Chelsea vs Crystal Palace
Venue: Stamford Bridge
TV: Sky Sports Main Event
Referee: Michael Oliver
Both sides go into Sunday’s fixture with some level of confidence, albeit to differing degrees. The South Londoners travel across the river off the back of getting their first point for three weeks and their first home goals of the season against fellow Londoners Arsenal.
The hosts on the other hand are one of only three teams, along with Liverpool and Manchester City, that remain undefeated in the league after the first ten rounds of fixtures. Never before in Premier League history have there been three teams all of which have not suffered a defeat this far into the season.
Although Palace will be seen overwhelmingly as underdogs against Chelsea, they can take confidence that they have done quite well against their west London rivals in recent times. In the ten games they’ve faced each other since Crystal Palace’s return to the top flight in 2013, Chelsea are just edging the advantage with six wins to Palace’s four. In fact, there has not been a draw between them since a 0-0 draw in 1995. Adding to that, Palace have come away with the victory in two of the last three meetings, although both games last season ended in 2-1 wins for the respective home sides.
Chelsea are a different prospect this season, with the likes of Hazard, Kanté, and Barkley currently flourishing under the new regime of ‘Sarri-ball’. They sit in third, only two points behind joint leaders Manchester City and Liverpool, with the second highest amount of goals scored , as well as boasting the third best defence in the league – only conceding seven goals in their first ten games.
Alternatively, Palace have struggled in recent months especially in front of goal. The Eagles have only scored seven goals so far this campaign, two of which came in their first game of the season. Slowly slipping down the table, Palace find themselves in an early relegation battle and with their fixtures looking far from ideal they need to begin picking up points where they can. As for the Blues, they are mounting a serious challenge on the Premier League title and confidence is something they are certainly not lacking.
Eden Hazard has been the main talking point in Chelsea over the last week or so yet the Belgian missed the last Premier League game away at Burnley with a back complaint. There are still concerns over the condition of the talismanic midfielder, having also missed the midweek Carabao Cup victory over Derby County. However, in the press conference for the cup game, Sarri said: “He’s certainly much better. Maybe tomorrow [Wednesday] he’s going to join us in training. I don’t think he’s going to be involved in the [Carabao Cup]. But he is looking quite good for the weekend, so we are quite pleased.” So the Premier League’s joint top goal scorer should be back to face the Eagles on Sunday afternoon.
Pedro was only fit enough to start on the bench in midweek after suffering from a stomach ache but he did come on to play the last twenty minutes against Derby. However, Olivier Giroud and Ethan Ampadu did not feature against Derby, due to muscle fatigue and a knee injury respectively yet both should be back in contention for the first team squad come Sunday.
Ross Barkley was rested during midweek, with Mateo Kovačić returning to the midfield. This may suggest that Barkley will retain his place in the Chelsea starting eleven, after Sarri described him as a “complete” midfielder after the win at Burnley.
Long term absentee Christian Benteke is joined on the sideline by right-back Joel Ward and although the Englishman’s muscular injury does not look serious, he is currently being assessed ahead of a possible return to the squad by the weekend. Ward’s competition for right-back, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, has been in fine form so far this season and although he played the full 90 minutes against Middlesbrough in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, he will be retaining that spot on the weekend.
Scott Dann continues on his journey back to the first team, having notched up another 77 minutes in the Under-23 side’s game against Cardiff. He is expected to return to the first team squad in late November/December.
Predicted Starting XI’s
Chelsea (4-3-3): Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Rüdiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kanté, Jorginho, Barkley; Willian, Morata, Hazard
Crystal Palace (4-3-3): Hennessey; Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, van Aanholt; Kouyaté, Milivojević, McArthur; Townsend, Ayew, Zaha
Score Prediction: Chelsea 3 Crystal Palace 1
Having grabbed the point against Arsenal, Crystal Palace will be feeling more confident than they have in recent weeks. However, Chelsea’s home field advantage will benefit the Blues. With a returning Eden Hazard to contend with, along with in-form players such as Barkley, a win for the home side looks more than likely. Having said this, if the visitors can perform as they did against the Gunners in the first half, they are likely to give Chelsea a tough game.