A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s Premier League match away to Crystal Palace this Sunday.
As 2018 draws to a close, Chelsea make the relatively short trip to South London for their Premier League match away to Crystal Palace. The Eagles have had an interesting festive period so far, as they won away at champions Manchester City to then only gain a goalless draw at home to lowly Cardiff City. However, Roy Hodgson’s side did create 31 attempts at goal and had really done everything but win the match.
Chelsea bounced back from their surprising home defeat to Leicester City with an impressive win at high flying Watford. The Blues remain in 4th place, but are only 2 points clear of 5th places Arsenal. With exactly half the league season left to go, qualification for the Champions League is going to be a long, hard battle and it precisely these types of matches that are important to Chelsea in their attempt to secure their spot.
Maurizio Sarri will be without wide men Pedro and Callum Hudson-Odoi, who have both sustained hamstring injuries and were unable to finish the Boxing Day victory at Watford. Olivier Giroud or a fit again Alvaro Morata could return, with Eden Hazard returning to the left flank and Willian moving to the right. Ruben Loftus-Cheek missed out on Boxing Day and hopefully will have recovered enough to be named as a substitute.
Palace can welcome back Wayne Hennessy and Martin Kelly, who both are fit again after injuries. Christian Benteke is still missing and, similarly to The Blues, they have opted for a non striker to lead their attack recently. Talisman Wilfried Zaha has terrorised defences in that role, but he has failed to score and has made only 1 assist in his last 12 Premier League appearances.
Palace have taken 7 points from their last 3 matches and are hoping to beat The Blues at home in back to back meetings for the first time ever. Despite keeping the most clean sheets outside the top 4, they have only won 2 of their last 14 home London derby matches, losing 10 of them.
Victory for The Blues would mean Maurizio Sarri will have registered 3 consecutive away league wins for the first time with his new club. This would be an impressive turnaround coming on the back of losses at Tottenham Hotspur and then at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Both sides are likely to be in positive moods for this match up. After beating The Blues in the same match last season and defeating not only Manchester City but also Leicester City before Boxing Day’s stalemate, The Eagles will believe they can more than match the West Londoners.
Having overcome a very strong Watford side, Sarri’s side will believe they have too much for a Palace team who struggle to score enough goals at times. Roy Hodgson’s team have only registered 17 league goals in 19 matches this season. Most relevantly though is that only 5 of these goals have been scored at home.
Surely if that poor scoring record continues, Chelsea will be able to sweep aside their hosts. Whereas Eden Hazard’s stint in the number 9’s role has generally been successful, Zaha has struggled to spearhead a regular goal threat.
Let’s just hope that record continues to the very end of the year.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue