Crystal Palace delivered one of the biggest shocks of Chelsea’s season last year, beating the Blues on April Fools at Stamford Bridge — one of only two games in all competitions that Conte’s Chelsea failed to win at home. If Palace get anything out of today’s game, the shock could be just as palpable.
Fortunately, the game’s not at the Bridge this time, where Chelsea suddenly look quite vulnerable, having already dropped more points at home this season than all of last. In fact, Chelsea are aiming for a seventh successive away win in all competitions, stretching back to last season, which would equal a club record set back in 1989. The Blues have not lost an away match since the 2-0 reverse to José Mourinho’s Manchester United in mid-April.
Chelsea’s away winning streak must one day come to an end, as does Crystal Palace’s winless streak and futility in front of goal. Let’s just hope that day is not today.
Date / Time: Saturday, October 15, 15:00 BST; 10:00am EDT; 7:40pm IST
Venue: Selhurts Park, London, England
Referee: Andre Marriner — Marriner’s back for another season after taking charge of five games for Chelsea last season: four wins and that uncalled foul by Leroy Fer on Gary Cahill at Swansea.
Forecast: Cloudy with a chance of
meatballs warm sunshine
On TV: none (UK); NBCSN (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: NBC Sports Live Extra (USA); Hotstar (India); BBC Radio 5 Live (UK radio); ChelseaTV (int’l radio)
Crystal Palace team news: Palace do have a couple wins on the season, both in the League Cup and both at home (over Towns of Ipswich and Huddersfield), but otherwise it’s seven played, seven lost, and zero scored. That statistically improbable run is bound to end one of these days, and the football gods often do have a cruel sense of humor.
That said, the only thing to fear is fear itself. Palace are objectively bad, and while they should not be underestimated, they must not be given a chance to establish themselves in this game and gain confidence-inducing foothold. They can be fast and tricky, especially if Wilfried Zaha passes his last-minute fitness test, and could pose a bit of danger through their individual quality in certain positions. Roy Hodgson, who is already the second manager this season to try his hand at keeping them from relegation will be without a recognized striker however, as both Christian Benteke and Connor Wickham are out with knee injuries and Freddie Ladapo, whoever he is, spent last season on loan in League One with
Shrewsbury Strawberry Town, and is thus unlikely to start.
Chelsea team news: Our eight-match unbeaten run came crashing to a halt with the home defeat to Manchester City two weeks ago, which also means that Chelsea are just as well off this season as we were last: 13 points and 4 wins, 12 scored after seven games, though our goal difference is better by three this time around. The confidence in the system remains strong however, and there is no hint of a major formation change like twelve months ago.
There will be changes however to the usual lineups as Conte has plenty of major injury worries to ... well ... worry about. N’Golo Kanté is out for the foreseeable future. Álvaro Morata is out for at least this game, as is Danny Drinkwater who perhaps is injured out of solidarity for Leicester City who were denied by FIFA on appeal to complete the signing of his replacement, Adrien Silva. At least David Luiz is back from his suspension, and his versatility could prove useful in the coming days and weeks.
After last season’s non-congested schedule, Chelsea should now be used to playing games every 3-4 days once again. This game might be one of the easier ones on the docket for this month, but it’s no less important to collect all three points and keep pace with the top of the table. While there are much bigger games out these this weekend than Chelsea’s visit to the foot of the table — starting with Liverpool vs. Manchester United at Anfield — the three points on offer here count just as much as any of the other ones.
Previously: Chelsea came away with all three points from Selhurst Park last season thanks to a Diego Costa header(!) in the fog — that cross from Azpi has now been patented thanks to Morata’s headers, so maybe Batshuayi can take advantage as well?