Chelsea v QPR preview (Premier League) – 1st November 2014

Chelsea will look to open a nine point gap between themselves and title challengers Manchester City with a win at home to QPR on Saturday. The Blues kick off just under 24 hours before City, giving them a chance to extend their lead, but they are facing a bogey team in the form of QPR.

Harry Redknapp’s side are in the relegation zone, but they’ve picked up seven points from their last four meetings with Chelsea, including a 1-0 victory in their last trip to Stamford Bridge. QPR haven’t had the best of starts this season, but they took four points from Chelsea in their last relegation season, so the Blues need to be to their toes for this one.

Given Jose Mourinho’s reaction to his fringe players’ performances against Shrewsbury on Tuesday night, don’t expect any shocks in the line up. Mourinho said his team selection was already decided in his head, so he clearly knows who is going to be available.

Thibaut Courtois will come back in for Petr Cech in goal, while Branislav Ivanovic served his ban in the Shrewsbury game, so he’ll be back for selection. His fellow full back Cesar Azpilicueta is serving his final game of his ban for a red card against Palace this weekend, so he’ll miss out. That means Filipe Luis will keep his place in the team, and the back five will be unchanged from the draw against United.

In midfield, Ramires should be back fit again for this game, but he’s likely to take up a place on the bench with Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas starting. Ramires wasn’t even fit enough for the bench against Shrewsbury, meaning he’s hardly likely to start this weekend. Given John Obi Mikel’s mistake cost Chelsea a goal on Tuesday, he’s also unlikely to feature.

Mohammed Salah was another who Mourinho was likely disappointed with, despite his assist, and he should drop out of the team along with Schurrle. Willian and Eden Hazard came on as subs against Shrewsbury, but they’ll be back in the starting line up against QPR. Oscar should complete the midfield five, given how his performances and work rate have been impressive in recent weeks.

Up front is once again Chelsea’s main worry, with the Blues definitely without Frenchman Loic Remy. Didier Drogba has had to play 90 minutes in each of the last two games despite recently declaring himself around 65% fit. The question is, can he start and aim for the full 90 once more?

It’s been argued that Mourinho wouldn’t have risked Drogba if he thought Costa was ready for this weekend’s game, but he had little alternative upfront. His comments after the game on the Ivorian hinted that he may need to play at the weekend, which could see Costa starting on the bench and getting a late appearance to help with his match fitness.

This is an important test for the Blues, that late equaliser from United is the first real setback they’ve faced this season. But, if they can respond to that by laying down a huge marker to City before they face United on Sunday, they’ll show their real title credentials.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-0

Shrewsbury 2-1 Chelsea Match Report – 28th October 2014

Chelsea survived a scare against League Two Shrewsbury to take up a place in the last eight of the League Cup. Didier Drogba opened the scoring in the second half for the Blues, but Andy Mangan equalised after a mistake from John Obi Mikel before Jermaine Grandison turned in Willian’s cross in to his own net to gift Chelsea victory.

The Blues started off with a much-changed side, making no fewer than seven changes. Gary Cahill, Filipe Luis, Oscar and Didier Drogba kept their places from Sunday, while the fringe players who came in where blasted by Jose Mourinho after the game. Three youngsters, Nathan Ake, Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen were given the nod, along with a few fringe players who needed minutes on the pitch.

The changes showed on the side, with Chelsea looking a little disjointed at the back. Shrewsbury had the best of the early play, forcing chances from a corner. The first half was largely without incident, with Mohammed Salah busy down the right hand side but he was unable to trouble the League Two side’s defence.

Chelsea were brighter just after the second half, with Mohammed Salah teeing the ball up for Didier Drogba, who lashed the ball into the net. It was a lead the Blues barely deserved, but one you expected them to hold on to, given the stature of the opposition and the slip up at the weekend. But, the Blues where unable to hold on, and a goal for the home side with just over 10 minutes to play looked like it could embarrass the Premier League leaders.

A corner swung into the Chelsea box came straight to John Obi Mikel, but the Nigerian’s attempt to control the ball saw it drop to Mangan, who hit the ball home, sending the Shrewsbury faithful wild. After that, Mikel was hauled off by Mourinho just a few minutes later for Nemanja Matic, the manager clearly wasn’t impressed with Mikel’s performance.

