In football, expectations decide the level of satisfaction fans have from a team’s performances. This is perhaps true for most things in life. This Saturday, two teams whose fans have dissatisfaction levels ranging from “completely disgusted” to “slightly concerned” take on each other. Crystal Palace host Chelsea in game week 8 at Selhurst Park.
Palace fans have major causes of worry. That their team has not gained a single point on the Premier League table in seven matches, is in itself a major concern. But, perhaps even more worrisome is the fact that the Eagles have not scored a single goal in those seven matches. These are truly alarming facts for a team that had Christian Benteke leading their attack before he got injured and that began this league campaign under the tutelage of Frank de Boer, before he was quickly dismissed, to be replaced by Roy Hodgson. To compound these problems, they have had to play three top sides in three consecutive matches. They have played Manchester City and Manchester United in the previous two game weeks and now face the daunting task of facing Chelsea at home.
Chelsea themselves are not playing completely as per their fans’ expectations. The Champions started the campaign with a loss at home to Burnley but then they picked up their form to win four games and draw the away game against Spurs, before being beaten by Manchester City in game week 7, just before this international break began. They dropped only 21 points during the entire last season but they have already dropped 8 points in seven matches this season. Their new star striker is injured, as is their midfield enforcer. Among all these problems, Antonio Conte must be thanking his stars that the Premier League schedule has afforded him a trip to the troubled Crystal Palace. The Italian, as well as Chelsea fans must be confident that even their injury-ridden team can easy win on Saturday.
- In 60 previous London derbies (all competitions) between the two sides, Chelsea has won 24 and lost 11 games. The last of those 11 losses came at Stamford Bridge in April earlier this year.
- But it has been more than 27 years since Crystal Palace beat Chelsea at home in a league match.
- Crystal Palace are setting unwanted records every week this season. They have already made the worst start by any Premier League side since the league began 25 years ago. But if they fail to get a point or more on Saturday, they will match the record of only one team in the entire history of English top-flight football – that of Liverpool, who lost eight successive games in 1899-1900.
- Chelsea have enjoyed their travels as they have won six consecutive away games, stretching to the last season. A win on Saturday would stretch that run to seven matches.
While the start of the season has been completely forgettable for Crystal Palace, this international break did bring some cheer in the form of Wilfried Zaha’s return to training after being injured early in the season. Zaha is extremely important for Crystal Palace. He was their best player last season and was key in Benteke’s goals as well. Goals are what the Eagles are starved for and Zaha’s return gives them hope regarding their chances of scoring in the next few games and hopefully of survival in the Premier League.
Eden Hazard also started the season with an injury but has been back playing for Chelsea for the last several matches. Conte has given him only one full game but the Belgian should be fit enough to start on Saturday. Hazard has hit form at the right moment as he hit a brace against Cyprus on Wednesday. With Morata injured, Diego Costa sulking, and Willian having come back from a long trip from South America, the goal scoring and creation responsibilities will fall to Hazard, who should have no trouble in executing them.
Roy Hodgson should have Wilfried Zaha back for this clash, although he might not start or play the full game as he has just begun training last week. Ruben Loftus-Cheek will be ineligible to play against his parent club but Timothy Fosu-Mensah will be able to come into the matchday squad. Forwards Christian Benteke and Connor Wickham are out with long-term injuries but defenders Scott Dann and James Tomkins could make a return from their respective injuries.
David Luiz returns to Chelsea after serving his one-game suspension but the Blues will not have Morata as the Spaniard got injured in the last game against Manchester City. N’Golo Kante is also likely to miss out due to an injury sustained during the international break. Chelsea’s midfield woes have no solution in sight as Danny Drinkwater could also miss Saturday’s game, as he is still not 100% ready to start. However, the Blues will welcome Michy Batshuayi as a replacement for Morata. Antonio Conte would also like to rotate his squad a bit keeping the upcoming mid-week fixture against Roma in his mind.
Chelsea became the champions last season by ensuring that games such as this one were easily won. Irrespective of their recent form, the Blues should be too powerful for Palace to overcome and should stroll to an easy victory on Saturday. For Crystal Palace, this is the third consecutive game against last season’s top-six sides and Roy Hodgson, as well as Eagles’ fans, will just hope that they lose by fewer goals as compared to the last two games, in which they conceded nine goals.
Crystal Palace 0 – 3 Chelsea