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

Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Sunday's Premier League fixture between Crystal Palace and Chelsea.

Crystal Palace head into Sunday's Premier League clash with Chelsea having recorded seven points from their last three games in the top flight.

The Blues make the short trip to Selhurst Park sitting in fourth place in the standings after their 2-1 victory over Watford on Boxing Day.

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson cracks a smile on December 1, 2018© Reuters

Palace went into December having failed to register a win in eight Premier League fixtures, but Roy Hodgson has spearheaded an impressive return to form during the final month of 2018.

As many as 10 points have been recorded in their last six outings, and it has resulted in Palace heading into the weekend sitting in 14th place in the table.

Hodgson will be delighted having opened up a seven-point gap between Palace and the relegation zone, but the former England boss will feel that his side can continue to build on what they have achieved in recent weeks.

Four points have come from games at Manchester United and Manchester City respectively, and four clean sheets have been kept in their last seven contests in the top flight.

Hodgson also appears to have found a solution to his side's lack of goals with nine strikes coming from six matches, although the London outfit did fail to score any of their 31 chances in the goalless draw with Cardiff City on Boxing Day.

That will be regarded as a missed opportunity by Hodgson, but it is a minor blip in what has been an enjoyable period for the club at a time when they may have expected to be closer to the bottom three.

Hodgson has put together a close-knit squad with just 17 players having made starts in the Premier League this season, but that will not stop reinforcements from arriving during the January window.

A new centre-forward will be at the top of Hodgson's wishlist, but it will take someone special to replace Andros Townsend in attack with the Englishman having proved to be a revelation in a more advanced role.

Recent form: WLLWWD


Maurizio Sarri on the touchline during the Premier League game between Chelsea and Crystal Palace on November 4, 2018© Reuters

Chelsea find themselves just four points adrift of Manchester City in the standings with the champions having lost three of their last four games, but Maurizio Sarri will acknowledge that his team remain someway off matching the quality of Pep Guardiola's side.

The fact that City's drop in form has left them in third position has highlighted the difficulties of lifting the Premier League trophy, but Sarri is yet to fully convince Blues supporters that he can take the club back into title-winning contention.

The triumph at Vicarage Road on Boxing Day has gone some way to easing any pressure on the Italian, with Chelsea having now recorded four wins from their last six outings, although they remain just two points ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal.

That will be of more pressing concern to the powers-that-be at Stamford Bridge who are desperate for a return to the Champions League, but question marks will remain over whether Chelsea can eventually match the likes of City, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in the long term.

Sarri has a number of issues to solve if that is to be the case, and the fact that Callum Hudson-Odoi was preferred to Olivier Giroud as an option off the bench against the Hornets suggests that the Italian is not satisfied with the Frenchman or fellow forward Alvaro Morata.

A solution needs to be found in January, with Chelsea having gone almost two months without registering more than two goals in a league match, although Eden Hazard has been superb when used in a false-nine role away from home.

Hazard now has 10 strikes and nine assists in the Premier League this season, but there is little doubt that the Belgian requires a helping hand from his teammates at a time when his future remains up in the air.

Improvements are also required at the back with Chelsea having gone four games without keeping a clean sheet on their travels, and the recent form of Antonio Rudiger will be a concern for Sarri as the German has started every top-flight fixture during the first half of the campaign.

Recent form: WLWWLW
Recent form (all competitions): WDWWLW

Team News

Pedro in action for Chelsea on December 30, 2017© Reuters

Sarri has revealed that Pedro will play no part on Sunday, with the Spaniard to spend at least 10 days on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.

Hudson-Odoi will also miss out against the Eagles, although Sarri has suggested that the youngster will return ahead of Pedro.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek could be used on the right flank with Hazard retaining his place down the centre, although Giroud remains an option with Hazard moving out wide.

Ross Barkley could get the nod over Mateo Kovacic in midfield, while Andreas Christensen may be fit enough to return to the squad after a minor issue with his hamstring.

Hodgson could opt to keep the same starting lineup for the visit of Chelsea, although Jeffrey Schlupp is an option to come in on one of the flanks.

Connor Wickham will likely have to make do with a place among the replacements despite coming through 27 minutes against Cardiff.

Crystal Palace possible starting lineup:
Guaita; Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, Van Aanholt; McArthur, Kouyate, Miivojevic, Meyer; Townsend, Zaha

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Loftus-Cheek, Hazard, Willian

Head To Head

Sunday's meeting will represent just the 54th competitive clash between the two clubs, with Chelsea registering 26 wins in comparison to 12 victories for Palace.

However, Palace have had plenty of joy against the Blues since returning to the Premier League in 2013, with four triumphs coming from 11 encounters.

There has not been a draw between the clubs in 16 matches, a period stretching back to a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge in 1995.

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We say: Crystal Palace 1-2 Chelsea

Palace have put together a strong run of form in front of their own supporters, but Chelsea proved against Watford that they are capable of grinding out victories on the road and we feel that another hard-fought win could occur against the Eagles.

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

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Olivier Giroud celebrates after opening the scoring for Chelsea in their Europa League meeting with PAOK on November 29, 2018
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