Chelsea Vs Crystal Palace Preview | Team News, Facts & Key Men

Chelsea Vs Crystal Palace Preview | Team News, Facts & Key Men

Both of these teams head into this encounter with a level of form that is the opposite to what you might expect. Chelsea lost last time out, 3-2, at the Britannia Stadium – and in doing so dropped from second place in the Premier League and allowed Arsenal to extend their lead to five points. On the other hand, Crystal Palace, the whipping boys of the Premier League so far this season, have won their last two games – although they were both at home, and not away at a title chasing side. However, let us not forget that this is yet another London derby and anything can happen when two teams from the same city collide.

 Chelsea Vs Crystal Palace

The omens look good for Chelsea. The Blues have won all but one of their seven home games this season – a controversial draw with West Brom which saw Ramires “go to ground easily” to earn a last minute Stamford Bridge penalty. The contrast with Crystal Palace’s away form is startling: the Eagles have won just one game away from home this season and have lost the other six. The last five league games between these two sides at Stamford Bridge have seen three Chelsea wins and two draws – that’s a run that stretches back to the old First Division, due to Crystal Palace’s up and down Premier League status.

Team News

Chelsea have the cleanest bill of health in the league as we head into the busiest segment of Premier League football. The Blues have just the one injury to contend with: van Ginkel won’t be seen again until at least the pre-season programme starts for next season. His anterior cruciate ligament damage isn’t a quick healer.

In stark contrast, Palace have one of the most depleted squads in the league with six injuries currently giving Tony Pulis his first real headache of his new managerial tenure. Three of these injured players face late fitness tests to evaluate whether they’ll be available for this 3 o’clock Saturday kick-off. Moxey, Thomas and Hunt are all due back around this time and Pulis will certainly hope to have them fit for this difficult encounter. Adlène Guedioura is another absentee but he’ll miss the entire Christmas period with a painful rib cage injury. Two further definite absentees are McCarthy and Murray who are both expected to miss large chunks of the season – particularly Murray who, identically to van Ginkel, has suffered ACL damage and is expected to miss the rest of the 2013/14 season.

Interesting Facts

Chelsea lost their last game in the Premier League to Stoke City – and the 3-2 loss meant Chelsea conceded three goals in consecutive Premier League games for the first time since October 1999. Another statistic to compound Chelsea’s current defensive woes comes from the fact that the Blues have conceded more goals in the opening fifteen games of this season than they did back in Mourinho’s whole debut season at Chelsea – way back in 2004/2005. Underlining Chelsea’s poor defending of late is the usually reliable Petr Cech, who has made two errors which have lead directly to opposition goals – that’s the highest in Chelsea’s team. Chelsea seem to defend best when John Terry is in the team – and he leads the way for successful headed clearances (75) and successful normal clearances (111). Both these totals are much higher than Gary Cahill’s figures which come in at 45 and 59 respectively.

Crystal Palace are currently one of the in-form teams in the league with three victories from their last four games. Each win in this mini sequence was paired with a clean sheet, which will encourage Tony Pulis and the Palace faithful. Shockingly, Palace’s win against Hull City on the 23rd November was their first in the league since the victory against fellow strugglers Sunderland on the final day of August. Palace actually have two players with 100% shooting accuracy this season in Danny Gabbidon and Aaron Wilbraham, although the amount of shots they’ve taken is seriously low – two and one respectively. Attacking-wise I think Crystal Palace can be fairly pleased with their minutes per shot statistic which stands at just 11.52, however, this average increases when we only take shots on target into account – Palace only register a shot on target once every 30.38 minutes, perhaps this is where their problem lies.

Key Men

Eden Hazard is definitely the man to watch for Chelsea this week, although Schurrle will be staking a claim to that honour after last week’s performance against Stoke City. Hazard has six goals and three assists in fourteen starts so far this season. The Belgian has an impressive passing completion rate which stands at 84%. However, last week, the winger made no accurate crosses in the game against Pulis’ former employers Stoke City, with four being attempted to no avail. In contrast, Hazard made a personal season high for passes completed in a single game last week when he registered 51 accurate passes with a 98% completion rate. This wasn’t his highest completion rate of the season, however, as he actually achieved a 100% pass rate against Norwich City in October.

What a difference a week makes… Marouane Chamakh was the brunt of all Premier League jokes just a week ago, but two goals in two Crystal Palace wins have seen him become the Eagles’ top scorer and subsequent best hope of avoiding the drop. The chances of Chamakh adding to his tally may be slim this week but he’ll be confident and many onlookers stated Chamakh had never worked harder than he did in the 2-0 win over Cardiff City at Selhurst Park – so credit to Tony Pulis for finally re-invigorating this once decent player. The Moroccan currently boasts a modest record of three goals in thirteen Premier League starts. In-line with his modest season is his statistic of being dispossessed 1.3 times per game on average. However, he is only caught offside once in every two games – perhaps there is a footballing brain in there after all! The striker’s passing accuracy is pretty poor with a 71% completion rate. He also boasts a proud record of creating no clear cut chances or assists this season. Despite all this, he’s still the man to shine for Palace this weekend – he’ll be integral in keeping hold of the ball as Palace look to defend deep and counter attack in a rapid and direct fashion. Chamakh also embodies Crystal Palace’s recent upturn in fortune so who’s to say it won’t continue?

Prediction

My prediction for this game is fairly obvious: home win. If Chelsea don’t win this game then serious questions will be asked by their supporters – despite Palace’s upturn in form in recent weeks. Considering Palace’s recent defensive displays – which have yielded three clean sheets in four games – I’ll keep the scoreline low and say 2-0, although I’m sure all neutrals will hope for a Chamakh hat-trick and a big upset.