Chelsea will be looking to stop a run of one win in the last six league games as they travel across London to face Alan Pardew’s high-flying Crystal Palace side.
By contrast, 5th-place Palace are unbeaten in their last six, and last lost against Sunderland in November and will inevitably prove tough to beat for Guus Hiddink’s side.
As far as team selection is concerned, Hiddink is able to welcome Diego Costa back into his side after missing the draw against Manchester United due to a one match ban. However, Loic Remy is doubtful with a calf niggle, and Falcao is unavailable with a thigh injury. It is as per normal for the Dutchman, with no other issues to contend with.
However, it will be interesting to see what happens with Patrick Bamford. With only one fit striker in Costa, the former Palace loanee, who by his own admission endured a ‘terrible’ spell at Selhurst Park after failing to make a single Premier League start, might be somewhat a surprise inclusion in the Chelsea matchday squad. However, FA rules dictate that if Bamford were to turn out for The Blues he would be unable to play for another side on loan, which one has to assume is the next stage in the England u21’s development. However, last season’s Championship Player of the Season might be able to force his way into the reckoning straight away.
For Alan Pardew, it’s as you were in their latest game against Swansea. Yohan Cabaye is suspended, while Dwight Gayle, Yannick Bolasie, Bakary Sako and Connor Wickham are all missing through injuries, leaving Palace fairly thin on the ground in terms of attacking players – which explains back to back goalless draws coming into this fixture. Marouane Chamakh or Fraizer Campbell will likely lead the line for the hosts.
Overall, Palace are a team we enjoy facing, having won nine of the 13 league encounters. However, the two we have lost have came in the last four times we have faced them, losing 1-0 in 2014 at Selhurst Park, and of course falling 1-0 in the reverse this season, the Eagles first Stamford Bridge victory since 1982.
Alan Pardew also enjoys managing against us having won five of his last eight matches, and the last three times he has faced us in a home League match he has gained all three points, twice in 2013 and once in 2014 during his stint as Newcastle boss.
Meanwhile, our away form is frankly terrible, being winless in our last seven and our solitary win coming way back in September in a 3-2 win against West Bromwich Albion, so once more Palace will be fancying their chances of victory and in the process completing a historic League double, something they have never achieved. The closest they came was a win and a draw in the 1925/26 season, and again in 1972/73.
While many bookmakers are predicting Chelsea as favourites, not many are laying odds on in this encounter, and with Palace in the ascendancy and pushing for an unlikely top four spot, you may have to think the bookies have got this wrong. However, with the season practically written off and any pressures of European qualification, let alone retaining the title, well and truly gone, we might see a freedom that has not been seen for a while in our play and we may just get the job done as we aim to achieve a more respectable league position.