Chelsea have had a mixed start to the season, which makes it important that they sign off with a victory before the international break. They are coming up against a Crystal Palace side that have already picked up one eye-catching victory away from home against Manchester United. It won’t be an easy fixture for Frank Lampard’s team, but it is one that they must pick up maximum points in to keep touch with the early leaders.
A lot is expected of the Blues this season following a hefty transfer spend. Some have speculated that they could challenge for the title, but early performances suggest that there is a long way to go in their development. Timo Werner and Kai Havertz are still adjusting to Premier League football, while Lampard doesn’t seem convinced of his first eleven yet. There are players to come back into the side, with Ben Chilwell and Edouard Mendy both in contention to make their Premier League debuts for Chelsea. A strong performance before the break will increase optimism again.
Palace were spoken about as a potential relegation candidate, but six points from their opening three matches does give them a foundation to build on. The attacking talent available to Roy Hodgson suggests that they will be a much better team in the final third this season. Michy Batshuayi and Eberechi Eze both offer a lot to the team once they have settled into the squad, while Wilfried Zaha looks to be a player getting back to his best. Any team managed by Hodgson will be well organised and difficult to break down, but Palace are now adding a cutting edge.
- Chelsea have kept only one clean sheet in five matches across all competitions this season.
- Andros Townsend registered his 18th Premier League assist for Crystal Palace last weekend. Only Zaha (23) has more.
It is hoped that Timo Werner will be one of the main goal threats for Chelsea this season, with some believing that he can challenge for the golden boot. His numbers for RB Leipzig show how good he is, with 44 Bundesliga goals during the last two seasons. Although he has yet to get off the mark in the Premier League, he has shown positive signs, winning two penalties and causing problems with his movement. Throughout his career, he has been considered a streaky player and Lampard will be hoping that he can now go on a good run in front of goal, following his first goal for the club in the Carabao Cup. There were concerns that he picked up an injury during the midweek fixture as he didn’t take a penalty, but it is believed to have been cramp. He should be fit to start against Palace. This will be a challenging fixture for him, as there won’t be a lot of space in the final third, but he has the quality to cause them problems. There is a lot more to come from the German. Following his first goal, he could be ready to make his first major contribution in the league.
The attacker has been excellent in his new role as a centre forward. He is much more dangerous in central positions and it looks like this is the role he will be playing for Crystal Palace this season. Zaha has already contributed three goals, which is just one fewer than he managed in the entire previous campaign. The 27-year-old is getting back to his best and that is a worrying thought for the rest of the Premier League team, as it makes Palace a more dangerous opponent. During the first three matches, he has averaged 2.7 shots and 1.3 key passes per game, which are both increases on last year. It is a small sample size, but if he can maintain these numbers, he should be set for one of his best years in the Premier League. Chelsea are a team that leave a lot of space and are vulnerable to the counter attack. Callum Robinson caused them issues last weekend and Zaha will be licking his lips at the chance to do similar damage. He could lead Palace to another shock result against a top-six team.
Timo Werner suffered from cramp in the week, but he should be fit to start. Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic are both nearing a return, but they may not be risked before the international break. Mendy should make his Premier League debut in goal.
Jeffrey Schlupp is a doubt for the visiting side. Michy Batshuayi isn’t available to feature against his parent club. Patrick van Aanholt won’t be available until after the international break. Scott Dann, Gary Cahill, James Tomkins and Nathan Ferguson remain on the sidelines.
This will be a tricky match for Chelsea, as they are coming up against an opponent that will take advantage of their weaknesses at the back. Palace will set up deep and look to counter attack with pace, which is something that Chelsea find difficult to deal with. The space in the Chelsea half should suit Zaha, who is a player in great form and looking to add to his three Premier League goals. That said, the Blues are an improving team with a point to prove after three under par performances. They should have just enough to win with Mendy coming into the team to increase confidence in the defence.
Chelsea 2-1 Crystal Palace