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