Chelsea looked to be heading for a draw and the awkward proposition of extra time, but Willian, who replaced Salah, sent in a cross towards Drogba, though Grandison got the final touch on it and sent the ball into his own net. That was enough to see the Blues through, but it was far from an impressive performance. After the game, Jose Mourinho let his players know that they’ll have to do more to force their way into his team.

“I expect people that have not been playing a lot to raise their level and create problems,” Mourinho said. “I love problems of choice, but it’s easy to choose my team for Saturday.

“I was worried when they equalised [through Andy Mangan] but we go through and Didier played a massive part in that,” added Mourinho. “Hopefully he will be good for the weekend but we will have to see because right now his character is stronger than his body.”

LCN Man of the Match: Filipe Luis

Shrewsbury v Chelsea preview (League Cup) – 28th October 2014

Chelsea face League Two side Shrewsbury on Tuesday night as they look to book a place in the quarter finals of the League Cup. The Premier League leaders are obviously strong favourites to win this game, but they will make several changes with a couple of fringe players sure to be handed a game.

The Blues have a mini injury and suspension crisis at the moment, with several first team players unavailable. With a Premier League clash with QPR coming up at the weekend, Mourinho will want to give his main men a rest. Petr Cech came in for Thibaut Courtois in the last cup game against Bolton, and he should do the same again here.

In defence, Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic are both suspended after recent red cards, while John Terry could be rested. Youngster Nathan Ake will likely come in at right back, with Filipe Luis at left back, and Gary Cahill and Kurt Zouma in the centre. That leaves Chelsea’s defensive options sapped, and we’ll likely see 18-year-old Andreas Christensen take up a place on the bench.

In midfield, Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas should both be rested, with John Obi Mikel and Ramires coming to replace them. Ramires has just recovered from injury, and he’ll need the minutes to get back to fitness. If Ramires isn’t quite fit, then we may see Lewis Baker get a start. Given the level of the opposition, it shouldn’t be too much to give any of the youngsters a start here, they should be able to cope.

Further ahead in midfield Mohammed Salah is likely to play after a limited number of appearances in the league. Andre Schurrle could play after suffering with illness in the last couple of weeks, while youngster Issiah Brown should make the bench. Oscar played in the last cup game against Bolton, so he’s likely to round out the midfield.

Up front, with Loic Remy out, Didier Drogba will likely make another start after his goal at Old Trafford on Sunday. Though Drogba may be rested, if Diego Costa isn’t going to be fit for the weekend game with QPR. Remy is definitely out of that game, and if Costa can’t make it, we may see Drogba sit out the game and Dominic Solanke could make his first Chelsea start up front.

Given that Costa was close to being fit for the game on Sunday, he should be ready for the QPR game, so it’s likely that Drogba will lead the line at Shrewsbury. Given the problems he caused United from set pieces, it would be interesting to see how the Shrewsbury defence would cope with him.

Mourinho’s line up will give us a hint at how much he trusts his batch of youngsters. While he’s said they’re going to be held back and given occasional game time, he may need to call on them from the start here with the current injury list. Will he trust them to start and give his established stars a rest? It should be interesting, as Mourinho is hardly one to pass up the chance to win a trophy.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 3-0

Manchester United 1- 1 Chelsea Match Report – 26th October 2014

A stoppage time equaliser from Robin van Persie prevented Chelsea from opening up a six point gap at the top of the Premier League table. The Blues took the lead in the second half through Didier Drogba, but after a solid defensive display they saw Branislav Ivanovic sent off, which gave United a free kick and allowed Van Persie the space to equalise.

The Blues were again without Diego Costa, despite Mourinho saying he had a small chance of playing, the Spaniard didn’t even make the bench. Loic Remy was also out after the injury he suffered in the Champions League in midweek, so Didier Drogba made his first Premier League start since returning to the club in the summer. Thibaut Courtois came back in for Petr Cech in goal, while Gary Cahill returned to the side after being rested in midweek.

The first half was a cagey affair, with United slightly edging it. Courtois had to be at his best to deny the home side on a few occasions. The Blues could have had a penalty in the first half, when not one, but two Chelsea players seemed to be fouled from a corner. Marcus Rojo and Chris Smalling looked to have John Terry and Ivanovic in a headlock, which looked more of a foul than the controversial one given against Ryan Shawcross last week.

