It feels an age since Crystal Palace and Chelsea last played football. Since the 3rd of September, the date both last competed in the Premier League, the nation has appointed a new Prime Minister, a new monarch, and plunged into its’ latest wave of economic turmoil.
Famously, Chelsea have made a habit of profiting through chaos in recent times. They will be hoping for a boost after firing Thomas Tuchel and bringing in Graham Potter as the new Head Coach at the start of September, a strategy that worked well enough in 2021 when the mid-season dismissal of club legend Frank Lampard resulted in Tuchel leading them to Champions League glory.
However, despite being in charge for over three weeks, we are yet to discover much about the Potter era at Stamford Bridge; this is his first match in charge in the league.
As the former manager of Palace’s arch-rivals Brighton, Potter is guaranteed a spicy reception at Selhurst Park, though he should be confident of getting a result: the Eagles have lost ten in a row against their London rivals, a run stretching back to 2017.
Patrick Vieira will be hoping his own side’s extended break from action, which has effectively given them a second pre-season, will lead to an improved outcome this time round.
James Tomkins is fit again following a calf problem, and could take his place in what is likely to be a back five. Vieira is likely to plump for the hard-working Jordan Ayew over Michael Olise on the right of the front three.
Graham Potter will be without Èdouard Mendy and N’Golo Kante for his first Premier League match in charge. Both are nearing comebacks from injury but not yet ready, and Marc Cucurella and Carney Chukwuemeka also miss out through illness.
The Blues will hope Kai Havertz continues his midweek form, where he netted twice against England at Wembley, while Conor Gallagher will be desperate for some minutes at the ground where he enjoyed so much success on loan last term.
Crystal Palace (5-3-2)
Guaita; Clyne, Ward, Guèhi, Andersen, Mitchell; Doucourè, Schlupp, Eze; Ayew, Zaha, Mateta.
Kepa; James, Fofana, Silva, Chilwell; Jorginho, Kovacic, Mount; Havertz, Sterling, Aubameyang.
It may be a little boring to highlight Zaha as Palace’s dangerman. Everyone knows how good he is by now; for many years he has been the standout player at Selhurst Park, the one man visitors know they have to stop to get a result.
Even after Palace’s recent investment to bring in talents like Ebere Eze, Michael Olise and others, the Ivorian remains top dog for the Eagles and right now he is in the form of his life. In 2022, only Son Heung-min and Harry Kane have more goals than Zaha’s 13, and he has bagged four from five games so far this season – three of which were superb individual strikes.
He particularly enjoys scoring against Potter’s old side Brighton, though his record against Chelsea is less impressive, with just three in 17 games. In recent encounters he has particularly struggled to make an impact against Reece James, one of the few full-backs in the league who can match Zaha’s physicality.
The Eagles will need him to turn that form around if they are to end their own terrible run against the Blues.
Chelsea – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
The joke doing the rounds on Twitter is that Graham Potter is a perfect fit for Chelsea. His Brighton side played beautiful football, building the ball up from the back before creating a raft of chances which they would then proceed to miss, again and again – exactly like Chelsea this season.
One of Thomas Tuchel’s final acts as Blues manager was to sign his old favourite Aubameyang to try and address that goalscoring issue, a deal that raised a few eyebrows. When he left Arsenal last season, a very public falling out with boss Mikel Arteta concealed the fact that his form had been declining for over a year and at 33, the Gabonese seemed well past his best.
It is far too early to write off Aubameyang’s Chelsea career, but early indications are that the striker they have signed is more like the ineffective version of his latter Arsenal years than the consistent goalscorer they need.
With youngster Armando Broja pushing for his starting spot, the veteran forward could do with a goal this weekend to get his Chelsea career going.
Where is the game being played?
The match is being played at Selhurst Park, south London.
What time is kick-off?
The game kicks off at 3PM on Saturday, 1st October.
How can I watch?
As a 3PM Saturday match, the game won’t be broadcast anywhere on television in the UK.