Chelsea will endeavour to break back into the top four of the Premier League table – temporarily at least – when they travel to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace in Saturday’s London derby.
The hosts managed to salvage a draw at Everton in their most recent top-flight battle, whereas Thomas Tuchel’s unbeaten run ended in disastrous fashion against West Bromwich Albion.
Palace’s point at Goodison Park was down to Everton’s profligacy in front of goal rather than anything else, but Roy Hodgson was nevertheless content with his side’s performance as the Eagles held their Champions League-chasing opponents to a 1-1 draw on Monday night.
Vicente Guaita frustrated Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin throughout the evening, although the Eagles number one could not prevent James Rodriguez breaking the deadlock on the 56-minute mark, but Chelsea loanee Michy Batshuayi had only been on the pitch for two minutes before lashing home the equaliser in the dying embers.
Palace’s fighting spirit was rightly applauded at Goodison Park, but that result makes hardly any difference to their end-of-season prospects, as the 12th-placed Eagles sit 12 points above the drop zone and 11 adrift of the top seven with eight games left to play.
Consolidating their mid-table standing will be the ultimate goal for Hodgson now, and his side have only lost one of their last six in the Premier League, as well as stringing together a three-game unbeaten run at home – keeping a trio of clean sheets to boot.
Another shut-out this weekend would see Palace record four consecutive clean sheets on home soil for the first time in the top flight since 1992, but on a personal level, Hodgson is enduring a six-game losing streak against Chelsea and is seemingly fighting a losing battle to avoid making that seven against a resurgent Blues outfit.
Not even the most pessimistic of Chelsea supporters could have envisaged their side’s collapse against West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge, as Sam Allardyce’s men ruined Tuchel’s perfect clean sheet record at home by notching up five goals against the 10-man Blues.
Despite the embarrassing manner of that defeat, Tuchel’s side responded immediately by taking control of their Champions League quarter-final with Porto, as goals either side of the break from Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell propelled the London outfit to a resounding 2-0 win in their ‘away’ leg in Seville.
One crushing defeat hardly signals the end of the world for Tuchel, but his side have now slipped out of the top four following West Ham United’s win at Wolverhampton Wanderers, and Liverpool could also rise above the fifth-placed Blues if they beat Aston Villa a couple of hours beforehand on Saturday.
However, another three points for Chelsea would indeed propel them back into the Champions League places before West Ham’s crunch match with third-placed Leicester City on Sunday, and Tuchel travels to Selhurst Park with his unbeaten away record still intact, as his side have won six and drawn two of their last eight on the road.
Tuchel could match Luiz Felipe Scolari’s record of navigating his first six Premier League away matches at Chelsea unbeaten this weekend, and the Blues have come up trumps in eight of their last 10 away fixtures with Crystal Palace, who lost 4-0 at Stamford Bridge earlier in the campaign.
Crystal Palace Premier League form:
Chelsea Premier League form:
Chelsea form (all competitions):
Palace’s hero of the hour Batshuayi would have been pushing for a starting role this weekend, but he is ineligible to face his parent club, so Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke are set to continue up top.
Benteke has amassed six goals and two assists from his last 10 league games against Chelsea, though, and the Belgian forward’s spot should not come under any threat from Jean-Philippe Mateta.
However, Hodgson’s injury problems are well-documented, as six players in Nathaniel Clyne, Nathan Ferguson, Mamadou Sakho, James McCarthy, James Tomkins and James McArthur are nursing injuries and are unlikely to be available.
Experienced centre-back Silva is Chelsea’s only absentee for this game following his sending-off against West Brom, and Antonio Rudiger played the full 90 in Seville despite being involved in a training ground bust-up with backup goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
However, with rotation on the cards, Kurt Zouma will hope to be given the chance to redeem himself, while Christian Pulisic and N’Golo Kante are both in contention to start after recovering from injuries in time to appear off the bench against Porto.
Tammy Abraham has also shaken off a niggling ankle problem to bolster Tuchel’s options in the final third, and Olivier Giroud is set to battle the Englishman for the chance to spearhead the attack.
Crystal Palace possible starting lineup:
Guaita; Ward, Cahill, Kouyate, Van Aanholt; Ayew, Milivojevic, Riedewald, Eze; Zaha, Benteke
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Mendy; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Rudiger; Hudson-Odoi, Kovacic, Kante, Alonso; Ziyech, Pulisic; Abraham