Chelsea will be looking to kickstart their stuttering season when they host Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Expectations around Frank Lampard’s men were high after spending £200m on some fine young talent over the summer. While it was always unrealistic to expect these new signings to gel instantly, Chelsea have been extremely inconsistent so far.
Having been challenged by Brighton and outplayed by Liverpool, only an impressive second-half comeback rescued a point at lowly West Brom. It’s still early in the season, but Lampard will know things need to improve.
By contrast, Crystal Palace have enjoyed a quietly impressive start to their Premier League campaign with two wins from three so far. Roy Hodgson continues to compound the critics and Palace remain extremely difficult to play against.
The additions of Eberechi Eze and Michy Batshuayi were canny attempts at lowering the age of the squad, while Wilfried Zaha remains at Selhurst Park. Even though many predicted them to struggle this year, Palace look set for another solid season.
Where to Watch on TV
When Is Kick Off? Saturday 3 October
What Time Is Kick Off? 12:30 (BST)
Where Is it Being Played? Stamford Bridge
TV Channel/Live Stream? BT Sport (UK), Peacock (US)
Referee? Michael Oliver
While Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech remain sidelined, Frank Lampard should be able to call upon an almost fully available squad for this game. After reportedly falling out with Marcos Alonso at the Hawthorns last week, the Chelsea manager must be tempted to give Ben Chilwell his full Premier League debut for the club. Edouard Mendy should start in goal.
For Palace, Roy Hodgson is expected to welcome back Jeffrey Schlupp, but defender Scott Dann remains a major doubt with a muscular injury. Other plays who will be missing for the Eagles include James Tomkins, Patrick van Aanholt, Gary Cahill, Nathan Ferguson and Connor Wickham.
Chelsea: Mendy; James, Christensen, Zouma, Chilwell; Kovacic, Kante, Mount; Havertz, Werner, Hudson-Odoi
Crystal Palace: Guaita; Ward, Sakho, Kouyate, Mitchell; Townsend, McCarthy, McArthur, Eze; Zaha, Ayew.
Chelsea have enjoyed a mixed start to the new season. After their superior individual talent eventually told against Brighton, Lampard’s men failed to land a glove on Liverpool the following week. Last time out, Chelsea found themselves 3-0 down to lowly West Brom after a catalogue of defensive errors. However, an impressive second-half comeback would indicate the Blues possess the raw talent needed for a successful team. Lampard’s job is finding the right balance.
Crystal Palace won their opening two games, edging past Southampton before impressively beating Manchester United at Old Trafford. Defeat against Everton last Saturday was a reality check, but the Eagles competed well and only succumbed to a highly debatable penalty. Roy Hodgson will be satisfied with his team’s performances so far.
Here are each team’s last five competitive results:
Tottenham 1-1 Chelsea (29/9)
West Brom 3-3 Chelsea (26/9)
Chelsea 6-0 Barnsley (23/9)
Chelsea 0-2 Liverpool (20/9)
Brighton 1-3 Chelsea (14/9)
Crystal Palace 1-2 Everton (26/9)
Manchester United 1-3 Crystal Palace (19/9)
Bournemouth 0-0 Crystal Palace (15/9)
Crystal Palace 1-0 Southampton (12/9)
Crystal Palace 1-1 Tottenham (26/7)
Considering Palace’s impressive away record at leading clubs and Chelsea’s current inconsistencies, this may prove to be a stern test for Frank Lampard and his team.
Chelsea are evidently stacked full of attacking talent, but have yet to find the right balance in defence to enable them to dominate games. Consequently, there are murmurs on social media about Lampard’s suitability for the role. While the Chelsea legend will be given patience by the club’s board, it is unquestionable that results and performances will have to improve.
Meanwhile, Palace are the sort of awkward and stubborn opponents who would thrive against a disorganised collection of individuals. With a solid defence, Hodgson will be hoping that player such as Zaha, Andros Townsend and Eze will provide an attacking threat on the break.
Chelsea should still win this game, but something tells us that Palace will fancy their chances of securing a result on Saturday.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-2 Crystal Palace
Chelsea will pit their wits against London opposition for the second game running as Crystal Palace visit Stamford Bridge in the Premier League on Saturday.
Despite spending eye-watering sums this transfer window, Chelsea are yet to really find any rhythm or fluidity this season. Frank Lampard’s side had to come from behind to secure a 3-3 draw with West Bromwich Albion last weekend and were knocked out of the League Cup in midweek by Tottenham Hotspur on penalties.
Roy Hodgson’s side have started the campaign in complete contrast to how they ended last season. Eight winless games, including seven defeats, to conclude 2019/20 was simply dire, but big wins over Southampton and Manchester United have restored optimism on the terraces (I mean living rooms).