The game was brighter in the second half, and Chelsea opened the scoring just eight minutes in. Chelsea got a corner after Eden Hazard was denied by David De Gea after a good passing move. Fabregas swung the corner in, and Drogba lost his marker Rafael and produced a header that was akin to his famous equaliser in the 2012 Champions League final.

The Blues dropped deeper after that goal, and John Obi Mikel replacing Oscar signalled how Chelsea intended to finish the game. United had the lion’s share of the possession but they didn’t have too many clear chances. The Blues looked to shut up shop when they brought on Kurt Zouma for Willian, but just seconds later Ivanovic received a second yellow card. Both of the cards were harsh, something about which Jose Mourinho was clearly angry after the game.

That gave United a wide free kick, which was put in by Di Maria and caused problems in the Chelsea box. The ball dropped to Van Persie, and he lashed the ball home past a helpless Courtois, costing Chelsea two points.

After the game, Jose Mourinho praised his side, but he refused to discuss Ivanovic’s red card to avoid getting in trouble. “The second half was much better. From the start of the first half we showed we wanted to win. In the second half we didn’t give them chances they wanted. To come here to Old Trafford the way we did – it was fantastic to my boys.

“The red card, I was seeing it coming. If I have to speak about the second yellow I have to speak about lots of things; the penalty that Ivanovic should have been given, the accumulation of yellow cards, the throw-ins. I know I speak always with my heart and get in trouble.”

LCN Man of the Match: Nemanja Matic

Manchester United v Chelsea Preview (Premier League) – 26th October 2014

Chelsea head in to their clash with Manchester United knowing that they will be starting the game without their two first choice strikers, with Diego Costa and Loic Remy both injured. They will be facing an out of sorts United side, but they have the benefit of resting all week while Chelsea were in European action on Tuesday.

The Blues know title rivals City have the chance to close the gap at the top to two points, given that they play a day earlier, so the pressure could really be on the Pensioners come kick off on Sunday.

That pressure is bound to be higher after they lost Remy to injury early in their 6-0 win over Maribor in the Champions League. Costa’s hamstring problems should keep him out of the game, and with Remy now likely to be out for two weeks Didier Drogba is the only recognised striker available for the game.

Drogba isn’t going to be able to play for the entire 90 minutes, and starting him could play right in to United’s hands given how their main problem at the back is defending against pace and players running in behind. But, if Drogba doesn’t play, then Chelsea are a little stuck for options. Mourinho could do what he did at Old Trafford last season, and start the game with Andre Schurrle up front in a false nine role.

Schurrle has been out for the last couple of games through illness, but he should be available for the weekend. If not, we could see Cesc Fabregas play in the false nine role. It’s a position that he’s taken up for Spain on many occasions, so he’s more than used to playing there. Mourinho has been raving about Fabregas’ performances in recent weeks, so it remains to be seen if he’d consider moving him to a role where he’d be more withdrawn from the game.

On top of that, he may be needed for midfield duty as well. Ramires has been out though injury in recent weeks, and he may not make the game at the weekend. Add to that John Obi Mikel’s ankle injury which makes him a doubt, and Fabregas and Matic will probably need to be the midfield pairing. The attacking midfield trio should remain unchanged, but they’ll be expected to chip in with goals given the forward situation.

At the back, Cesar Azpilicueta misses out through suspension, so Filipe Luis will be starting at left back. Kurt Zouma should make way for Gary Cahill, while Thibaut Courtois should return to goal in place of Petr Cech.

While this can hardly be called an injury crisis, it is a worry for Mourinho. A few players may well be patched up for the game on Sunday, and there’s likely going to be a few kids on the bench. Despite that, they’re facing a United side who are struggling for form and they’ll be without Wayne Rooney, so this is far from impossible for the Blues.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-1

Chelsea 6-0 Maribor Match Report – 21st October 2014

Chelsea recorded their biggest ever Champions League win against Maribor at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday to take up a commanding position at the top of Group G. Goals from Loic Remy, Didier Drogba, John Terry, a brace from Eden Hazard and an own goal from Mitja Viler helped the Blues on their way. Remy was forced off with injury shortly after scoring, and he is now a doubt for the game against Manchester United on Sunday.

