Our football scribe previews the EPL encounter between Crystal Palace and Chelsea.
In a day and age where the competitive nature of the Premier League is exhaustively clouded by journalists, Chelsea’s streak of ten consecutive wins seems doubly special. And to have only conceded two goals in that window shows just how organised and solid they have been.
This fairly amazing balance between aggression and defensive rigidity is exactly what Monsieur Alan Pardew is lacking at Crystal Palace. His side scores with freewheeling abandon and would probably be in the top six if they possessed the ability to keep a clean sheet. Chelsea will indeed have to weather the tide this weekend and knowing Pardew he will be anxious to be the man responsible for ending their majestic run.
Crystal Palace v Chelsea | Saturday 17 December | Selhurst Park | 14:30
To Win (90 Mins)
Crystal Palace 9/2 | Draw 32/10 | Chelsea 11/20
Palace played quite well against United, looking far more defensively sound than any of their previous fixtures. Pardew had shuffled his pack, bringing Lee Chung-yong and Mathieu Flamini into the side. But what ultimately happened was they actually lost some of their counterattacking exuberance, with Andros Townsend’s mercurial abilities missed down that right hand side.
I think that both players may drop down to the bench as Joe Ledley and Townsend return to the starting line-up. I did enjoy seeing Yohan Cabaye being employed further up the field, I’ve always felt that he makes a far more natural number 10 than holding midfielder.
James McArthur and Ledley will have their work cut out containing the likes of N'golo Kante and Eden Hazard. Flamini would be a major liability in that area considering his propensity to throw caution to the wind with tackles.
At least Scott Dann and Damien Delaney have the physical prowess to front up to Diego Costa. Palace will be hoping that Wilfried Zaha can push Marcos Alonso back and make penetrative bursts in behind Chelsea. But with Hazard likely returning, this looks like a tall task for this Eagles side.
I’m actually rather glad to hear that Oscar is on his way to China. He’s a talented player who I just can’t see getting back into this side. Chelsea were magnificent in the absence of Hazard, with Willian and Pedro dovetailing exceptionally.
Then look at the battle between Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic. Fabregas’ weight of passing resurrects memories of Andrea Pirlo at Juventus, a thought that is surely not lost on Conte. Perhaps they lacked the brutal cutting edge this week, but Hazard should return to provide that this weekend.
And Palace’s notoriously leaky defense is going to have to deal with a plethora of issues. I think Pedro may make way for Willian upon Hazard’s return, which will make for a daunting front three of Costa, Hazard and Willian.
I’m sure that Conte will persist with the combination of Kante and Fabregas: the former's powerful running just fits beautifully with Fabgregas’ languid artistry. Victor Moses and Alonso will have to be watchful of the speed that Palace have on the flanks, but I just see Chelsea completely dominating the midfield battle.
Verdict: Chelsea Win (11/20)
Drawn first half followed by Chelsea winning the second. This is one of those bold calls that makes you look like a genius when it comes off. But Chelsea may take time to find their rhythm, as they did against Sunderland and West Brom. Palace may deny them till half-time, but I expect this street savvy Chelsea side to grind out the win.
Written by Damien Kayat @Hollywoodbets