Match Preview: Chelsea vs Crystal Palace

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Updated: March 31, 2017
Manchester United vs Chelsea

There’s sure to be a special feeling of anticipation at Stamford Bridge this Saturday when the Blues host Crystal Palace. Not only is it the first game back after a long international break, but the sentiment after Chelsea beat Palace to clinch the title in 2015 will be fresh in the fans’ minds especially as the Blues sit ten points clear at the top of the table. The Chelsea of this season have yet to completely secure their position, but have been far more dominant than the team who won the title two seasons ago. Adding a 23rd win would put them in a strong position to go on an end-of-season run with the title in sight.

Sam Allardyce’s Palace, however, won’t roll over for the champions-elect. After being joint-bottom a month ago, Allardyce’s men rallied to 16th and are on a three-match winning streak coming into this fixture. What’s more, all of those victories have been clean sheets — something Chelsea have struggled to find recently, earning none in their last six outings.

The past meetings between the teams favour Chelsea, who have won four of their last five against the Eagles, with their single loss being the Blues’ only ever Premier League defeat to their fellow Londoners. What’s more, Palace’s record in London Derbies this year has been abysmal – they’ve lost all five. Chelsea, in contrast, have won the most London derby points this season.

Should he score, it could be a memorable game for Diego Costa, as it would mark his 50th Premier League goal for the club. The prolific Spaniard will have reached that mark in just 81 appearances — the only players to do it faster were Andrew Cole, Alan Shearer, Ruud van Nistelrooy, and Fernando Torres. He would equal Sergio Aguero’s record.

Costa’s opposing number could make his mark as well, though. Christian Benteke has scored in four different Premier League games against Chelsea – the most he’s scored against any other side besides Sunderland and Swansea.

Team News

The Blues’ job will be made tougher by the likely absence of Eden Hazard after Belgium manager Roberto Martinez ruled him out for 10-15 days. Also hurt on international duty for Belgium was Thibaut Courtois, but the keeper is expected back for Saturday.

Palace have a rather longer injury list, with Pape Souare, Connor Wickham, Mathieu Flamini, and ex-Chelsea man Patrick van Aanholt all likely out.

Prediction

Even with Eden Hazard missing, Chelsea proved last week by beating Stoke City on the road that they can win without him in difficult circumstances. Considering Saturday’s game is at Stamford Bridge – where Chelsea are on a 13-match winning streak in all competitions and where they have only lost one game all season – it makes the seemingly inevitable result even more so. Palace’s streak of clean sheets shouldn’t worry Chelsea: they came against Middlesbrough, West Bromwich Albion, and Watford, who aren’t exactly the most prolific threesome. A Chelsea win is on the cards, and a 2-0 or bigger margin seems likely.

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