Pre-Match Briefing: Crystal Palace vs Chelsea

After a 1000-mile flight to Seville midweek, the Blues travel to a stadium a mere 10 miles from Stamford Bridge for Saturday’s game. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton refocus on the domestic league campaign…

Chelsea’s weekly diary shows appointments at 5.30pm Saturday evening, then 8pm midweek, for the foreseeable future, starting with this west/south London showdown against Crystal Palace.

The beating of Porto went some way to wiping the memory of last weekend’s loss to West Bromwich, but another strong response in the league will fortify the Blues’ challenge for a place in next season’s Champions League.

The hosts have managed three league shutouts in a row at Selhurst Park but Chelsea are among a trio of clubs (alongside Liverpool and Man United) who have inflicted a Premier League high of eight home defeats on the south Londoners.

In fact, the Eagles have lost their last six Premier League matches home and away against the Blues, their worst-ever losing league run in this 97-year-old derby encounter. Chelsea won the reverse fixture 4-0, so victory would record the fourth ‘double’ of the campaign.

Chelsea are targeting a seventh successive league win against Crystal Palace for the first time.


Chelsea team news

This weekend Thomas Tuchel will hope to become the eighth different Chelsea coach to taste victory at Selhurst Park in 12 Premier League visits. Thiago Silva is suspended, but a clean bill of health means the rest of the squad is at his disposal. Despite last weekend’s setback the west Londoners have the second-best defensive record in the top tier.

The head coach nevertheless has issues to resolve, especially in midfield and attack. Against Porto in midweek, the Bavarian felt the cohesion between the deeper seven players and front three did not click – aside from Reece James and goalscorer Mason Mount, who often combined fluently. N’Golo Kante could return to the middle having come off the bench in Spain.

Something different could also be tried up top against Crystal Palace’s usually low-lying two banks of four. The obvious alternatives to the false nine approach are Olivier Giroud (four goals in five league visits to Selhurst, including last season) and Tammy Abraham, who has netted twice in three games against the Eagles and remains the Blues’ leading scorer with 12 this season.

Key to quelling the attacking threat of a Palace team that has scored just five times after the break at home is containing their widemen, as well as handing them defensive worries through attacking wing-backs.

That said, Palace have fared very well this season against opponents who used a back three/five system, winning five, drawing two and losing only one, including a 4-1 win at home to Leeds and 5-1 thrashing of West Brom.

The Blues may also have to remain patient if Tuchel is to maintain his unbeaten record on the road in the Premier League, which started with a derby victory at Tottenham. Six consecutive away games in the top flight without defeat was last achieved in April of our title-winning 2016/17 season.

Window into the Glaziers

A narrow win at home to West Bromwich before the international break removed any lingering relegation doubts for Crystal Palace and there was evidence at Everton that Roy Hodgson has moved away from safety-first in response.

The veteran coach has always liked defending to start with his frontmen protecting the midfield, who in turn shield the back four and goalkeeper. Their gradual easing away from danger came, he believes, after he and his staff ‘hammered home what we think we are good at’.

At Goodison Park, where they grabbed a draw, the Eagles showed a less familiar open, attacking game, and deservedly secured a late point. Vincent Guaita’s shot-stopping paid his way again, and there were a few heart-stopping moments with loose tackles in and around the box.

Yet there is plenty of talent in their frontline of three fast, fluid forwards – Wilfried Zaha down the left, Eberechi Eze in a free role, and Jordan Ayew on the right – buzzing around the focal point, Christian Benteke.

Hodgson made effective substitutions last weekend, with Eze dropping deeper at the introduction of Jeffrey Schlupp’s surging runs from central midfield. This led directly to the equalising goal for Ayew’s replacement, Michy Batshuayi (the on-loan Chelsea striker is ineligible for the Glaziers this weekend).

It has been a patchy campaign for the south Londoners overall, featuring a 7-0 home thrashing and just one success against a top-half team (Manchester Utd) alongside away wins at four of the bottom five. However, their points tally is now superior to any in their recent campaigns except 2019/20, when they finished 14th.

This may prove the 73-year-old’s final season with the Eagles – he admitted he is still ‘undecided’ about his future after this season – but it should sound a note of caution that he has won as many games against Chelsea as current West Brom manager Sam Allardyce – five.

His only success at Selhurst, though, has been a 2-1 in October 2017, and the Glaziers were roundly beaten in the reverse fixture at the Bridge back in October. That day brought Ben Chilwell’s first goal in royal blue and an assist for Kurt Zouma, plus two penalties for Jorginho – which still comprises two-thirds of the total conceded by Palace from the spot in the top-flight this season.

How to watch Palace vs Chelsea

This match will be covered live by Sky Sports in the UK. To find the relevant broadcaster where you are, see the Premier League’s broadcast schedule pages.

Chelsea TV’s global available matchday shows – including early team news, exclusive interviews and analysis – are on the 5th Stand app, Facebook Live and the official YouTube channel.

London weighting

Chelsea have the most London derbies still to play this season, comprising half our remaining eight league fixtures, and are generating the most points per game from such clashes. Palace are yet to beat another club from the capital at Selhurst Park this season.



Next for Porto

It was a solid but far from perfect performance in Seville, lifted by two thrilling moments that produced Chelsea’s second-biggest ever away win in a European quarter-final. Number one remains the 3-1 at Anfield in 2009, led by ‘two-goal Branislav Ivanovic’. Chelsea have progressed from all 13 previous European knockout ties following a first-leg away win.

Of course, each of that baker’s dozen was decided at the Bridge, whereas Tuesday’s denouement means a return to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium. On Saturday the Dragons, three points ahead of Benfica who host bottom club Maritimo, are away to mid-table Tondela.

VAR update

Every now and then we take a look at whether the Video Assistant Referee system evens up over the course of a season. In terms of favourable overturns, where a VAR (or the referee himself) changes a decision after review, ESPN figures suggest the Blues (+3) are actually the second highest net beneficiaries behind Burnley (+5).

This is a reversal of the 2019/20 experience, when the Londoners had the sixth-fewest positive reversals (-2). However, recent high-profile moments where the review reinforced the original judgment, such as the potential penalty foul on Timo Werner by West Brom’s Darnell Furlong, are not included in this assessment.

Premier League fixtures

Fulham v Wolves 8pm (BT Sport)

Man City v Leeds 12.30pm (BT Sport)
Liverpool v Aston Villa 3pm (Sky Sports)
Crystal Palace v Chelsea 5.30pm (Sky Sports)

Burnley v Newcastle 12pm (Sky Sports)
West Ham v Leicester 2.05pm (Sky Sports)
Tottenham v Man Utd 4.30pm (Sky Sports)
Sheffield Utd v Arsenal 7pm (BT Sport)

West Brom v Southampton 6pm (Sky Sports)
Brighton v Everton 8.15pm (Sky Sports)

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