The Blues started the game with several changes from the weekend, with Filipe Luis replacing Cesar Azpilicueta, Kurt Zouma coming in for Gary Cahill and Petr Cech replacing Thibaut Courtois. Despite those changes, the Blues got off to a great start through Remy, who was played in by John Terry. Remy ran off the last man, stopped and found the bottom left hand corner. He pulled up with a groin injury shortly after, and was replaced by Drogba.

Drogba got the second goal, as he went against Jose Mourinho’s orders and stepped up to take the penalty when Ales Mertelj was judged to have handled in the box. Drogba’s penalty was almost a carbon copy of his Champions League winning penalty in Munich.

The Blues went further ahead when they hit Maribor on the counter. Eden Hazard, who was in fantastic form throughout, picked up the ball and ran in at the visitors’ defence. Fabregas overlapped and picked the ball up, and squared it in for captain John Terry to poke home.

Just after half time Chelsea went further in front, when Hazard, who was desperately looking for a goal, forced an own goal. Filipe Luis sent a low cross in which evaded everyone in the box. Hazard picked the ball up on the right hand side and looked to pick out Didier Drogba, but his cross was deflected in off Viler. The Blues then had to survive a scare, when Agim Ibahimi missed a penalty. Ibahimi was brought down in the box by Matic, but his penalty hit the post and went wide.

Mourinho took off Oscar and Fabregas, and replaced them with youngsters Dom Solanke and Nathan Ake, and both slotted in seamlessly. The referee went on to give his third penalty of the match, with Branislav Ivanovic going down a little too easily in the box. Hazard finally got his goal from the spot, capping off a fantastic night for the Belgian.

But, the best was yet to come from Hazard, as he got on the end of a great ball from Nathan Ake, took the ball down beautifully and then twisted and turned between defenders before firing home. It was a fantastic goal, showing the ruthlessness that Hazard needs to step up to the next level.

Chelsea are now five points clear of third placed Maribor, and they could wrap up qualification for the next round with a win in their next Champions League game, which is away to Maribor in two weeks’ time.

LCN man of the match: Eden Hazard

Chelsea v Maribor Preview (Premier League) – 21st October 2014

Chelsea return to Champions League action on Tuesday night as they host group minnows Maribor. The Blues currently sit top of their group, with the Slovenians two points behind in third place. With this group so tight right now, Chelsea really need six points from their next two games, which are both against Maribor, to truly stamp their authority on proceedings.

After their win in Lisbon against Sporting three weeks ago, the Blues are in a strong position in group G, despite dropping points to Schalke on the opening day. Maribor have started off well in the group, picking up two draws so far as they have shown they’re not going to be the walkovers many expected. They went to Schalke in their last game and took the lead before being pegged back, so Chelsea will need to be careful here.

Despite that, they know a draw isn’t an option. They need a win here to make sure they stay top of the group, with a crucial clash against Roberto Di Mateo’s Schalke side coming up next month. This group was painted by many as the perfect group for Chelsea when the draw was made, but it’s looking a little more difficult than that right now.

We will likely see the Pensioners stay with their usual back four in this game. Filipe Luis usually gets a game in the Champions League, but he’s likely to be rested here with Cesar Azpilicueta suspended for next weekend’s trip to Manchester United. There are no current injury worries in defence, but there are a few further forward.

In midfield Ramires still hasn’t recovered from his groin injury, so he’ll have to sit out here. That shouldn’t have too much of an effect, with Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas set to start anyway. Another injury doubt is Andre Schurrle. He missed his country’s game against Ireland and the win against Palace with illness, and he could be out for this game as well. Willian will probably keep his place beside Oscar and Eden Hazard.

Up front is another worry, with Diego Costa out for the game and possibly out for the next three weeks with a hamstring injury. Loic Remy came in for Costa at the weekend and he could keep his place, although Mourinho may want to keep him for the game at the weekend, in which case Didier Drogba could start.

While losing Costa is a blow, Remy is a more than able replacement so the Blues should be able to cope. Given how Drogba has performed since returning to the club, him starting could be a worry. He looks like he’s lost quite a bit of pace, and he doesn’t seem as sharp on the ball as he once was. With Maribor likely to come and play very defensively, Drogba would struggle against a deep defence who offer little room in behind.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 3-0

Crystal Palace 1-2 Chelsea Match Report – 18th October 2014

Chelsea maintained their five point advantage at the top of the table despite Cesar Azpilicueta’s red card, thanks to goals from Oscar and Cesc Fabregas. The Blues were without front man Diego Costa, but they survived that setback and a late rally from the home side as they kept up their unbeaten start to the season.

