Crystal Palace’s search for their first point and first goal of the Premier League season continues on Saturday when they welcome champions Chelsea to Selhurst Park.
It’s been a miserable start to the season for the Eagles, who have been tame in all seven of their top-flight losses so far this term. Manager Roy Hodgson faces a huge challenge to lift this team off the bottom of the table and will hope the visit of an illustrious opponent can stir something in his players.
Chelsea will be out to bounce back after being beaten by Manchester City in their last Premier League outing. And while manager Antonio Conte has some injury issues to contend with, the Blues are big favourites for the three points here.
Date: Saturday, October 14
Time: 3 p.m. (BST)/10 a.m. (ET)
TV Info: NBC Sports (US)
Live Stream: NBC Sports App (US)
Crystal Palace: The Eagles will be without Ruben Loftus-Cheek, as he’s unable to play against his parent club. Christian Benteke also remains sidelined along with Connor Wickham, though in a boost for Palace Wilfried Zaha has been back in training this week ahead of the contest.
Likely XI: Wayne Hennessey; Joel Ward, Mamadou Sakho, Scott Dann, Patrick van Aanholt; Luka Milivojevic, James McArthur, Yohan Cabaye; Andros Townsend, Bakary Sakho, Jeffrey Schlupp
Chelsea: Alvaro Morata is unlikely to be risked after his recent hamstring issue, while N’Golo Kante is also set to miss the game due to a knock he picked up on international duty with France. Danny Drinkwater could be involved for the first time since his summer move too. David Luiz is still suspended.
Likely XI: Thibaut Courtois; Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill, Antonio Rudiger; Victor Moses, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Cesc Fabregas, Marcos Alonso; Pedro, Eden Hazard, Willian
A summer of upheaval at Palace meant the club’s supporters would have been anticipating a slow start to the season. But few would have predicted things would go quite so wrong so quickly.
The Eagles sacked Frank De Boer after four games and drafted in Hodgson, but things don’t seem to have got too much better since. In his first match in charge, the former England boss saw his side fall to a 1-0 defeat at home to Southampton, while Manchester City and Manchester United hit five and four unanswered goals past them, respectively.
With Benteke injured and Zaha unlikely to be fully fit for a while yet, it’s tough to see where a goal is coming from at the moment. Nick Harris summed up just how poor they’ve been in the final third:
The Blues were undone by an awesome Manchester City display a fortnight ago. But, in the main, Conte’s side have been strong this season, with new players settling in well and the 3-4-3 setup still proving to be a conundrum for a lot of opponents.
Morata’s physical presence and goalscoring pedigree will be missed at Selhurst Park, though Kante’s omission would also be a big blow. Per Squawka Football, he’s irrepressible in his defensive work in midfield:
With Luiz also out, there are three key sections of the Chelsea spine missing, and Palace may be able to capitalise. But this season the Blues appear to be much more assured on the road than they are at Stamford Bridge.
Conte has some big decisions to make in terms of selection.
Already in 2017-18, they’ve chalked up some impressive away wins, most notably at Wembley against Tottenham Hotspur and in the UEFA Champions League at Atletico Madrid. By contrast, they may be glad to get away from west London for now, as noted by Liam Twomey of ESPN FC:
Even with some vital men missing, it’s difficult to see anything other than a routine win for the Blues here, as Palace continue to show nothing as an attacking force.
With Hazard, Willian, Pedro and potentially Michy Batshuayi from the bench, the champions have more than enough firepower to unsettle the bottom club. Palace may dig in defensively and find some impetus through their own supporters’ backing, but their pointless and scoreless run will continue.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 0-3 Chelsea