On Tuesday evening, Chelsea travel to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace. The Blues bounced back from a loss at the London Stadium in style with a comfortable 3-0 home win over Watford. There are now just five Premier League games left for Chelsea, and with an away trip to Anfield followed by a visit from Wolves, it is absolutely crucial they win their next three games against Crystal Palace, Sheffield United and Norwich City.
Last Time Out – Chelsea 2-0 Crystal Palace
Chelsea met Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge in early November. After a first half of missed chances, it was Tammy Abraham who broke the deadlock early in the second half, finishing off a good bit of passing play. Christian Pulisic then doubled the score with a header from close range and was certainly the most threatening looking Chelsea attacker on the day.
At the time, this was Chelsea’s sixth win in a row, in a run of form that has really helped to ignite Chelsea’s season and definitely provided a solid base going forward.
This was also the game that forced many neutral and rival fans to really take notice of Reece James. Despite his relative inexperience, he looked extremely comfortable going up against the notoriously talented Wilfried Zaha. Truthfully, he marked the Ivory Coast international completely out of the game and the frustration on Zaha’s face was noted by the entire home stadium as he experienced a bad day at the office.
Crystal Palace currently sit 14th in the Premier League table, but prior to the lockdown they had a genuine chance at reaching European Football. Even now, there is an outside chance of them still achieving it, but a win against Chelsea is essential for that to happen.
The best way to describe their current situation is “on the beach.” They’re currently sitting pretty, 15 points above the relegation zone so that won’t be any concern of theirs whatsoever and all in all this will represent a pretty successful season for the side, having made sure they are well out of any kind of relegation conversations.
In their first game back post-lockdown, Palace confidently dispatched of Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth side 2-0. Since then, they’re winless in three having falling victim to Liverpool, Burnley and most recently Leicester City at the weekend. Having given their top four rival all three points on Saturday, Chelsea will be hoping for much of the same at 6pm on Tuesday.
It remains to be seen just how much longer Roy Hodgson will be with the club. At the age of 72, he is the oldest manager in the Premier League’s history, having over taken Bobby Robson. His contract currently runs out at the end of the 2020/21 season and when he does eventually leave, he will have likely left this Palace side firmly established in the Premier League and an exciting project for any ambitious manager.
What can we expect from this Palace side?
In their game against Leicester City on Saturday, Palace started the game sitting deep in order to try and negate the effects of Leicester’s pace. However, despite having men behind the ball, they looked extremely sloppy in defence, making countless mistakes. Eventually, this allowed Iheancho to score when he really had no right. Jamie Vardy then doubled the score from a similarly ridiculous situation before a pressing Palace were punished in the dying moments of the game.
Roy Hodgson will be absolutely furious with the way his side performed on Saturday and will expect a totally different performance from them against Chelsea. The biggest issue for them will surely be motivation, and Chelsea shouldn’t expect to be gifted the same goal-scoring opportunities that Leicester had.
Crystal Palace sacrifice a huge amount of technical ability in their midfield for physical presence, the trio of Kouyate, Milivojevic and McArthur should be easily bypassed by whatever combination Lampard chooses to impose on them. It will give them an imposing threat from corners however, and this is something that coaching staff need to be aware of prior to this fixture. Palace can sit behind the ball and pick their moment appropriately.
Their two biggest danger-men are surely Jordan Ayew and Wilfried Zaha. Both players are extremely fast and whilst Zaha hasn’t had his best season in terms of output, he will view this fixture as one he can make a real statement in. After his performance against him in November, it seems likely Reece James will be used in a similar role. The ability of both these players to press could be an issue with the defensive frailties Chelsea have shown this season, a centre-back partnership of Zouma and Christensen should provide the perfect balance in dealing with them.
Crystal Palace: Expected XI
Chelsea will be grateful that they’ve been given a very similar length of time to prepare for this fixture and it means that from a fitness perspective, both sides are on the same page. Despite their slip-up last week at West Ham, confidence appears to be flowing at Chelsea Football Club and a win here would go a long way in further backing that up.
Palace look poor at the moment, and it’s difficult to see where they’re going to find the motivation to turn things round at this point. Chelsea have so much depth to pick from in these sorts of games, and the defence looked to have turned a corner against Watford. With this in mind, I don’t see any reason that a comfortable 3-0 win over this Crystal Palace side wouldn’t be achievable.