Chelsea’s hosting of Crystal Palace on Saturday begins the next round of Premier League fixtures. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton preview the all-London affair…
It is a return to league action for Chelsea, after which the domestic game makes way for international friendlies and Nations League action. The second derby in succession is the first in the top flight.
Frank Lampard’s men are aiming for a sixth straight win, home and away, to Crystal Palace, who start the weekend sixth, three places and two points above the Blues.
The west Londoners are in decent form at home, winning seven of our past eight games in all competitions, six of those with a clean sheet. Liverpool’s success against 10 men two weeks ago was our only setback in that run.
This is Chelsea’s first Saturday lunchtime outing since Tottenham were beaten 2-1 at the Bridge in February. Our 2-0 clipping of the Eagles’ wings in November 2019 was in the same time slot.
The Blues have won seven of our past nine home league games against the Glaziers, losing the other two in August 2015 and April 2017. Last season the Eagles were one of seven sides ‘doubled’ by us in the league.
Chelsea team news
Saturday’s game could be a big moment for Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and Ben Chilwell, England’s left-back, as they look set to make their Premier League bows for Chelsea.Over the past two matches the Blues have been sucker-punched with a regularity that must frustrate their head coach. West Brom scored from all three of their accurate shots last weekend and, setting aside Barnsley (who registered nine), Chelsea have conceded 15 shots on target and conceded seven goals.
The first draw of the current season was one of the Premier League’s more dramatic stalemates. Elementary errors left the Blues trailing 0-3 at the break. No top-flight team had retrieved a point from that position since West Ham in February 2011 – also against the Baggies (coincidentally all three goals Hammers goals in that game came from players who have a Chelsea connection: Carlton Cole and Demba Ba).
The cream of Cobham came to the rescue at the Hawthorns, with three Academy graduates together on the scoresheet for the first time since Wolves away a year ago: Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham.
The comeback seemed click into gear with N’Golo Kante holding and Kai Havertz and Mount either side. Timo Werner unluckily struck the bar in that game but expertly opened his account at Spurs a few days later – another stereotypical game of two halves.
As the squad arrives at full strength, Frank Lampard will be looking for his team to dominate the game and show their undoubted quality over 90-minutes as opposed to 45.
Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic each scored in both encounters with Palace last season, but the ‘10 from Penn’ maybe more likely to feature after the break, as is Hakim Ziyech.
Palace’s bright start
Until last weekend’s home defeat by Everton the Eagles had made their best ever start to a Premier League season, winning the first two matches against Southampton and Manchester United. It fulfilled the aim they take into each game: start fast, be in the front foot, pressure the opponent.
But perhaps it also reflected the busy pre-season planned by Roy Hodgson, who had his players return to training 22 days after the end of the season, on 17 August. Unlike many clubs, especially those involved in Europe late on such as Man United (and Chelsea), Palace were able to sharpen up with four friendlies between 25 August and the big kick-off. Everton’s win maybe showed other clubs have now caught up.
The creativity in Hodgson’s 4-4-2 lies on the flanks rather than the feisty central midfield of Jameses McCarthy and McArthur. With Wilfried Zaha playing centrally as a striker alongside Jordan Ayew, some dribbling responsibility has been handed to wingers Andros Townsend, who is excelling this season, and ex-QPR England Under-21 Eberechi Eze, in for the injured Jeff Schlupp.
The Glaziers have been captained by Zaha in Scott Dann’s absence, and the Ivorian is their current top scorer with three. His tendency still to drift left means nearly half Palace’s attacks emanate from that direction, the biggest bias in the top flight.
Converting chances has been an issue for the South Londoners, except at Old Trafford where they scored three. Chelsea will hope the Eagles tendency to concede possession in midfield continues, but will be wary of their height at set-plays. Cheikhou Kouyate headed his first goal since Boxing Day against the Toffees.
How to watch Chelsea-Palace
Saturday lunchtime’s game is live on BT Sport. For the local broadcaster where you are, check the Premier League’s television guide, updated through the season.
Chelsea TV’s globally 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 derby upturn
With Fulham’s arrival this season, local derbies will form more than a quarter of all top-flight matches for the capital’s six representatives. Across all encounters between the current half-dozen clubs over the Premier League era, it is the Blues who come out on top.
Only Fulham, who have already lost to Arsenal this season, have a worse points-per-game derby record than Palace.
Window closing Monday, squads submitted Tuesday
Transfers of players between Premier League clubs must be registered and Monday by 5pm. The same applies to international moves, with all the major European leagues closing the window the same day. From 5 October until 5pm on 16 October top-flight clubs can trade with EFL teams only.
Handball reinterpreted from this weekend
Following a number of high-profile goals after VAR interpretations of the new handball law last weekend – one involving Palace’s Joel Ward – the English referees body, the PGMOL, has let it be known that Premier League officials will take a more lenient approach going forward.
The relevant paragraph in the international football law book states: ‘it is usually an offence if a player touches the ball with their hand/arm when: the hand/arm has made their body unnaturally bigger [or] the hand/arm is above/beyond their shoulder level.’
That wording was actually introduced into the game last season and published on the Premier League website in August 2019. New for the 2020/21 campaign were changes to the existing laws on what constitutes the handball ‘area’ and when it applies in the build-up to a goal.
The first part defines an area below a line drawn across from the armpit as the handball zone. The second stipulates that an offence of accidental handling occurs only when an attacker makes contact with the hand/arm ‘immediately’ before a goal is scored.
Kai Havertz’s arm inadvertently touched the ball before the Blues’ third goal at West Brom, but it was not an offence because a Baggies player swept the ball away before Tammy Abraham eventually scored.
Another international break
After this weekend’s matches players will head off to represent their country in FIFA’s second international break this season. Two more are scheduled before the end of May: 9-18 November, and 22-30 March 2021.
The latest matchday programme
We may not be attending games but the official matchday programme can still be ordered, still for £3.50. It works out cheaper to subscribe, guaranteeing delivery of every men’s team programme in all competitions throughout the 2020/21 season.
Premier League table - top half
Premier League fixtures
SaturdayChelsea v Crystal Palace 12.30pm (BT Sport)Everton v Brighton 3pm (BT Sport)Leeds v Man City 5.30pm (Sky Sports)Newcastle v Burnley 8pm (Sky Sports)
SundayLeicester v West Ham 12pm (BT Sport)Southampton v West Brom 12pm (BT Sport)Arsenal v Sheffield Utd 2pm (Sky Sports)Wolves v Fulham 2pm (Sky Sports)Man Utd v Tottenham 4.30pm (Sky Sports)Aston Villa v Liverpool 7.15pm (Sky Sports)
Check the pre-match stats