Chelsea play host to Premier League strugglers Crystal Palace as they look to bounce back from their defeats to Manchester’s United and City. They’ve got the top 4 in their sights but sit a little off the pace in 5th after a poor run of results in recent weeks but the Eagles are in even bigger trouble and sit inside the relegation zone having not won since mid-January.
David Luiz and Ross Barkley remain unavailable through injury but Luiz has received treatment in the last week from a knee specialist in Barcelona so the extent of his injury could be revealed soon.
Tiemoue Bakayoko and N’Golo Kante have been in training this week and could return after missing the trip to the Etihad on Thursday but Ethan Ampadu has been ruled out.
Wilfried Zaha has missed the last five weeks with injury but could make a fast-tracked return for this meeting – Roy Hodgson said this week that ‘he’s so far ahead of schedule’.
The visitors are still without Julian Speroni, Joel Ward, Scott Dann, Yohan Cabaye, Jason Puncheon, Bakary Sako and Connor Wickham because of injury but Mamadou Sakho could return.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is also sidelined but would’ve missed the game anyway because he can’t play against his parent club.
Probable Chelsea XI (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Willian, Giroud, Hazard.
Probable Crystal Palace XI (4-4-2): Hennessey; Fosu-Mensah, Kelly, Tomkins, Van Aanholt; Townsend, McArthur, Milivojevic, Schlupp; Benteke, Sorloth.
The introduction of Olivier Giroud or Alvaro Morata will enable the Blues to have more sustained attacks than they did against Manchester City last week. No matter who starts between them, you know that one of them will get into the box for crosses or make themselves available for a long ball.
The home side are likely to dominate possession so the creativity of Cesc Fabregas will be crucial to unlocking that sturdy Palace defence. The Spaniard has scored or assisted in each of the last two games against Saturday’s opponents.
With Palace sitting deep, they’ll need Christian Benteke to be able to hold the ball up, win headers and bring others into play in order to give his defence some rest-bite. But if he does play, the real threat is going to come from Wilfried Zaha with his pace and strength able to unsettle any Chelsea defender.
Crystal Palace have won at Stamford Bridge on each of their last two visits. Last season Christian Benteke and Wilfried Zaha goals saw them come from behind to hinder Chelsea’s title bid but that proved to be the Blues’ final home defeat that season.
Christian Benteke has 5 goals in his last 8 games against Chelsea for Aston Villa, Liverpool and Crystal Palace while Wilfried Zaha has 2 goals in his last 2 games.
Chelsea have lost 4 out of their last 5 league games and you’ll have to go back to December 2016 for the last time they beat the Eagles home or away.