The Blues had Loic Remy making his first Premier League start for the club in place of Costa, who is rumoured to be out for the next three weeks. Despite that, they opened the scoring after just six minutes when Brazilian Oscar rifled home a 25 yard free kick. The midfielder has been in stellar form of late and topped it off with this goal, showing he isn’t feeling the effects of his long trip to China last weekend.

Chelsea went down to 10 men later in the half, when left back Azpilicueta was sent off. Just three minutes later the Eagles’ Damien Delaney was shown a second yellow card and both sides were even once again. Just inside the second half, Cesc Fabregas doubled the visitors’ advantage. The Spaniard played a neat one-two with Eden Hazard before playing another with Oscar, slicing through the defence, and then finished wit consummate ease. After the game manager Jose Mourinho described the goal as, “scandalously good”.

But Palace pushed hard for the points late on in the game. They’ve looked solid in recent weeks under new manager Neil Warnock, and they carried on their tough reputation here. Wilfred Zaha pushed past Chelsea defender Filipe Luis to set up Campbell who swept the ball home in the 90th minute. The home side continued to push in to stoppage time, but Chelsea held out as they picked their seventh win from eight games so far this season.

After the game Jose Mourinho praised his side, and he also repeated a trick from last season. When asked what they lacked after their 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace last season, the manager wrote, “Balls”, on a note pad. After today’s game, when asked what his side had gained over the summer, he wrote, “Big Balls”. Showing the Portuguese isn’t always as moody and steely faced as some try to make out.

Mourinho explained his scribble by saying, “The way we imposed our game is what I mean. In the way they play, they are better than us. If we come here and don’t impose our game, we have no chance. From minute one to 94, we did that. We were always in control. We played a fantastic game and when it was 10 versus 10, it made it even easier. The second goal was a scandal, it was unbelievably good!”

When asked if his side are now champions elect, he replied that nothing was decided yet. “In another sort of League, I could already say we WILL be champions,” said Mourinho. “In the Premier League, I can only say that we can be.”

LCN man of the match: Oscar

Thibaut Courtois v Petr Cech: Comparing their Chelsea Starts

Almost from the moment Thibaut Courtois starred in Atletico Madrid’s win at Stamford Bridge that sent the Spanish side in to the Champions League final at Chelsea’s expense, the Belgian was rumoured to make a return to the club.

After his loan ended and he returned to the Blues, the debate began over who would take up the number one spot. We now know that Courtois is the club’s first choice, meaning club legend Cech has started just three times all season. The situation is remarkably similar to how Cech started his Stamford Bridge career, with both joining at 22 and competing with a 32-year-old rival, with both newcomers taking the number one spot.

But, while their arrivals at the club have been so similar, how do their starts compare? Here we take a look at the stats from Cech’s start in ‘04 and Courtois’ start in the last few months. Obviously, Cech won the title with Chelsea that season, something Pensioners will hope is a good omen, and his performances in goal helped them to that title in record breaking style.

The draw with Manchester United, where Courtois picked up the man of the match award just before conceding a late equaliser, was the Belgian’s 10th full game in the Chelsea goal. He has made 11 appearances, but after coming off early against Arsenal that game couldn’t really be counted.

Both players split their opening 10 games between Premier League and Champions League, playing eight times in the league and twice in Europe. In his first ten games for Chelsea, Cech conceded just twice, keeping eight clean sheets as Chelsea won eight and drew two. That left the Blues 2nd in the Premier League table, but of course they would go on to win it, setting all kinds of records along the way.

In Courtois first ten games, we’ve seen a lot more goals. The Belgian has conceded 10 goals in his opening ten, keeping just three clean sheets. The Blues have won seven and drawn three of his first ten games. Of course, that has seen the Blues go top of the Premier League and take control of their Champions League group.

Given that Cech conceded just 15 league goals in his first Chelsea season, he seems to be far in front of the current number one. This season the Blues have struggled for clean sheets, which has led to unnecessary draws against the likes of Schalke, Man City and United. Courtois has conceded nine so far in the league, but that’s not completely his fault. When looking at both players’ starts, you have to consider how much the league has changed in ten years.

