Chelsea are quickly becoming one of the best teams to watch in the country during their year of transition under Frank Lampard. They welcome Crystal Palace to Stamford Bridge, in what will be a tricky fixture for the Blues. Despite their position in the top four, they have struggled to win matches at home. They have only won three matches across all competitions at home this season and this is a record that needs to be corrected sooner rather than later. The visitors are a threat on the road, taking seven points from five away fixtures so far in the current campaign.
The midweek Champions League exploits showed both the strengths and weaknesses of this Chelsea team in microcosm. It is near unforgivable to go 4-1 down at home. This was a result of poor defending at set pieces, which has been a thorn in Lampard’s sign since he took over as manager. There was also criticism of the full-backs, with neither Cesar Azpilicueta or Marcos Alonso covering themselves in glory at the back. However, the team spirit and relentless belief was there for all to see, as the players didn’t let up and were unfortunate not to win the game. They may have been helped by two red cards, but the overall performance was promising.
Crystal Palace are enjoying a relatively secure season, with a mid-table finish looking likely. It could have been a season of struggle for the Eagles, especially after the uncertainty regarding Wilfried Zaha during the summer. However, Roy Hodgson has ensured that they remain hard to beat and they have already picked up a number of key victories. Their recent comeback against Arsenal was very pleasing and showed the excellent fighting spirit that exists in the squad. They are a difficult team to beat on the road and they pack a punch on the counter-attack.
Chelsea have been free scoring away from home but they have only scored seven goals in five Premier League matches at Stamford Bridge.
No player has attempted more shots than Zaha (20) without finding the back of the net in the Premier League this season.
Tammy Abraham is emerging as one of the best strikers in the division this season, as he threatens the most devastating breakout seasons for a Premier League striker since Harry Kane. This weekend offers a good opportunity to continue his good form. Like the team, the England international hasn’t been as effective at Stamford Bridge. Only two of his nine Premier League goals have come at home, which is a little bit of a concern for the Blues. It is likely that he is afforded more time on the road, with the team delivering better performances. To be considered one of the best in the league, he needs to become more of a threat against teams that sit deep. Palace will look to frustrate the home side on Saturday, with their attacking threat coming from the pace they have on the counter. Abraham is becoming invaluable for more than his goals, as he has contributed two assists in the previous two fixtures. It is likely that he will continue to improve over the coming months, as he has always been a confidence player throughout his short career. His scoring woes at home will come to an end at some point and it could be this weekend.
It is looking increasingly likely that Wilfried Zaha will never get the big move away from Crystal Palace that he craves. There is no doubting his talent, as there are few more dangerous players on his day. He can create chaos in a back four and his ability to win penalties can’t be matches by many in the Premier League. Palace’s style of play suits him, as he has the freedom of the attacking third and thrives in transition as the team attacks on the counter. However, his inconsistent end product remains a big concern and is likely the reason why bigger clubs are reluctant to pay the huge asking price for him. This weekend should suit the talented attacker, as Chelsea are vulnerable at the back and will leave space in their own third for Palace to exploit. There may not be a better occasion for the 26-year-old to get his first goal of the campaign.
Jorginho is out following his fifth yellow card of the season, but he is likely to be replaced by the returning N’Golo Kante. Ross Barkley could be back for the home side, while Mason Mount is a doubt with an ankle knock.
Andros Townsend should be back in the squad following a knock. Meanwhile Cheikhou Kouyate and Gary Cahill are in contention following head injuries.
It is difficult to back against Chelsea, as they are performing well in terms of results and on many underlying performance metrics. They are likely going to finish in the top four and they deserve tremendous credit for that considering the transition phase that they are currently in. However, the form at Stamford Bridge is a worry. Crystal Palace are set up perfectly to frustrate them and nick something on the break. That said, the home side should have enough to earn another three points.
Chelsea 2-1 Crystal Palace