Chelsea will look to build some momentum on the back of their Boxing Day win as they brace themselves for a London derby away at Crystal Palace.
Crystal Palace have had bursts of good performances and results this season, with runs of disappointing games in between. The Eagles though, are finding momentum once again, with seven points from their last three home league games. Their overall home form though, hasn’t been that great, with just nine points from as many games.
Chelsea returned to winning ways against Watford. But, the performance spoke otherwise. The Blues managed to get over the line, but the display continues to be nervy, which will be a huge problem for Maurizio Sarri. But, with Arsenal losing to Liverpool in humiliating fashion, Chelsea have a chance to open some gap between them and the Gunners for the fourth place battle.
When the two teams met the last time at Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace emerged victorious, albeit with a narrow 2-1 scoreline over Chelsea. We now take a closer look at the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
Christian Benteke continues to be on the sidelines. But, Martin Kelly and Wayne Hennessey are both on the mend and are in contention to start on Sunday. Roy Hodgson, however, is unlikely to risk naming either in the starting eleven against Chelsea.
The 4-4-2 seems to be the weapon of choice for the home side. Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been a breath of fresh air and will continue to dominate the right side of the back four, with James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho the centre-back pairing, Patrick van Aanholt will complete the back four.
In midfield, Max Meyer could lose his place on the left side to Jeffrey Schlupp, with Hodgson likely to try and hit Chelsea’s right side with Schlupp’s pace. Luka Milivojevic, Cheikhou Kouyate and James McArthur will complete the midfield.
In Benteke’s absence, Wilfried Zaha will continue to be partnered by Andros Townsend, who was the hero against Manchester City with his missile of a shot.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Guaita; Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, Van Aanholt; McArthur, Kouyate, Milivojevic, Schlupp; Zaha, Townsend
Pedro joins Andreas Christensen on the injury list, with Callum Hudson-Odoi also unlikely to feature after the youngster and Pedro picked up injuries on Wednesday. Victor Moses and Alvaro Morata are doubtful. But, neither are expected to start or feature against Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Maurizio Sarri surprised everyone by naming an unchanged eleven against Watford, which ultimately paid dividends. The back four is expected to be the same, with Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso the usual culprits in defence.
Ross Barkley made quite an impression and should hold on to his place in midfield alongside N’Golo Kante and Jorginho.
Eden Hazard should slot in on the left, with Willian starting on the right in Pedro’s absence. Olivier Giroud should start upfront, which is the problem area for Chelsea right now.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Willian, Giroud, Hazard
1. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.80
2. Crystal Palace Asian Handicap + 1.0 @ 1.625
1. Crystal Palace to win @ 5.25
1. Both Chelsea and Crystal Palace have scored in each of their last four meetings.
2. Crystal Palace have won just two games at home this season. But, both of those have come in their last three home games.
3. Three of the last five meetings have ended with a 2-1 scoreline, irrespective of the winner.
4. Interestingly, Luka Milivojevic is Crystal Palace’s leading Premier League goalscorer this season with 5 goals against his name.
5. Eden Hazard has 3 goals and 5 assists in his last six Premier League appearances.
Player to Watch
Wilfried Zaha has always been a key player for Crystal Palace. But, Andros Townsend had lost his place in the starting eleven earlier this season, to an extent. Christian Benteke’s injury has come as a blessing for the winger, who has revelled in the second striker role alongside Zaha.
The strike against Manchester City is a Goal of the Season contender and with Benteke still a fair distance away from returning, Hodgson will need Townsend to repeat his heroics, although he may not need to in each game. It will still be a test to see if Townsend can back up his performance against City with a good, if not great, display against Chelsea on Sunday.
Crystal Palace 2-2 Chelsea
Recent form and head-to-head suggests it will be a tough away test for Chelsea. Roy Hodgson knows that if his Crystal Palace side can string together a run in this crucial juncture, it could all but save them from being in the relegation scrap later on in the season.
With Palace on a high after the recent win over Manchester City, we could expect them to take the game to Chelsea. The Blues only marginally won over Watford, but are unlikely to register a win on Sunday. We expect a scoring draw at Selhurst Park.