We come into our Christmas fixtures with an subtle sense of “could do better” and our next 4 fixtures up to New Years Day will provide us a greater measure of where the rest of our season will take us. I’m going to write about Crystal Palace on Saturday first and foremost and explain how this could be a potential banana skin.
It is imperative we start well against Palace on Saturday and then build on any early momentum we may create. We all know what Tony Pulis is about and he’s already got them playing differently. They’ll make it difficult on Saturday for us; tight, compact and physical but I would of course bet on nothing less than a home win. I’m not going to pick the bones out of the Stoke game but clearly José is concerned about us defensively. He’s statement this week that he thought we’d even concede against training ground dummies shows his concerns are genuine, but he is also concerned (as we all are) about the scoring bit as well. All 3 strikers we have are just not firing the goals in. Defensively though, it needs addressing because conceding 6 goals in 2 league games isn’t acceptable coupled with the fact we can’t score freely equals nervy fans which will sub-consciously create a nervy atmosphere and apprehension amongst the players. I just feel (as I’m sure we all do) we can’t afford any slip-ups over Christmas.
The only real threat Palace pose is the fact Pulis has rejuvenated the squad ahead of the Christmas period, couple this with the other teams losing around them, they will have a belief they can get theirselves out of trouble. They’ll come to the Bridge full of confidence they can at least go back with a point, something we can’t really afford to do considering Arsenal face Man City in the early kick off. If City were to beat Arsenal, a victory for us would make it nice and tight going into the Arsenal game the week after.
I wouldn’t really dismiss Palace completely, but it is a game we should win comfortably. If we control Mile Jedinak in midfield and cut out mistakes at the back that potentially Maroune Chamakh could seize upon, I can’t foresee any real problems from them. The problem(s) stem from ourselves to which I’ve already spoken about. I personally would stick with Demba up front on Saturday, pull Luiz into midfield and drop Mikel. Glenn Hoddle made a valid point about this in the post match discussions last night on Sky sports and it does make sense. Coupled with the fact we’re at home, I think it would be a gamble worth taking. With Demba up front, he could also allow us to change to a more direct approach if our more creative players aren’t having any luck with working through the Palace midfield. I’m not saying we should turn into a long-ball team but adaptation to such things could be greatly rewarded.
I predict a Chelsea victory (but of course I would do!) Let’s continue with our fantastic support. A positive Christmas period would leave us in great shape in the New Year! I’ll leave you with my starting XI;
Cole – Terry (c) – Cahill – Ivanovic
Luiz – Lampard – Ramires
Mata – Ba – Schurrle
Thanks for reading. C’mon Chels!!