Monday, November 20
 

Preview: Crystal Palace vs. Chelsea

Sports Mole previews Saturday afternoon's Premier League meeting between Crystal Palace and Chelsea at Selhurst Park.

Chelsea head to pointless London rivals Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon with the aim of getting their Premier League campaign back on track, having made a mixed start to their title defence thus far.

The Blues suffered defeat at the hands of table-toppers Manchester City prior to the international break, leaving them six points adrift of the summit with a fifth of the campaign now played.


Crystal Palace

With each passing week seems to come another new, unwanted, record for Palace, who have made the worst start to a Premier League season of any side in the competition's 25-year history.

The arrival of experienced boss Roy Hodgson, taking over from Frank de Boer exactly a month ago, has done little to halt this alarming run of form as the Eagles are still without a point and without a goal.

Not since Patrick van Aanholt struck for Palace's fourth goal in the destruction of Hull City on May 14 have the South Londoners found the back of the net in the top flight - a goalless run stretching eight games to match the previous lows of Sunderland and Hartlepool United.

To make matters worse for the Eagles, they have conceded 13 goals at the other end - nine of those coming in their last two outings prior to the two-week break - to unsurprisingly leave them slowly being cut off at the foot of the division, five points already the gap on 17th-placed Leicester City.

Hodgson was always going to have a tough task on his hands, being thrown in at the deep end somewhat with games against pacesetters Man City and Man United in his first three outings, coming on the back of a disappointing 1-0 loss at home to Southampton to begin his tenure.

De Boer's Selhurst Park reign was certainly short-lived, being given the axe just 10 weeks into the job - two weeks less than he lasted at former club Inter Milan - after struggling to instil his own style of play on his squad.

Worryingly, Palace are now conceding at a rate of 3.3 goals a game on average, compared to 1.75 under De Boer, but the fixtures do look a little kinder in the coming weeks once this tricky test against Chelsea is navigated.

Defeat this weekend, though, and it will officially be the joint-worst start made by any side to an English league season, matching the eight-game losing run set by Liverpool in 1899-1900.

Recent form in Premier League: LLLLLL
Recent form (all competitions): LLLWLL


Chelsea

For all the talk of a crisis at Stamford Bridge just one game into the season, the Blues managed to prove their critics wrong by steadying the ship somewhat and remaining in the hunt at the top end of the division.

Defeat to title rivals Man City last time out on home soil, however, has turned what was a positive start on the whole to Antonio Conte's second campaign in charge into more of a mixed bag of results.

Chelsea have had little trouble away from home thanks to three wins from three so far in the top flight, but they have struggled at Stamford Bridge with defeats to the Citizens and Burnley, while also also being held to a goalless draw by Arsenal.

The Blues have already dropped two points more on home soil than they did in the whole of last season's title-winning campaign, failing to score in successive matches in West London for the first time in almost exactly five years.

Food for thought as far as Conte in concerned, then, with questions continuing to be asked of the Italian coach's future at the club. A recent admission that he does not intend to stick around for the long term has done little to stop suggestions that he may even fail to see the 2017-18 season through.

While scoring and winning games at home has been difficult, Chelsea have performed better on their travels thanks to six successive victories stretching back to last season, while it is one defeat and 10 wins in their last 11 in all competitions.

The potential loss of top scorer Alvaro Morata to injury will be a worry for Conte ahead of the short trip south on Saturday, though, with the club-record signing - touch-and-go for this clash - netting half of his side's 12 league goals so far this term.

Conte will know that three points are pretty much a must for the champions if they are to remain afloat in the higher echelons, particularly when factoring in that games against Man United and Liverpool are now on the horizon.

Recent form in Premier League: WWWDWL
Recent form (all competitions): WDWWWL


Team News

Conflicting reports have surfaced regarding the fitness of Morata since he hobbled off against City with a hamstring problem prior to the international break, ranging from a possible six-week layoff to a potential swift return in the coming days.

Conte is expected to be without his leading scorer for this clash, however, and with one eye on a big Champions League game against Roma in midweek he may opt to change things around slightly.

Davide Zappacosta is among those pushing for a start, while the likely injury absence of N'Golo Kante may give Cesc Fabregas the chance to stake a claim alongside Tiemoue Bakayoko in central midfield.

The hosts were dealt a blow prior to the international break with the news that striker Christian Benteke is facing a spell on the sidelines, forcing Hodgson to use attacking midfield man Bakary Sako through the middle.

Hodgson has been boosted by the return of Wilfried Zaha to full training this week, though, and could well throw the silky wideman straight into the mix to inject some attacking quality into his side.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek will miss out against his parent club due to an ineligibility rule, meanwhile, and Freddie Ladapo is among those pushing for a start in the forward line.

Crystal Palace possible starting lineup:
Hennessey; Ward, Sakho, Delaney, Van Aanholt; Cabaye, Milivojevic; Puncheon, Townsend, Zaha; Sako

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger; Zappacosta, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Alonso; Pedro, Hazard; Batshuayi


Head To Head

Palace have not beaten Chelsea on home soil since January 1993 when running out 3-1 winners in an EFL Cup tie, while you have to go back to August 1990 to find their last top-flight win here in this fixture.

The Eagles did come out on top when the sides last met in April, however, earning a shock 2-1 win to temporarily halt their London rivals' charge towards another Premier League title success.

In 60 previous meetings overall, Chelsea have won 24 and lost 11, prevailing in five of the last six encounters at Selhurst Park in all competitions.


We say: Crystal Palace 0-3 Chelsea

Hodgson has had a tough start to life at Palace, not helped by a tricky run of fixtures, and it does not get any easier for the former England boss as he welcomes the champions this weekend. Chelsea have been far from their best in the opening months of the season, but they are still in the title picture and boast a very impressive away record.


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1Manchester CityMan City1211104073334
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd128222762126
3Chelsea1281323101325
4Tottenham HotspurSpurs127232091123
5Liverpool126422417722
6Arsenal127142216622
7Burnley12642129322
8Watford125341921-218
9Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton114341111015
10Huddersfield TownHuddersfield12435817-915
11Newcastle UnitedNewcastle124261114-314
12Leicester CityLeicester123451618-213
13Bournemouth124171114-313
14Southampton12345914-513
15Stoke CityStoke113351322-912
16Everton123361224-1212
17West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom12246918-910
18West Ham UnitedWest Ham122371125-149
19Swansea CitySwansea12228715-88
20Crystal Palace12129624-185
Scroll for more - Tap for full version
Premier League Table
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City1211104073334
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd128222762126
3Chelsea1281323101325
4Tottenham HotspurSpurs127232091123
5Liverpool126422417722
6Arsenal127142216622
7Burnley12642129322
8Watford125341921-218
9Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton114341111015
10Huddersfield TownHuddersfield12435817-915
11Newcastle UnitedNewcastle124261114-314
12Leicester CityLeicester123451618-213
13Bournemouth124171114-313
14Southampton12345914-513
15Stoke CityStoke113351322-912
16Everton123361224-1212
17West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom12246918-910
18West Ham UnitedWest Ham122371125-149
19Swansea CitySwansea12228715-88
20Crystal Palace12129624-185
Scroll for more - Tap for full version

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