Chelsea will be aiming to continue their unbeaten start to the season when they welcome Crystal Palace to Stamford Bridge on Sunday evening
Two of the contenders in the Premier League title race will be in action as Gameweek 11 continues on Sunday. The second match on the day will feature a London derby, as Chelsea and Crystal Palace lock horns at Stamford Bridge looking to maintain their place as one of the front runners in the standings.
Chelsea have been delightful ever since Maurizio Sarri took charge in the summer, having not lost any of their competitive fixtures this season, the Community Shield result notwithstanding. On Saturday, the Italian has the chance to become only the second manager to go unbeaten in his first 11 Premier League games – Frank Clark currently holds the record.
The Blues will certainly fancy their chances of continuing their unbeaten start to the season, following their 3-2 win over Derby County in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday. Crystal Palace were also a part of the Round of 16 of the cup competition, but they were booted out by Middlesbrough, who recorded a 1-0 win over the Eagles.
Roy Hodgson’s men aren’t doing any better in the Premier League either, having failed to win each of their last five games – a run of results that has pushed them down to 14th on the table. But, there were some positive signs in last weekend’s 2-2 draw against Arsenal, which they would like to build on going forward.
The corresponding fixture last season ended in a 2-1 win for Chelsea, with Crystal Palace pulling a goal back late on through Patrick van Aanholt. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Premier League encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Maurizio Sarri does not have a lengthy bill of health on his hands. But, the Chelsea boss does have one pressing injury concern hampering his preparations for Sunday’s visit of Crystal Palace, with Eden Hazard still not fully fit.
The Belgian has returned to training after recovering from a back injury, but is only fit enough to play one half of the game at the most. It is thus, likely that Hazard will be named on the bench on Sunday, with his introduction depending on the state of the game, so as to ensure he gets ample rest.
In his stead, Pedro is likely to start on the right flank, with Willian taking his place on the opposite flank. Barring Hazard though, Ethan Ampadu is the only player who is not fit enough to face Crystal Palace, with the Welshman still on the treatment table owing to a knee injury.
The major bone of contention for Sarri will be the choice of the striker, with neither Alvaro Morata nor Olivier Giroud exuding confidence. With Morata scoring against Burnley last weekend, it is likely that the Spaniard will get the nod, with Giroud being an impact substitute like Hazard.
Meanwhile, Ross Barkley was an unused substitute against Derby County, which suggests that the reinvigorated Englishman will take his place in the midfield trio once again, with Mateo Kovacic dropping to the bench.
Alongside Barkley, N’Golo Kante and Jorginho will line up in the middle of the park, with the former looking to get back to his best. The defensive unit picks itself, with the Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger and Marcos Alonso playing every game thus far, as has Kepa Arrizabalaga. Alonso, in particular, will be a key player in the absence of Hazard, with his marauding runs down the left flank.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Pedro, Morata, Willian
Unlike his opposite number, Roy Hodgson has a number of injury concerns to deal with ahead of the cross London trip to Stamford Bridge. On Sunday, the Crystal Palace boss could be without as many as six first-team players due to various fitness problems.
The good news though, is that Wilfried Zaha is fit and available for the clash against Chelsea, shrugging off his minor shoulder problem. But, the likes of Connor Wickham, Joel Ward, Scott Dann and Christian Benteke are all set to miss out the Premier League clash.
Hodgson is also sweating over the fitness of Cheikhou Kouyate and James McArthur, with the duo recovering from minor knocks. While Kouyate might end up getting the nod, McArthur could be dropped in favour of Max Meyer, who will be tasked with pulling the string in the middle of the park to set up Zaha.
The major concern for the Crystal Palace manager is contribution from his front-men, with Zaha the only one who has shown some semblance of form. Jordan Ayew, in particular, needs to step up, with Andros Townsend still creating a ruckus in the wide areas with his pace and directness.
The rest of the side pretty much picks itself up, with Luka Milivojevic donning the armband and being on set-piece duty, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka, James Tomkins, Mamadou Sakho and Patrick van Aanholt will complete the back four that will protect Wayne Hennessey.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Hennessey; Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, van Aanholt; Kouyate, Milivojevic, Meyer; Zaha, Ayew, Townsend
- Chelsea have lost two of their last three Premier League games against Crystal Palace (W1), as many as they had in their first 15 against them in the competition (W11 D2 L2).
- Crystal Palace, who were 2-0 winners at Fulham in August, haven’t won two away Premier League London derbies in a single campaign since the 1997-98 season, when they won at Wimbledon and Tottenham.
- Chelsea manager Sarri is unbeaten in his first 10 Premier League games as a manager (W7 D3). Only one manager has had a longer unbeaten start, with Frank Clark managing 11 without defeat with Nottingham Forest in 1994.
- Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson has lost his last four Premier League games against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. His only win there was on his first visit in April 1998 with Blackburn Rovers.
- Since the start of last season, Luka Milivojevic has scored nine Premier League penalties for Crystal Palace – more than any of the other 22 clubs competing in the top-flight in that time have scored.
1. Crystal Palace Asian Handicap + 2.0 @ 1.625
2. Chelsea Clean Sheet – NO @ 1.83
3. Over 10.5 Corners @ 1.80
4. Under 3.5 Cards @ 1.83
1. Full Time Result – Draw @ 6.75
Player to Watch
The 2018-19 season so far has not just been one that has seen Chelsea recover quickly from the disasters of last term. It has also been a campaign of redemption for Ross Barkley, who practically did not do anything last season. However, he has taken kindly to Maurizio Sarri’s ways, and has even usurped Mateo Kovacic in recent weeks.
His goal against Burnley means Barkley has found the back of the net in his of his last three Premier League games for Chelsea. If he manages to continue his scoring run, the young midfielder can become only the third Englishman to score in four successive top-flight matches for the Blues, which should be motivation enough to succeed against a vulnerable Crystal Palace backline.
Chelsea 3-0 Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace showed a lot of fight to hold Arsenal to a draw last weekend. But, Chelsea are a level above the Gunners at the present moment, despite a somewhat suspect backline. Midfield domination, in particular, has seen the Blues play their opponents out of the park, and the Eagles are unlikely to be any different.
With Eden Hazard set to play some part as well, it could well become a long night for Palace. The visitors should have some sniff at the Chelsea goal, but they will need to be clinical, which has been one of their major problem areas so far this season.
In the end, Chelsea should be too strong for Roy Hodgson’s men, and The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-0 win for Maurizio Sarri & co. on Sunday evening.