Chelsea will look to kick-start their 2021/22 Premier League campaign on a winning note when they lock horns with Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge this weekend.
The Premier League is back. The newest edition of Europe’s most exciting league kicks off on Friday night with a contest between newly-promoted Brentford and a faltering giant in Arsenal. More eye-catching match-ups will come our way over the weekend, one of which will see Chelsea go up against London rivals Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon.
Chelsea are riding on a high of success under Thomas Tuchel. After having pulled off a stunning UEFA Champions League triumph last season, the Blues kicked off the new campaign by lifting yet another trophy, beating Villarreal on penalty shootouts to lift the UEFA Super Cup earlier this week.
With confidence sky high and the squad further bolstered by the marquee addition of former hitman Romelu Lukaku in a club-record deal, the west London giants will be aiming to bag all three points in their opening game of the Premier League season and send out a warning to their title rivals.
For Crystal Palace, a new era is on the horizon as Roy Hodgson has left the club after four years of top-notch service, to be replaced by Patrick Vieira at the helm of affairs. The former Arsenal captain will be intent on improving the Eagles’ position on the table after they finished the previous campaign in 14th place.
Having lost a flurry of players due to expired contracts, Palace have made a few additions to the squad in the summer. With a new manager and several new players in, it might take time for them to settle in as a proper unit. The pre-season has given reasons for optimism, though, with the south London team winning four of their five friendlies (D1), most recently beating Watford 3-1.
Ahead of the second London derby of the opening matchweek of the 2021/22 Premier League season, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
Hakim Ziyech's Super Cup ends early after opening the scoring. 😔 pic.twitter.com/CMqHhHtuVk
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) August 11, 2021
Thomas Tuchel will have to make do without the services of Hakim Ziyech after the Moroccan international suffered a shoulder injury during the UEFA Super Cup. The ex-Ajax man was one of Chelsea’s most in-form players this summer during pre-season and will be a major miss on the opening day. In addition, N’Golo Kante is also a major doubt after picking up a knock in the midweek clash.
Other than that, Chelsea have no other major absentees. However, it will be interesting to see if Tuchel decides to bring in the likes of Thiago Silva, Reece James, Mason Mount and others, who returned to pre-season training later than the rest of the squad because of their involvement in international competitions.
Kepa Arrizabalaga was the star of the show for Chelsea in their shootout win against Villarreal. However, he is likely to continue to play second-fiddle to Edouard Mendy in goal, who should start against Crystal Palace.
Antonio Rudiger should start in the three-man defensive unit, as should youngster Trevoh Chalobah after a fine competitive debut against Villarreal. Kurt Zouma might drop out of the side, though, with Andreas Christensen in line to replace him. Captain Cesar Azpilicueta ought to come in at right wing-back in place of Callum Hudson-Odoi with Marcos Alonso continuing on the left after a top display in midweek.
With Kante likely to miss out, Jorginho ought to come into the side on Saturday. He will be key for Chelsea to assert their dominance in the middle of the park and stay on the front foot. Mateo Kovacic, meanwhile, should start again despite having played the entire 120 minutes against Villarreal.
Kai Havertz and Mason Mount should line up as the two attacking midfielders, with the latter coming into the side in place of the injured Ziyech. While Romelu Lukaku has signed officially, it is unlikely that he will be starting on Saturday, given he has hardly had time to train with the team. Instead, Timo Werner will be the man leading the line for Chelsea yet again.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Chalobah, Christensen, Rudiger; Azpilicueta, Kovacic, Jorginho, Alonso; Havertz, Mount; Werner
Patrick Vieira, in his first competitive game in charge of Crystal Palace, will be without the services of key midfielder Eberechi Eze, while new signing Michael Olise is also set to miss out with an injury. In addition, summer loan addition Conor Gallagher will be ineligible to feature against his parent club, whereas youngster Nathan Ferguson is injured as well.
Since taking over the reins, Vieira has opted to field his team in a 4-3-3 setup, and it should be no different when he takes his side to Stamford Bridge this weekend. Vicente Guaita will man the goal for the Eagles, shielded by the centre-back pairing of Cheikhou Kouyate and ex-Chelsea ace Marc Guehi, who will be aiming to prove a point with a solid display.
Joel Ward and Tyrick Mitchell ought to line up as the two full-backs on the right and left sides, respectively. While the duo will look to push forward when given a chance, they will need to be wary of the threat posed by the opposition wing-backs.
Jairo Riedewald will have his task cut out as the holding midfielder as he will have to deal with the dynamism of someone like Mason Mount. He will have support from James McArthur and Jeffrey Schlupp, who will also be encouraged to drive upfield to support the attackers when in possession.
The main threat for Palace in the final third will come from Wilfried Zaha, who can exploit the spaces behind the Chelsea wing-back with his pace and directness, starting on the left flank. Jordan Ayew should get the nod on the right, while on-loan striker Jean-Philippe Mateta will be the man leading the line ahead of Christian Benteke.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Guaita; Ward, Kouyate, Guehi, Mitchell; McArthur, Riedewald, Schlupp; Ayew, Mateta, Zaha
- Chelsea have won 16 of their last 20 Premier League meetings with Crystal Palace, including each of the last seven encounters.
- Crystal Palace have won two of their last three season openers in the Premier League (D1), keeping a clean sheet in all three matches.
- Chelsea lost two of their last three Premier League games of the 2020/21 season, more than they had in their previous 16 under manager Thomas Tuchel (W10 D5 L1).
- Crystal Palace have lost six of their last eight Premier League games (W2).
- Thomas Tuchel has faced off against Patrick Vieira on four occasions previously and has not lost a single game, winning three of those (D1).
Player to Watch
With Romelu Lukaku’s signing completed, Timo Werner is now finding his spot in the starting XI under a huge threat. The German international did not enjoy the most successful debut season in England on a personal level with regard to his goalscoring. Werner’s campaign was characterised by missing gilt-edged chances, which hurt Chelsea on occasions.
But now that the Blues have an infallible goalscorer in their ranks in the form of Lukaku, Werner might suddenly find himself on the outside of the starting XI. While he could be used in one of the two wide-attacking midfield roles, there is plenty of competition there as well, with Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz all vying for spots.
So, for Werner to be able to stay relevant, he will need a big performance or two in the coming weeks, starting from this Saturday against Palace. Or else he could find himself slipping down the pecking order at the Bridge.
Chelsea 2-1 Crystal Palace
While Chelsea looked in fine touch in the first half against Villarreal, they were put under severe pressure by the La Liga outfit in the second period. A similar scenario could ensue at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, with Crystal Palace seemingly in good rhythm after a solid pre-season. However, Chelsea’s overall quality across all areas of the pitch could shine through, eventually helping them to a narrow victory against their London rivals.