After two weeks off from Premier League competition, the league leaders Chelsea play host to a Crystal Palace side that’s still involved in a relegation battle.
The last time Chelsea faced Palace was back in December, and the Blues left Selhurst Park with 1-0 victory courtesy of a Diego Costa header just before the stroke of halftime.
That 1-0 defeat would also spell the end of Alan Pardew’s tenure as manager of Crystal Palace, and by the end of the week, Sam Allardyce took over the Palace hot seat.
Despite the managerial change, Palace still struggled for points. After a 1-1 draw against Watford on Boxing Day, which was Allardyce’s first match in charge, Palace didn’t record a single point in the Premier League for over a month when earned a 2-0 victory against Bournemouth.
However, a Palace side that looked almost certain for a tough relegation fight can now see a little bit of daylight. Victories in their last three matches gives Palace a 4-point cushion from the relegation places, plus a game in hand, and it appears that the Big Sam effect simply needed a little bit of time.
Palace will be hoping to continue their momentum, but trip to Stamford Bridge aren’t particularly enjoyable for most opponents these days. The Blues have dropped just three points all season at home, courtesy of a 2-1 defeat to Liverpool early in the season.
For Chelsea, it’s starting to become a procession towards their coronation as Premier League champions. After snatching victory from a draw at Stoke City, it appeared as if Antonio Conte and his men finally began to show the belief that the title is theirs. But the Chelsea boss has been quick to downplay the suggestion in press conferences, going to great lengths to point out that there are still 10 matches to play and complacency could still ruin the celebrations.
This week, the one thing that hasn’t plagued Chelsea this season might begin to rear its ugly head. Diego Costa limped out of training with Spain with injuries to his foot and ankle. Scans came up negative, but there are still questions about whether he’ll be fit to play, though he did train with the squad after returning from international duty.
Thibault Courtois is also a question mark after a suffering a hip injury that forced him to miss Belgium’s friendly with Russia on Tuesday. Victor Moses is also doubtful after suffering a calf injury in the FA Cup win over Manchester United.
Chelsea did get an injury boost, however. Eden Hazard appears to have shaken off the calf injury that kept him out of the last match against Stoke City and also kept him from joining Belgium on international duty.
Injury concerns or not, this Chelsea side must stay focused against a Crystal Palace side that are feeling confident after their recent upturn in form. They still have players with quality, like Christian Benteke and Wilfried Zaha, who are capable of winning a match. As long as the Blues maintain their intensity against a fellow London side, Chelsea will be one match closer to claiming the Premier League title.