Crystal Palace against Chelsea is one of the rarer London derbies, mainly due to Palace’s propensity to drift between leagues while the Premier League has been our home since its foundation. But the signifigance it holds, and the adversities Palace will present, must not be underestimated.
While we mount a serious challenge for the league crown, Tony Pullis’s men are embroiled in a dogged relegation battle, composed of at least six sides. The title race is the tightest for years, and so is the fight to retain top-flight status.
When Palace visited Stamford Bridge in December, we battled to a vital victory. Petr Cech produced a string of fine saves after goals from Fernando Torres and Ramires, who will be out of this fixture, sandwiched Marouane Chamakh’s equaliser. Palace will battle tirelessly for crucial points, and with the backing of their vocal support, our trip to Selhurst Park will not be as straight forward as most anticipate.
We have proven our ability to play poorly and consequently lose away to the ‘lesser’ clubs in matches we were largely expected to win, with Newcastle, Stoke, Everton and most recently Aston Villa cases in point. And with Arsenal playing host to Manchester City, we are presented with an opportunity we must not waste. Nothing but three points will suffice.
While Willian returns from his farcical suspension, fellow Brazilian Ramires serves the second of his three-match suspension for a stamp on Aston Villa’s Karim El Ahmadi.
The only negative from our hugely gratifying demolition of Arsenal last weekend was the hamstring injury sustained by Samuel Eto’o, ruling him out for this encounter and potentially our Champions League quarter-final first-leg in Paris on Wednesday.
Predicted starting line-ups
Palace: Speroni, Marriapa, Delaney, Dann, Ward, Puncheon, Dikgacoi, Jedinak, Bolasie, Ledley, Jerome.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Matic, Lampard, Schurrle, Oscar, Hazard, Torres.
Following his impressive individual display last time out, I expect Andre Schurrle to keep his place despite the availability of Willian. Jose Mourinho’s verdict on central midfield will be intriguing, given David Luiz’s eye-catching performance alongside the reliable Nemanja Matic against Arsenal.
Given Palace’s recent abysmal results, their last victory dating back to 8th February against fellow strugglers West Brom, and our star-studded squad, I anticipate a comfortable victory. But when it’s a London derby, the stakes are high and one of the big boys is in town, teams are bound to raise their game.
(L) Newcastle 1-0 Palace
(D) Sunderland 0-0 Palace
(L) Palace 0-1 Southampton
(D) Swansea 1-1 Palace
(L) Palace 0-2 Man Utd
(W) Palace 3-1 West Brom
(W) Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal
(W) Chelsea 2-0 Galatasaray
(L) Aston Villa 1-0 Chelsea
(W) Chelsea 4-0 Tottenham
(W) Fulham 1-3 Chelsea
(D) Galatasaray 1-1 Chelsea