Crystal Palace vs Chelsea Preview: Table-topping Blues travel to survival-battling Eagles

Crystal Palace vs Chelsea Preview: Table-topping Blues travel to survival-battling Eagles

Both sides are scoring freely this season although Palace's tendency to leak goals could swing the game in the Blues' favour

Sam Smith

Chelsea travel to Crystal Palace tomorrow hoping to extend their winning run to eleven games.

The Eagles’ form, however, is a stark contrast to that of the current league leaders. Alan Pardew’s side have won just once in their last ten games and come up against a Blues side that the former Newcastle United boss described as “unbeatable”.

Conceding goals a problem for Palace as they prepare to face free-scoring Blues

Palace conceded an 88th-minute goal against Manchester United in midweek to lose the game 2-1 and throwing away points late in games has become a worrying theme. Last weekend, Wilfried Zaha’s goal against Hull City gave them a 2-1 lead only for them to concede twice and require a late goal of their own to take a point.

Two weeks before, Palace battled back from 3-1 down against Swansea City to take a 4-3 lead, only to remarkably lose the game 5-4. While the week before a late Yaya Toure goal at Selhurst Park ensured Manchester City travelled back up north with a 2-1 win.

Chelsea’s free-flowing, free-scoring football could prove too much of a test for Palace. Antonio Conte’s team, rejuvenated following their switch to a 3-4-3 formation, have scored 34 goals in the Premier League this season. Palace, meanwhile, have conceded 31. Both are third-highest in their respective categories this season and we could well see more goals go in against the Eagles on Saturday.

While they seem to enjoy letting goals in at one end, the Eagles, in fairness, seem to be capable of putting the ball into the net at the other. Pardew’s side have scored 28 league goals, the most of any side outside the top four. however, they come up against a stern Chelsea defence that do not concede goals at the same will as them. Conte’s side have seen just eleven goals go past them this season, helped by the return of David Luiz who has been spectacular in the centre of defence and a huge improvement on the player that left the club for Paris Saint Germain in 2013.

David Luiz has vastly improved Chelsea's defensive situation since returning from PSG on transfer deadline day | Photo: Getty images / Ian MacNicol

Team news

Palace will be boosted by the return of Jason Puncheon who missed the midweek game through suspension, although Mathieu Flamini, who made his first start of the season, is out with a hamstring injury that forced him off at half-time against the Red Devils.

Loic Remy, Bakary Sako, Steve Mandanda, James Tomkins, Connor Wickham, Jonathan Benteke and Pape Souare all remain long-term absentees.

Eden Hazard is expected to return for the visitors having missed the 1-0 win over Sunderland in midweek although John Terry remains absent.