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Jan 3, 2016 at 1.30pm UK at Selhurst Park

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Oscar (29'), Willian (60'), Costa (65')

Preview: Crystal Palace vs. Chelsea

Sports Mole previews the first Premier League London derby of 2016 as high-flying Crystal Palace host Chelsea at Selhurst Park.

Crystal Palace host Chelsea at Selhurst Park on Sunday afternoon looking to get the new year off to a positive start in the first London derby of 2016.

The Eagles go into the match flying high in fifth place, a full 11 points clear of their opponents, who will be looking to banish the memories of the second half of 2015.


Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew on December 28, 2015© Getty Images

One year to the day since he was appointed as Crystal Palace manager, Alan Pardew will be looking to claim another big scalp for the in-form Eagles.

Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool (twice), Manchester City and Chelsea themselves have all been beaten in the past 12 months by a Palace side with Pardew at the helm, and the former Newcastle United boss appears to be enjoying life in London much more than he was in the North-East.

It is easy to see why. His Palace side enjoyed a superb 2015, winning 19 of their 37 league fixtures under Pardew to turn themselves from relegation candidates into European contenders.

Just four points separate the Eagles from the Champions League places at the halfway stage of the season, with Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea among the big names to be trailing the more unfashionable Palace.

Whether they can maintain that challenge over the second half of the season, only time will tell, but recent results suggest that they will give it a good go.

They are unbeaten in their last six outings and have lost just one of their last nine, although that was a particularly disappointing home reverse at the hands of struggling Sunderland.

Despite keeping their unbeaten run going, the final two results of 2015 would have been disappointing for Palace too as they could only manage goalless draws against Bournemouth and Swansea City, both of whom are in the bottom five.

The plus side of that is, of course, back-to-back clean sheets, and only Tottenham have conceded fewer in the league this season, but Palace will need to improve on their tally of 23 goals at the other end if they are to make a serious push for Europe.

They may also need to improve their home form having amassed more points on the road than they did at Selhurst Park in the first half of the season, a particularly concerning statistic considering that they have seven of the 10 other teams currently in the top 11 still to play on home soil.

Pardew appears to have a hoodoo over Chelsea, though - he has won five of his last eight league games against the Blues and each of the last three in which he has been the home manager, all with Newcastle.

Recent form: WDWWDD


Chelsea

Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink strikes a pose in the dugout during the game with Watford on December 26, 2015© Getty Images

When John Terry lifted the Premier League title aloft in May 2015, few would have envisioned Chelsea being in their current predicament on the opening day of 2016.

Only three points separate the Blues from the relegation zone following a campaign that has been fraught with trouble on and off the field.

The club's beloved Jose Mourinho was sent packing as a result, but interim boss Guus Hiddink is still looking for his first win in charge of the team.

The Dutchman watched from the stands as Chelsea began the post-Mourinho era with victory over Sunderland, but since then they have recorded back-to-back draws against Watford and Manchester United respectively.

The latter was greeted with celebrations by the Chelsea players as they made it three league games unbeaten for the first time this season, but it is still only one win in their last six and two in the last 10 for the defending champions.

Indeed, with the exception of a 2-0 victory over nine-man Arsenal in September, Chelsea have only beaten teams in the bottom eight so far this season and are yet to record consecutive wins in the league.

The point at Old Trafford in their final game of 2015 was just their sixth on the road all season - only bottom two Aston Villa and Sunderland have amassed fewer away from home, where Chelsea have not won for seven matches in a run dating back to August.

It is their longest winless run away from home since the 2000-01 season, and perhaps an even bigger concern will be that they have scored only twice in their last five on the road.

They have scored just seven goals in their last eight Premier League London derbies too, although their record at the other end against fellow sides from the capital is an impressive one with eight clean sheets in their last 11.

Hiddink has been beaten in an away Premier League London derby before, however, with a 1-0 loss at Tottenham Hotspur in March 2009 handing the interim boss his only defeat in 24 matches at the helm of Chelsea over two spells.

Recent form: DLLWDD
Recent form (all competitions): LWLWDD


Team News

Cesc Fabregas of Chelsea in action during a Pre Season Friendly between Chelsea and Fiorentina at Stamford Bridge on August 5, 2015© Getty Images

Hiddink has confirmed that he should have Cesc Fabregas back available for this match after the Spaniard recovered from an illness that saw him miss the trip to Old Trafford.

Gary Cahill and Loic Remy, the latter of whom recently drew interest from Aston Villa, also missed the trip to Manchester and face late fitness tests, but Radamel Falcao is definitely sidelined having suffered a setback in his recovery from a groin injury.

Diego Costa, however, is back from suspension and expected to return up front, which should see the goalless Eden Hazard drop into a more familiar wide role.

Patrick Bamford, who recently left his "terrible" loan spell at Palace to return to Chelsea, could make the bench for the hosts, while the Eagles may be short in his absence with Dwight Gayle, Bakary Sako and Connor Wickham all sidelined.

Pardew will be without further key players in Yohan Cabaye and Yannick Bolasie through suspension and injury respectively, although Damien Delaney is expected to return from an ankle problem.

Crystal Palace possible starting lineup:
Hennessey; Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare; Ledley, McArthur; Zaha, Lee, Puncheon; Chamakh

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry, Azpilicueta; Fabregas, Matic, Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Costa


Head To Head

Palace have already beaten Chelsea once this season, with Joel Ward getting a late winner at Stamford Bridge in August in what was Mourinho's 100th home league game, and just second home league defeat, in charge of the West Londoners.

That is one of two victories for the Eagles in the last 13 Premier League meetings between the two sides, with Chelsea winning nine of those, although both of Palace's triumphs have come in the last four games.

The corresponding fixture last term saw both sides reduced to 10 men in the first half before Chelsea went on to pick up a 2-1 victory.


Sports Mole Logo

We say: Crystal Palace 1-1 Chelsea

Chelsea are improving under Hiddink and are still expected to start climbing the table, but this will not be an easy game for them. Their best hope is that Palace are missing a number of key players, although the Eagles could still have enough to get something out of the game.



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Crystal Palace's English manager Alan Pardew watches his players during the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and Newcastle United at Selhurst Park in south London on November 28, 2015
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