15:00 KO (BST); Saturday 14th October; Selhurst Park (London, England)
Roy Hodgson is a man with many problems to tackle. While he lost the first three games of his tenure at Fulham, he could become only the second permanent Premiership manager to lose his first four games without his side scoring a goal – Frank de Boer being the only other to suffer this indignity. Without a recognised striker fit enough to play, Hodgson seemingly has his hands firmly tied in this game, however, a pragmatic approach and a wealth of experience could be his secret weapons.
As the most successful Premier League team in terms of playing London derbies, Chelsea have won eleven of their sixteen (D2 L3) Premier League encounters against Palace. Their most recent game saw Sam Allardyce stun the Blues and take all three points in April this year, however, the gap between these two clubs has greatly increased since that fixture. With two of their last three Premier League games ending without a goal, Chelsea will be confident of re-addressing this situation but will need to beware of over-confidence against a side surely set up to defend.
Last time out
Manchester United 4 – 0 CRYSTAL PALACE (Premier League)
The clash of top versus bottom proved to be men versus boys as the Eagles were steamrolled by United. The biggest problem facing Palace was their lack of a recognised striker with Christian Benteke ruled out until at least mid-November. This lead to Bakary Sako starting up-front, a position the winger did not look entirely comfortable in before he was replaced by Freddie Ladapo who made his Premier League debut. With Juan Mata scoring in the third minute, any hope the Palace players carried onto the pitch quickly evaporated as many of the Eagles heads visibly sunk.
Luka Milivojevic was the one player who came back into the Palace dressing room with his dignity in tact. He worked tirelessly in midfield to try and stem the red tide, however, with many of United’s attacks going down the right side of Palace’s team, he was often left a spectator and found himself unable to make a meaningful impact on the game.
CHELSEA 0 – 1 Manchester City (Premier League)
While Antonio Conte employed the same tactics as he used in the two victories over City last season, he misjudged the game this time around and City recorded a more convincing win than the 1-0 scoreline suggests. Much of Chelsea’s hopes of scoring departed the field in the 35th minute when Álvaro Morata felt his hamstring and was duly replaced by Willian. Another reason was due to Chelsea trying to force their way through the centre of the pitch and in doing so, they played to City’s strengths.
There was also the factor of Chelsea having less recovery time after their midweek Champions League encounter. The epic victory away to Atlético Madrid could plausibly have tipped an advantage in the Manchester clubs direction but this is the price of success and Chelsea will be hoping that it’s a problem they continue to face as the season rolls on.
Crystal Palace lineup
With Connor Wickham and Christian Benteke both suffering knee injuries, Bakary Sako is like to be used as a striker after Freddie Ladapo failed to shine in his 16-minute cameo against Manchester United. Ruben Loftus-Cheek (thigh), Wilfried Zaha (knee), Scott Dann (knock), and James Tomkins (illness) also all also injured, however, Timothy Fosu-Mensah will return to the team as Hodgson is left deliberating how he can engineer his team to score a goal.
Álvaro Morata (hamstring) and Danny Drinkwater (calf) will both be missing for the current champions while will N’Golo Kante also miss out after picking up a hamstring injury with France during the international break.
Key Battle: Timothy Fosu-Mensah vs Michy Batshuayi
As the one player to truly shine for the Eagles this season, Fosu-Mensah returns to the side this weekend after being ineligible to play against Manchester United in their previous fixture. This could see him paired centrally with Mamadou Sakho for the first time, especially with Dann uncertain to be fit enough to start. With only a glimmer of a chance to score, Palace’s best chance of taking anything from the game will rest on their defence and it could be the rock which Hodgson can begin to build his side around.
With Morata unavailable, Batshuayi will again get a chance to impress for the Blues. Having started in the opening day game against Burnley, Conte hauled the youngster off just before the hour mark and the young Belgian has only played a combined 40 minutes from the six fixtures which followed. While he’s looked sharp entering a game from the bench, he still has much to prove in playing from the first minute and this could be a good test to judge how he can be used by Conte in the future.
Against all odds
Everyone loves an underdog and the Palace fans will be in fine voice to cheer on the home side in this London derby. The gap between the top and bottom teams in the Premiership appears to rapidly widening this season, with less surprise results appearing on the vidiprinter at 4:55 on a Saturday afternoon.
With reports that Wilfried Zaha could be in line for a shock early recovery from his knee injury, he is still unlikely to start for the Eagles but could provide a huge boost for them in the latter stages if the game remains close. While nobody genuinely expected Palace to take points from the three games which successively pitted them against both Manchester clubs and Chelsea, this is the final game where the pressure is off. This will be followed by fixtures against Newcastle and West Ham, games that will take them past the quarter way stage of the season and deeper into the territory of intense pressure to perform.
49 not out
With N’Golo Kanté poised to miss the whole of October, Cesc Fàbregas’ place in the team seems to be assured for the next six games. After only being used sparingly last season, the Spanish midfielder has been a key player for the Blues this time around although the combination of Kanté and Tiemoué Bakayoko has recently jeopardised his position in the starting lineup.
With Morata also missing from the team, Chelsea will need the creative influence of Fàbregas to continue carving out chances for his teammates. It has been a common complaint that Chelsea have not scored as many goals as their play has deserved at times this season, however, with Fàbregas in the team they often look more capable. A second goal of the season for him would also bring up his 50th strike in the Premiership and considering the alertness and intelligence he showed in scoring against Everton, he won’t have to wait too long before he achieves that landmark.
PREDICTION: Crystal Palace 0 – 3 Chelsea
There are many facts and figures currently in circulation which go some way to explaining the Predicament that Roy Hodgson finds his new team in. The only important statistic that matters is the one showing they’ve collected zero points from seven games. With no fit strikers for a game against last season’s champions, it looks like the only thing to change will be the number of games and the pertinent question is how many the Blues will score without Morata on the field.
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