at the highlights from that game: