Our English football scribe previews Saturday’s clash between Chelsea and Crystal Palace.
The destiny of the Premier League title seems to be purely a matter of when as opposed to where, with Chelsea’s unbelievable season yet to flounder or stutter in the slightest. The biggest headache that Antonio Conte will have to deal with in the next few weeks is the growing speculation surrounding Eden Hazard’s future.
Real Madrid have expressed interest in perhaps making him the most expensive player in the world, and Real’s mythical drawing power will clearly have some impact on the Belgian star. Allardyce’s Palace have managed to consolidate after a troubling start for England’s beleaguered ex-manager. They should have the squad to navigate survival and will be hoping to derail the awesome Chelsea juggernaut.
Chelsea v Crystal Palace | Saturday 1 April | Stamford Bridge | 16:00
To Win (90 Mins)
Chelsea 3/10 | Draw 4/1 | Crystal Palace 10/1
The possible departure of Hazard is a slightly ominous sign for Chelsea, particularly with European football next season providing more fixtures and challenges for the London outfit. Rumours have abounded of a possible Alexis Sanchez acquisition to offset what looks a really likely departure. Having said all that, Chelsea’s professionalism will likely mean that the rumours will impinge little on their on-field performance.
Knowing that Palace are primarily a counterattacking side, Conte will no doubt play the combination of Matic and Kante, with Fabregas on the bench. Chelsea will feel extremely confident that their wall of three at the back can isolate and mitigate the considerable presence of Christian Benteke. Kante and Matic should dictate the midfield while Alonso and Moses aim to stretch Palace as wide as possible. Alonso will feel that he could get well beyond Ward on that left-hand touchline, especially in collaboration with Hazard.
Sam Allardyce’s side will probably welcome back Patrick Van Aanholt from injury. The dynamic left full-back has been essential to Palace and will put pressure on Victor Moses all afternoon. Former Liverpool centre-half Sakho has bedded in well at Palace and he and Tomkins have managed to keep Dann and Delaney out the side. Cabaye and Milosevic dovetail well in the heart of midfield and will need to completely maintain their discipline as Chelsea threaten to counter. I just can’t see how Cabaye especially is going to counter with the dynamism of this Chelsea side.
While Palace are ordinarily a potent threat from set plays, that will likely not prove so influential against a physically imposing and dominant Chelsea side. Benteke is going to become isolated while Zaha and Townsend are deprived of meaningful possession. Talking about parking the bus, expect the shuttle that comes along with that to be on display here. Palace are going to sit back and hope for quick counterattacking opportunities, but with the likes of Hazard and Costa – how successful will that prove?
Verdict: Home to Win Both Halves – Yes 17/10
Palace will be hoping that the rumour mill surrounding Hazard’s potential departure will cause some civil unrest within this hardened Chelsea line-up. However, this is just a game that Palace are sorely equipped to deal with. Although they have managed to get more compact in the last few weeks, their early season defensive frailties will be exposed here. Furthermore, Chelsea are well equipped to cope with Palace’s counterattacking threat. Chelsea to win both halves at 17/10 is a solid bet!
Written by Damien Kayat @Hollywoodbets