Chelsea host Crystal Palace in this 3pm kick off and nothing but three points will do against their south London opponents. With Liverpool in action on Sunday at Spurs and Man City hosting Arsenal earlier on Saturday the top of the table could have a different complexion after this weekend and the Blues need the win to make sure they are sitting pretty.
Ordinarily a home game against a side down in 19th place would be about as easy a game as anyone could wish for. However, it may not be the case here and whilst the bookmakers naturally think this one is a foregone conclusion it might not be as easy as they think.
The potential for Chelsea to slip up exists because the Eagles come into this one riding the crest of a wave. The “new manager effect” is still going strong at Palace and after consecutive wins their players and fans may just be starting to believe relegation isn’t the certainty it seemed a few weeks ago.
Whilst those back to back wins were both at home and came against fellow relegation candidates West Ham (1-0) and Cardiff (2-0) there is no doubt morale in the Eagles’ camp will be soaring. Moreover, with four clean sheets in their last five they could prove a tough nut to crack, not least for a team lacking a clinical nut-cracker up front!
The Pensioners have not scored as many goals as their creative midfield warrants and it must hurt Chelsea fans to see Daniel Sturridge banging them in at Liverpool and Romelu Lukaku doing likewise at Everton. Meanwhile back at the Bridge Demba Ba, Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres continue to look poor.
Tony Pulis will no doubt come to west London with a point in mind and as such is certain to set his team out very defensively and given Palace’s playing resources who can blame him? Organisation, commitment and discipline will be the watchwords for the visitors whilst the home side will hope their array of creative midfielders-cum-attackers can unlock the safe.
The teams have played each other on surprisingly few occasions with the last meeting being in the top flight in 2004, Chelsea recording a 4-1 home win that day. At Stamford Bridge the clubs have played each other 16 times in the league and eight of those have ended in draws, with just one Palace win. Whilst most of those meetings are too long ago to really influence this one, the away fans and players could draw further confidence if they are aware of those stats and Chelsea will have to avoid complacency if they are to get the win.
However, Chelsea have won six of seven at home this term, never scoring fewer than two goals and as such we expect them to do more than enough to get the win here. It won’t be as easy as some home fans would want but the three points are all that matters.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-0