Chelsea host Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on Saturday with the prospect of extending their lead to 13 points.
Chelsea sit comfortably at the top of the Premier League, with 69 points from 28 games. The Blues look primed to be crowned the champions this season and with just 10 games to go, Antonio Conte’s men are likely to take another step towards the title with a win over the Eagles.
Crystal Palace have three wins in a row for the first time in the season and have matched their longest undefeated run of three games this season. They could beat the mark with a positive result against Chelsea and distance themselves further from the relegation zone.
A win is equally important for both sides – for monumentally different reasons altogether. We at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at the fixture.
Team News & Tactics
Chelsea have a host of doubts going into the game. Thibaut Courtois is a doubt for the game while the attacking duo of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa are also not a 100% certain for the match. Victor Moses is also a doubt for the game.
The positive news is that the back three and the central midfield areas are unaffected by injury problems. However, Antonio Conte has confirmed in his pre-match conference that John Terry is fit for the game and Eden Hazard, who missed the Stoke fixture through injury, is also set to start the game, contrary to the reports.
While Diego Costa has a direct replacement available in Michy Batshuayi, Conte has often deployed a false nine formation instead of starting with the Belgian. We could see both Willian and Pedro start the game, with Moses also a likely absentee for the match.
Begovic can do a more than able job at acting as the cover to Courtois in case the Belgian doesn’t start. However, Conte could start Courtois, with the Blues not having the headache of a packed schedule.
Probable Lineup ( 3-4-3 ): Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill; Willian, Fabregas, Kante, Alonso; Pedro, Costa, Hazard
Crystal Palace FC
The Eagles have a long injury list to tackle. Perhaps the most telling absence is the injury to Patrick Van Aanholt, which will be replaced in the lineup by Jeffrey Schlupp, who is equally an attacking minded player as the former Sunderland man.
Also a costly absence would be James McArthur in the midfield, who is a heavy doubt for the match. Luka Milivojevic is to replace the player in the middle of the park and it will be interesting to see how he can cope with the opposition.
Loic Remy is unavailable for the game as he cannot face his parent club. The onus on providing the ammunition to the attack will be on Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend while Christian Benteke will be tasked to put the finishing touch.
Big Sam has converted a loose Palace defence into a solid backline, which could be upto the test that Chelsea provides.
Probable Lineup ( 4-2-3-1 ): Hennessey; Ward, Tomkins, Sakho, Schlupp; Cabaye, Milivojevic; Zaha, Puncheon, Townsend; Benteke
1. Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.80
2. Chelsea Clean Sheet – No @ 2.20
1. Christian Benteke to score anytime @ 5.00
1. Losses in London – Crystal Palace have amassed 0 points against their London rivals – Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal, West Ham – this season so far while Chelsea are top of the Premier League London table.
2. In the last six meetings between the two sides, Besides the January, 2016 fixture where Chelsea defeated Crystal Palace 3-0, the other five games have not had more than a single goal differentiating the two sides.
3. Chelsea have now failed to record a clean sheet for six successive games in a row while Crystal Palace have recorded 3 clean sheets in a row now.
4. Diego Costa has a record of 2 goals and assist in the 3 games he has played against Crystal Palace.
5. Christian Benteke has 4 goals and an assist in 8 appearances against Chelsea but is goalless in the last five Premier League games after scoring against Bournemouth.
Player to Watch
The former Liverpool man has the ability to terrorize any defence on his day. The striker is likely to have a few opportunities to take advantage of and Crystal Palace’s chances of eking out a positive result could well depend on his ability to convert those few chances.
Chelsea FC 2 – 1 Crystal Palace FC
As noted by the statistics above, there has been, at most times, a difference of single goal between the two sides. And the same is likely to be the case at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
However, it may well end in a frustrating draw for the Blues, which will not go down well with the Chelsea fans, especially since it will be right after the international break.