MX23RW : Tuesday, November 13 03:20:42

Preview: Chelsea vs. Crystal Palace - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday's London derby between unbeaten Chelsea and out-of-form Crystal Palace, including predictions, teams news and head-to-head records.

Chelsea will be looking to make it 11 games unbeaten at the start of the Premier League season on Sunday when they welcome London rivals Crystal Palace to Stamford Bridge.

The Blues go into the weekend sitting two points adrift of leaders Manchester City and Liverpool, whereas Palace have slipped down to 14th place courtesy of a five-match winless streak.


Chelsea

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has a laugh during his presser on October 19, 2018© Reuters

In the 27-year history of the Premier League, only one manager has enjoyed a longer unbeaten start than Maurizio Sarri, who stands on the verge of a record-equalling feat this weekend.

Some of the world's greatest ever managers have graced the division, but it is not Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola that Sarri is attempting to emulate on Sunday - rather the lesser-known Frank Clark, who remained unbeaten in his first 11 matches as a Premier League boss in charge of Nottingham Forest in 1994-95.

Those of a Forest or Newcastle United persuasion may remember Clark fondly - he was a European Cup-winning player and managerial successor to Brian Clough, after all - but Sarri will be hopeful of building a legacy which is more widely appreciated after taking to the Premier League so quickly.

The Italian's unbeaten start is already two matches longer than previous Chelsea bosses Mourinho and Luiz Felipe Scolari, and should he extend it this weekend then it would be only the third time in the club's history that they have begun a top-flight campaign without losing any of their first 11 games.

Both of the two previous occasions have come in the Premier League era and ended with Chelsea winning the title, although despite such an impressive start they remain third in the standings heading into Sunday's match.

Manchester City and Liverpool are both also unbeaten after 10 games and sit two points clear of Chelsea, who themselves are two above Arsenal and three above Tottenham Hotspur.

The competition looks fierce, then, but Chelsea have shown plenty of signs that they can seriously challenge for the title this term and made another statement with a 4-0 win away to Burnley last weekend, despite being without star man Eden Hazard.

Things were not so straightforward in midweek when club legend Frank Lampard brought his Derby County side to Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea needing two own goals and a couple of other fortunate moments to go their way during their barmy 3-2 victory.

It was a result that made it 15 games unbeaten across all competitions since the Community Shield loss to Man City, and also made it 11 games without defeat at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues will be firm favourites to extend both runs against a Palace side in poor form, but with Liverpool and Man City both in action before them this weekend, the pressure could be on to keep pace with that leading pack by the time they kick off.

Recent Premier League form: WDDWDW
Recent form (all competitions): WWDWWW


Crystal Palace

A despairing Roy Hodgson in charge of Crystal Palace on October 6, 2018© Reuters

Crystal Palace's first points and first goals of the 2017-18 season - and Roy Hodgson's first as manager - came against Chelsea just over a year ago, and the Eagles could do with a similar lift on Sunday.

The situation is not quite as bleak now as it was then, with Palace rooted to the bottom of the table without a point or a goal to their name after seven games of 2017-18, but Hodgson has seen his side begin to slide down the standings in recent weeks.

Last weekend's 2-2 draw with Arsenal - which came as a result of two Luka Milivojevic penalties - saw Palace pick up their first point in more than a month, but their winless streak continues in the Premier League.

The Eagles are now without a victory in their last five top-flight outings and have won just one of their last nine, losing six in the same spell.

Just three points now separate Palace from the relegation zone ahead of a daunting run of fixtures which sees them face Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United in their next three league games - following on from Arsenal last weekend.

Hodgson will have perhaps been hoping for more points on the board prior to that difficult spell, and there was further disappointment in midweek when the Eagles were eliminated from the EFL Cup at the hands of Championship side Middlesbrough.

Wednesday's result made it three away defeats on the bounce for Palace, but it is on the road where they have experienced the most joy so far this season, winning four of their opening five away games of the campaign across all competitions prior to this recent dip in form.

Both of their Premier League wins this season have come on their travels, while five of their seven league goals have also been scored on the road; Palace had not scored a single home goal prior to last weekend's draw with Arsenal, and are still without a win at Selhurst Park.

The visitors may be relieved to be making the trip from south to west London, then, although Hodgson himself does not have the best record at Stamford Bridge having not won there in the Premier League since April 1998, losing on each of his last four visits.

Recent Premier League form: WDLLLD
Recent form (all competitions): WLLLDL


Team News

Eden Hazard celebrates getting his side's first during the Premier League game between Chelsea and Cardiff City on September 15, 2018© Reuters

Sarri revealed that Hazard is available to feature, but not for the full 90 minutes so the Belgian is likely to return from his three-game absence with a back injury as a sub.

Olivier Giroud may also be in contention after missing the EFL Cup game due to a leg problem, although Sarri may decide to stick with Alvaro Morata leading the line regardless.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek - who enjoyed such a successful loan spell at Palace last season - has been in good goalscoring form recently to provide extra competition in midfield, while Cesc Fabregas was also on the scoresheet in midweek.

The midfield trio is likely to be completed by either Mateo Kovacic or Ross Barkley, though, and the latter seems better placed to get the nod having scored three and assisted three more in his last three league games.

Palace are sweating over the fitness of star player Wilfried Zaha, who missed the EFL Cup defeat to Middlesbrough due to a shoulder injury he picked up against Arsenal last weekend.

The Ivory Coast international is expected to recover in time, but Christian Benteke and Joel Ward remain sidelined for the visitors.

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Willian, Morata, Hazard

Crystal Palace possible starting lineup:
Hennessey; Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, Van Aanholt; Townsend, Kouyate, Milivojevic, McArthur; Ayew, Zaha


Head To Head

Crystal Palace have won two of the last three Premier League meetings between these two sides, including a 2-1 triumph at Stamford Bridge in April 2017.

Indeed, the Eagles have also won two of their last three Premier League away games against Chelsea, although the most recent one in March went the way of the home side.

These fixtures have been close ones in recent years, with nine of the 10 meetings since Palace's promotion back to the Premier League being decided by just one goal.


Sports Mole Logo

We say: Chelsea 3-1 Crystal Palace

Chelsea are a team full of confidence at the moment, and the return of Hazard should only increase that. Palace traditionally do not make things easy for Chelsea, but we have to go with the formbook and predict a fairly comfortable home win this time around.


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Who will win Sunday's Premier League clash between Chelsea and Crystal Palace?

Chelsea
Draw
Crystal Palace
Chelsea
87.1%
Draw
3.2%
Crystal Palace
9.7%
Chelsea's Eden Hazard arrives for their game with Huddersfield Town on August 11, 2018
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How Chelsea could line up against Palace
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City1210203653132
2Liverpool129302351830
3Chelsea128402781928
4Tottenham HotspurSpurs1290320101027
5Arsenal1273226151124
6Bournemouth126242116520
7Watford126241714320
8Manchester UnitedMan Utd126242021-120
9Everton125431915419
10Leicester CityLeicester125251716117
11Wolverhampton WanderersWolves124441213-116
12Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton124261318-514
13West Ham UnitedWest Ham123361418-412
14Newcastle UnitedNewcastle12237915-69
15Burnley122371225-139
16Crystal Palace12228817-98
17Southampton12156821-138
18Cardiff CityCardiff122281125-148
19Huddersfield TownHuddersfield12147622-167
20Fulham121291131-205

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