Chelsea’s total of 72 goals last season was considered not good enough to win the title, given that Liverpool and City, who finished above them, scored 101 and 102 goals respectively. Chelsea’s title winning sides that Cech played in in 2004/05 and 2005/06 scored 73 and 72 goals in the league on their way to the title. Even Arsenal’s “Invincibles” in 2003/04 managed just 73 goals, and they were roundly praised for attacking football.

While Courtois’ stats don’t compare to Cech’s, racking up that many clean sheets and winning games 1-0 doesn’t seem to work in the Premier League anymore. The competition is much more competitive and far more attack minded. Moreover, this team doesn’t quite match up to the trio of John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho and Claude Makelele that Cech had in front of him.

Winning the league now takes an attacking side who can score goals, and that wasn’t Chelsea’s strong point ten years ago. Last season’s disappointments have seen Jose Mourinho change his team to be more attacking, primarily through the additions of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa. While that seems like a necessary step to take, it is having an effect on their defence, which explains why their backline today ships so many more goals than ten years ago.

Even still, Courtois’ performances have more than certainly been up to scratch. He’s playing in a less experienced, more attacking team, and it’s hard to blame him for many of the goals that Chelsea have conceded this season. You can see that those extra goals haven’t harmed the Blues this year, given that they’re higher in the table than they were ten years ago, and they’ve made an unbeaten start. Just as importantly, the young Belgian stopper is yet to make a mistake in the Chelsea goal.

The main test for Courtois will be in a few months’ time in the run in, when he’ll need to provide big performances. While they’re scoring enough goals at the minute, in the latter stages of the league and in the cups they’ll need to protect narrow wins, and that’s when the keeper needs to be at his very best. Thus far the impressive keeper has shown all the attributes he needs and we’re convinced that when the going gets tough, Courtois will really prove his worth.

Choosing between Cech and Courtois is no easy task and thankfully not one we had to make. It’s a tough decision that Mourinho faced but what a wonderful problem to have and Blues everywhere should be delighted with the goalkeeping strength at the club right now.

Crystal Palace v Chelsea Preview (Premier League) – 18th October 2014

Chelsea return from the international break to face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park as they look to maintain their five point advantage at the top of the table. The Blues suffered a defeat here last season, but they come this time defending an unbeaten record, and they’ll be looking to keep that going at all costs.

Jose Mourinho’s men will have to cope with the difficulty brought about by the international break, with most of the squad having been away on duty with their national teams. The Brazilian contingent had to fly to China for a friendly against Argentina, while most of the Europeans had two qualifiers to play on the continent.

One boost from the international games is the return of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who played both of his country’s matches after coming off in his last club game after suffering a blow to the head. He was taken to hospital after coming off, but he’s now back to fitness and available for the game on Saturday.

Courtois will likely start behind the regular back four of Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta. While three of those were in international action, they should all have returned ready to feature in Saturday’s game. As for the midfielders, the international break has given Ramires time to recover, and he should be available for the game at the weekend, although he’s likely to be starting on the bench.

Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas should keep their places in the side for the weekend’s game, with Mourinho likely to keep to the favoured 4-2-3-1 formation for the trip to Palace. We could potentially see Ramires as well, but only if he takes up an attacking position on the right of the three attacking midfielders. Eden Hazard and Oscar have been impressive in recent weeks, and they’re likely to start.

They’ll be joined by either Andre Schurrle, if he’s recovered from the illness that kept him out of his country’s draw with Ireland, or Willian. Willian played for 46 minutes against Argentina in China, so he’s likely to be in the best shape to start here. Up front, Diego Costa will look to add to his nine goals so far, after scoring his first international goal in Spain’s win over Luxembourg. Didier Drogba should be back to fitness after his ankle injury, but he’s likely going to have to settle for a place on the bench.

With Palace coming here as one of the favourites for the drop, Chelsea should be able to record a win here. Palace aren’t the side that beat them 1-0 last season, after losing Tony Pulis in the summer. The main worry for Chelsea here is the so called “FIFA virus” with many of their stars coming back from international action. The Blues won’t be at their fittest, so they’ll have to get round that to extend their unbeaten run and hold on to their lead at the top of the table.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-1