Chelsea will be aiming to continue their fine run of form in the Premier League when they host Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The final international break of the year is upon us. But, before that, Premier League teams will be in action in Gameweek 12 of the 2019-20 season. Chelsea will have the chance head into the fortnight-long break second on the table when they welcome Crystal Palace to Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon.
Chelsea have been on quite a run of form in the Premier League after a slow start to the season. The Blues have won each of their last five games in the division, a run of results that has put them in a comfortable place in the top four. And, the Blues ought to be in buoyant mood after a fantastic 4-4 comeback draw against Ajax earlier this week.
Crystal Palace, on the other hand, have been in decent touch in the early stages of the season, symptomatic of the sense of stability that Roy Hodgson has brought with him at the club. The Eagles have only been beaten four times in 11 games so far, which sees them sit 9th on the table. But, the visitors will be keen to put an end to their three-game winless run at Chelsea.
The corresponding fixture last season ended in a 3-1 win for Chelsea, with Alvaro Morata scoring a match-winning brace. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Premier League encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Frank Lampard has a couple of fresh roster issues on his hands ahead of the visit of Crystal Palace. While Jorginho is suspended after picking up his fifth booking of the season in the Premier League last weekend at Watford, Mason Mount faces a race against time to start this weekend.
The English international sustained an ankle injury against Ajax, but Lampard has iterated that the midfielder will face a late fitness test to determine his availability. Ross Barkley, though, misses out as he is yet to recover from his own ankle injury. Antonio Rudiger (groin) and Andreas Christensen (hamstring) are likely to miss out as well.
But, the good news is that N’Golo Kante is set to start after being an unused substitute in the midweek Champions League fixture. Kante ought to replace Jorginho in the starting lineup, with Mateo Kovacic being his partner in the midfield double pivot.
Kante should reprise the holding midfield role instead of being deployed as the box-to-box midfielder, as he usually has been this season. Mount’s troubles mean he could start on the bench, with Christian Pulisic being given the free role behind the striker.
As a result, Callum Hudson-Odoi could return, assuming Pulisic’s place on the left wing, with Willian starting on the opposite flank and Tammy Abraham leading the line for Chelsea. At the back, there are unlikely to be many shuffles, with Emerson Palmieri coming in for Marcos Alonso, who was abysmal against Ajax, as the only defensive change.
Emerson will be Chelsea’s left-back, with Cesar Azpilicueta operating on the right side of the defence. Fikayo Tomori and Kurt Zouma will form the central defensive partnership once again, with Kepa Arrizabalaga taking his place in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Tomori, Emerson; Kovacic, Kante; Willian, Pulisic, Hudson-Odoi; Abraham
Roy Hodgson does not have any pressing injury concern to contend with ahead of his side’s short trip to take on Chelsea. On Saturday, the Crystal Palace manager is only likely to be without Mamadou Sakho, with Gary Cahill (head), Andros Townsend (muscular injury) and Cheikhou Kouyate (head) in contention to feature.
Former Chelsea defender Cahill ought to keep his place in the side ahead of Martin Kelly, with James Tomkins being his partner at the heart of the Crystal Palace defence. Joel Ward and Patrick van Aanholt will be the full-back pairing for the visitors, with Vicente Guaita lining up between the sticks.
Kouyate could hold on to his spot as well, starting in the middle of the park against Chelsea. The Senegalese midfielder will be Palace’s workhorse in the middle of the park, with captain Luka Milivojevic being the defensive midfielder for the visitors. Jeffrey Schlupp will complete the numbers in the three-man central midfield unit.
James McArthur ought to start on the right side of the Crystal Palace midfield, where he will look to use his tenacity to good use. Wilfried Zaha will be the go-to man in attack for Hodgson, with the winger’s change of pace holding the key against a suspect Chelsea defence, while Jordan Ayew will be Palace’s central striker.
Probable Lineup (4-5-1): Guaita; Ward, Tomkins, Cahill, van Aanholt; McArthur, Kouyate, Milivojevic, Schlupp, Zaha; Ayew
- Crystal Palace have been victorious in just two of their 17 top-flight trips to Chelsea, both by 2-1 scorelines, in August 2015 and April 2017 (D5 L10).
- Chelsea have won their last three London derbies in the Premier League, their best run since winning five in a row between October and December 2014 under Jose Mourinho.
- Since the start of last season, only Liverpool (18), Manchester City (18) and Chelsea (14) have won more Premier League away games than Crystal Palace (11).
- Chelsea are looking to win six consecutive Premier League games for the first time since May 2017 under Antonio Conte, in their last Premier League title winning season.
- Christian Pulisic has scored in each of his last two Premier League appearances. Only three Americans have scored in three games in a row; Clint Dempsey (three times – 2007, 2009 and 2012), Joe Max-Moore (2000) and Roy Wegerle (1993).
Player to Watch
After failing to get his desired exit from Crystal Palace in the summer, Zaha went into a rut, starting the season very slowly. But, in recent outings, there have been signs of a revival, if only few and far between at times.
Up against an improving, yet vulnerable Chelsea defence next, the Ivory Coast international could have the chance to regain his talismanic status for Crystal Palace. From the team’s point of view, a Zaha masterclass will be their best chance of springing a surprise and adding to their impressive list of shock results on the road.
Chelsea 2-0 Crystal Palace
This is a game that pits one of the most porous defensive units in the Premier League up against one of the most frugal attacks. With Chelsea being in fine touch in front of goal, pretty much all through the season, the game has the makings of an exciting encounter.
Chelsea, though, have vastly improved at the back lately and even though they are not quite the finished product defensively that Frank Lampard would like them to be, they might just end up keeping their third clean sheet of the season. The Hard Tackle predicts a keenly contested affair, with Chelsea winning 2-0 at the end of the ninety.