Can the Eagles pull off a second giant-killing of the season? Or will the hosts finish the game with points to chirp about and a performance worthy of their vast expenditure?
1. Tammy Abraham to start
Hakim Ziyech is still yet to return from injury, which indirectly makes Tammy Abraham a likely candidate to lead the line for Chelsea. The English striker started and scored in the 3-3 draw with West Brom last weekend and came off the bench against Tottenham in the League Cup.
But even if Werner has recovered fully from the cramp he suffered at the end of that game, Abraham might still be selected at the head of Chelsea’s attack with the German playing on the wing as he did in the past two games. Olivier Giroud is the only other striking option for Chelsea (save playing Havertz as a false nine again) but the Frenchman started on Tuesday and may be unlikely to return to the XI this weekend.
Crystal Palace predicted XI: Guiata; Ward, Kouyate, Sakho, Mitchell; Townsend, McCarthy, McArthur, Eze; Ayew, Zaha.
Chelsea predicted XI: Mendy; James, Christensen, Silva, Chilwell; Kante, Kovacic; Mount, Havertz, Werner; Abraham.
2. Chelsea to win the first half
Crystal Palace netted just six seven goals in the first half of matches since the start of last season. Only Sheffield United (four) and relegated Norwich (two) found the back of the net on fewer occasions. Under the same conditions, they managed 24 shots on target, also the second-lowest total of any Premier League team to have played in both campaigns.
Overall, Palace on the other hand netted the lowest number of first half goals last term (10). Even low-hitters Norwich, who went down having bagged a measly 26 goals, outscored Palace for first-half finishes (14).
It must also be said that Palace currently lead Chelsea on first-half goals this season by three strikes to one, but we expect the wider pattern to reassert itself on Saturday.
3. Palace to break 20-tackle mark
This game could be a classic case of attack versus defence. In fact, we’re pretty confident it will be. Palace have profited under Hodgson from a counter-attacking strategy, which has paid dividends on numerous occasions, and against a club of Chelsea’s ilk, it could thrive yet again.
In the 3-1 win over Man Utd earlier this season, Palace registered a quite alarming 24.2 per cent possession, and yet they left Old Trafford with all three points and having scored three goals (something they failed to do in any game across 2019/20).
The diligent midfield partnership of James McArthur and James McCarthy, a hard-hitting double-pivot forged in Glasgow but refined in Croydon, worked perfectly to scupper any attacking rhythm Man Utd tried to create, as they safeguarded the backline.
Chelsea should dominate the ball like their Manchester counterparts, but that lion’s share of possession will not equate to tangible final-third success unless they can break through Palace’s midfield bulwark. With that, we expect plenty of challenges to fly in from the visitors, and not much blue to be left on their shorts come the final whistle.
4. Wilfried Zaha to continue hot streak
Wilfried Zaha has started the season like a house on fire and will be champing at the bit to get back on the scoresheet after firing a blank last time out. Prior to the Everton defeat, the Ivorian had netted in back-to-back games for the first time since November last season.
Disappointingly, Zaha only netted four Premier League goals last term; he’s already on three this season. Coupled with the way Chelsea set up, he could have a field day if they commit bodies forward and frustration starts to creep in.
Ultimately, that’s where Palace prosper. Although they themselves set up in a fairly rigid defensive shape, opposition teams tend to shy away from pushing too high up the pitch, as Zaha and Andros Townsend are lying in wait to spring devastating counters.
The 27-year-old is experiencing a slight purple patch at the minute and we fully expect him to make the most of Chelsea’s leaky backline. He scored against the Blues at Selhurst Park just two months ago, and should follow up this weekend.
5. Chelsea to win
Although Palace should put up a spirited fight, one reminiscent of their 3-2 reversal in July, Lampard simply cannot afford to see more points drop by the wayside. In fact, one could argue that he needs not only a win but also an encouraging performance.
With such an elite armoury, Lampard is expected to not only pick up points regularly but to do so in style. Liverpool and Man City have realigned the Premier League standards in recent years, proving that results and nice football can coexist.
And, we should be in for a treat on Saturday: Chelsea’s frail rearguard versus the venom and panache of Zaha. But, ultimately this should be a game in which Chelsea get the job done. Lampard must have learnt his lesson from last week and will certainly look to tighten up, right? We think so.
Perhaps a hybrid of the Liverpool game (where they were too defensive) and the West Brom game (where they were far too attacking) will manifest at Stamford Bridge, as Lampard continues to try and establish his best system. Either way, Werner and Co. should help him along, regardless of formation. Palace are on a five-game losing streak against Chelsea, and that pattern should continue.