Selhurst Park, London
Sunday 3rd January 2016, 1330 GMT
Chelsea FC take on Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace in the lunch-time kick-off on Sunday looking for their first win under new manager Guus Hiddink, with the Blues picking up just two points from their first two games under the Dutchman
Crystal Palace are flying high in the league at the moment and sit just below the Champions League spots in fifth place, a full nine positions and 11 points ahead of their opponents on Sunday.
The Blues have had a nightmare season thus far, and the sacking of Jos Mourinho has not immediately paid dividends in terms of the team’s results, or indeed their performances. Two successive draws in interim manager Guus Hiddink’s first two games in charge have left the Stamford Bridge faithful concerned about their side’s final league position come May.
Chelsea FC need to put together a relatively long run of positive results to inch closer to a respectable league position, but Selhurst Park will not be an easy venue to kick things off in.
Team News and Tactics
Alan Pardew will be without the services of Yohan Cabaye, who is suspended for the game after picking up a booking in the Eagles’ previous game against Swansea City. In addition to the France international, Crystal Palace will also not be able to call upon Dwight Gayle (hamstring), Bakary Sako (hamstring), Connor Wickham (calf) and Yannick Bolasie (hip).
Palace’s biggest threat to Chelsea FC is definitely the pace of their front men — particularly the likes of Jason Puncheon and Wilfried Zaha, with the latter causing huge problems for the Blues in their meeting earlier this season. Branislav Ivanovi has improved his level of performances of late, but is still vulnerable to fast, tricky wingers and both Puncheon and Zaha will try and isolate him if possible, particularly in counter-attacking situations.
Pardew has not been afraid to experiment with formations this season, and has played 4-3-3, 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1 at various times. Recently, however, the Englishman has gone with a 4-2-3-1, with the likes of James McArthur, Joe Ledley and Mile Jedinak options for the holding midfield positions.
Although the Premier League champions have been poor this season, they do possess players with a lot of individual ability — particularly in midfield– which might prompt the former Newcastle United manager to play a three-man midfield and sacrifice the No 10 position.
Possible starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Hennessey; Ward, Dann, Hangeland, Souar ; Jedinak (C), McArthur, Ledley; Zaha, Campbell, Puncheon
Guus Hiddink will once again be able to name a side with Diego Costa up front — a huge relief following the substandard attacking performance at Old Trafford against Manchester United. The former Atl tico Madrid hitman has been in better form in recent weeks despite struggling throughout the season, and his brace against Watford would have only served to boost his confidence.
However, the Dutchman will be without the services of Colombian Radamel Falcao (calf), while Gary Cahill (ankle) and LoA?c R my (calf) are doubtful for the game with minor injuries.
Hiddink has continued with largely the same formation Mourinho used in the days before his departure, and it will likely be a 4-2-3-1 that the travelling Blues’ supporters will see on Sunday at Selhurst Park. John Obi Mikel could well be the man partnering Nemanja Mati in the midfield double-pivot, with Cesc F bregas either in the No 10 position, or out of the starting XI altogether.
Brazilian midfielder Oscar is the better player at pressing however, and the combination of him and Diego Costa is extremely effective in terms of denying the opposition the time and space to play out from the back. Chelsea FC might have more of the ball, but will have to be extremely wary of Palace’s threat on the break. The wide players — likely to be Eden Hazard and Willian — will have to help the full-backs as much as possible given the quality of the home side’s wingers.
Possible starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Ivanvoi , Zouma, Terry (C), Azpilicueta; Mati , Mikel; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Diego Costa
- Chelsea FC have won 9 of their last 13 matches against Crystal Palace in the Premier League (W9 D2 L2).
- Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew has won 5 of his last 8 Premier League matches against Chelsea FC.
- Chelsea FC have been unable to register victories in any of their away games this season, with the exception of the 3-2 win against West Brom at the beginning of the season.
- Crystal Palace have won two of the last five Premier League games against the Blues — both by a single-goal margin.
- Guus Hiddink has only lost 1 Premier League match during his time in England — a 1-0 defeat at White Hart Lane in his first interim spell with Chelsea FC.
Player to watch out for
The Belgian has had a remarkably poor season thus far, and will want to change his fortunes as the football action for 2016 kicks off this weekend. Although he was unable to make a difference, Hazard looked sharp whenever he was on the ball against Manchester United, and is showing some signs of recovery in recent games.
The match against Crystal Palace is a great opportunity to announce his ‘comeback’, and a big performance from the Belgian could be a huge boost for the club in what promises to be another topsy-turvy year for the Stamford Bridge faithful.
Crystal Palace 1 – 1 Chelsea FC
The home side are without some of their key players in attack, including the likes of Cabaye, Bolasie and Wickham, and have been unable to score in their last two Premier League fixtures. However, the Blues’ defence has been leaky this season, and Pardew will fancy his side’s chances of getting on the scoreboard. A score draw is likely.
Blast from the past