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CRYSTAL PALACE

Stamford Bridge, London

3 April 2015 1330 UTC

Jose Mourinhoa s Chelsea take on Crystal Palace in the Sunday lunch-time kick-off knowing that three points at Stamford Bridge would confirm them as Premier League champions for the first time since 2010. The Blues have picked up six wins and two draws from their last eight fixtures, including a win against Manchester United and a draw away at Arsenal, and have emphatically snuffed out any little hope that the chasing pack had of catching up with them. The wily Portuguese manager is on the brink of his third Premier League title in five full seasons in charge, and with only three points needed from as many as four games, it is only a matter of a whena rather than a ifa .

Alan Pardew, meanwhile, has done an exceptional job at Crystal Palace after taking over in January; the Eaglesa incredible run of form in March in particular has helped them to break away from the sides battling to stave off relegation. Perhaps their all-but-guaranteed safety has caused a slight drop in motivation levels however, with Palace losing back-to-back home games against West Brom and Hull City after a run of four wins on the trot. It was Alan Pardewa s Newcastle team that handed Chelsea their first defeat of the season, and the Eaglesa manager would like nothing more than to play the role of the party-pooper when the two sides meet at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Team News and Tactics

Chelsea

Jose Mourinho confirmed in his pre-match press conference on Friday that Diego Costa would definitely not be involved in this fixture, with the club opting not to unnecessarily risk further damage to the strikera s hamstring. Loic Remy is back from a calf injury however, meaning he is likely to lead the line ahead of Didier Drogba, who scored Chelseaa s equalising goal against Leicester City in midweek. Thibaut Courtois is likely to have recovered from his hip injury, but Mourinho could well stick with club legend Petr Cech for the remainder of what is likely to be the Czecha s last season at Stamford Bridge.

The Portuguese is likely to play his preferred 4-2-3-1 with Oscar potentially stepping in for Ramires and Loic Remy coming in for Didier Drogba. Oscara s performances have dipped in the second half of the season, but the Braziliansa ability to press from the front is crucial to Chelseaa s play. With Loic Remy potentially starting up front, Chelsea have a player capable of stretching the defence with runs in behind or wide down the channels. In that sense, Remy is fairly similar to first-choice striker Diego Costa and markedly different to Drogba, who has all but lost his mobility, if not his keen sense of where the goal is.

Cesc Fabregas has been playing well off late for the Blues a scoring a crucial winner at Loftus Road and putting in a solid performance against Leicester City on Wednesday a and has certainly played his part in what will be his first ever Premier League title. On Sunday, the Spaniard will once again have the opportunity to control proceedings from deep in midfield, given Palace are likely to sit deep and counter-attack through the likes of Yannick Bolasie, Wilfried Zaha and Jason Puncheon. Attempting to press the Blues higher up the park has not worked for most sides this season, as the likes of Swansea discovered to their detriment; it would play right into the hands of Mourinho and Chelsea, who will have more space in the attacking third provided they move the ball quickly and play past the first line of pressing. Eden Hazard, in particular, will be able to have a few runs at the defence and work his magic a there would be no better way for Chelsea to cap things off than with another special performance from the PFA Player of the Year in front of the home fans.

Predicted lineup (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Matic, Fabregas; Hazard, Oscar, Willian; Remy.

Crystal Palace

Alan Pardew is likely to be without Frazier Campbell (hamstring), Marouane Chamakh (hamstring), Joel Ward (foot) and Joe Ledley (hip) for the trip to Stamford Bridge, meaning his team is likely to be unchanged from the visit of Hull City last Saturday. Pape Souare is likely to continue at left-back, with James McArthur partnering Mile Jedinak in midfield and the likes of Bolasie and Zaha providing pace and trickery down either flank. Glenn Murray has been in a rich vein of form of late, and is likely to lead the attack a his strength and ability to hold up the ball to get team-mates involved in play has been a notable feature of his performances, and could cause the Chelsea back-line some problems.

Where Crystal Palace can really win this game though, is down either flank. Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha are the ideal players to have in a team set up to counter-attack a a combination of strength, pace and trickery and one that, on its day, could cause problems to any defence in the league. The Eagles, ostensibly, will have plenty of opportunities to counter-attack as Chelsea attempt to score and clinch the title in style, and the lack of pace in Chelseaa s back six is something that they should look to exploit.

The key for Pardewa s men is isolating the likes of Ivanovic, Cahill and John Terry in wide areas and having the likes of Bolasie, Zaha and even Puncheon run at them. Chelsea might have the best defence in the league, but as has been seen on several occasions this season, it is not the most convincing unit when defending one-on-one, or indeed when dealing with pace. Cezar Azpilicueta is the one exception to that a the Chelsea left-back has been in outstanding form of late and will once more look to shut down his flank and attempt to take Zaha out of the game. He is, by some distance, the best 1 vs 1 defender in the Premier League at the moment. Nemanja Matic will have a crucial role to play too, providing cover to the back four and either going out wide himself to help the likes of Ivanovic and Azpilicueta, or filling in centrally in the event that one of the centre-backs is dragged out of position.

Predicted line-up (4-2-3-1): Speroni; Kelly, Dann, Delaney, Souare; McArthur, Jedinak (c); Bolasie, Puncheon, Zaha; Murray

Key Facts

  • Chelsea have never lost to Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge in the first division and will be looking to extend their current unbeaten run at home against the Eagles to 12 games.
  • Cesc Fabregas (17) is just three assists shy of Thiery Henrya s Premier League record for most assists in a season.
  • Crystal Palace have won five of their last six away games, with Pardew winning four of his last six fixtures against Chelsea.
  • Chelsea are the only club in Englanda s top four divisions to have not lost a game at home this season.
  • Palace have recovered more points from losing positions (18) than any other side in the Premier League this season.


Key Man

Cesc Fabregas

Chelsea vs Crystal Palace a   Team News, Tactics, Lineups and Prediction

Cesc Fabregas, who is likely to win his first Premier League title this season, will play a key role on Sunday.

The former Arsenal captain is on the brink of winning his first Premier League title, and will be the key man for Chelsea on Sunday. If the Spaniard can dictate the tempo of the game from the middle of the pitch and move the ball around quickly and incisively to the likes of Hazard and Willian before Palace are able to set themselves up defensively, Chelsea will win this game. Fabregas has racked up 17 assists in the league already, and Sunday presents a great opportunity to add to that tally.

Prediction

Chelsea 2 a 0 Crystal Palace

Chelsea have been very strong mentally to tie up the league as they have done over the past few weeks, and will be motivated to win it as early as possible in front of the home fans. Jose Mourinho has never won a league fixture against Alan Pardew, but his side should have enough quality and determination to overcome the Eagles on Sunday.