Chelsea are aiming to keep hold of fourth place in the table as they head to south London to face Crystal Palace on Sunday. Eden Hazard’s brace sank Watford on Boxing Day to send Maurizio Sarri’s Blues above Arsenal into the Champions League qualification places with half the season gone.
As for Palace, Roy Hodgson’s Eagles have climbed to 14th with seven points from their last three games, and a 3-2 win at champions Manchester City will serve as a warning for this London derby. This lad likes surprises.
Looking at Twelve’s leader board between both sides, we have a top five of Chelsea players. Of course Hazard is the leader, but after him, it’s a little bit surprising – at least to me – that defensive players are leading the Blues’ best performances.
Antonio Rudiger and David Luiz have had great performances so far, which means the Eagles’ offensive system will find great difficulty in getting into the eighteen yard box and creating good chances to score.
The hosts have a near-full squad to choose from. Martin Kelly and Wayne Hennessey are returning from groin strains and back injuries, while Christian Benteke’s injury will likely keep him sidelined until the new year.
Taking for granted that Chelsea will keep the ball during the match, Palace should play compact and deep defensively to invite Chelsea onto them, getting the fullbacks to move forward and open up space for counters.
Palace will stand the midfield and front two back to defend around their box and move well to the sides to cover Chelsea’s attempted overloads (fullback, wide midfielder and central midfielder covering Chelsea’s three), while the striker on the side which Chelsea are attacking will also move over to provide extra support.
I really love the football of Wilfried Zaha. For me, he’s one of the best players outside the top six. He has the power and the ambition to always move forward, to always find spaces to shoot. A very dangerous player to be up against.
On Twelve’s leader board, Zaha scored 17,667 points in 1,501 minutes played, an average of 11.7 points per minute. He has done important work on the left side of the box with shots, dribbles and good passes. Even so, he is only the 16th best performer between both sides and the eighth among the Eagles. That makes us think he can do more and be better this season.
Hard to predict
Sunday’s result will largely depend on which Crystal Palace side show up. The Eagles have drawn with Arsenal and Manchester United this term, but their home form has been disappointing with nine points from nine games and just five goals scored.
Pedro and Callum Hudson-Odoi both picked up muscle injuries on Wednesday night and neither are expected to recover in time to face the Eagles, forcing Sarri into changes. Pedro’s absence should push Eden Hazard back to the left wing, with Olivier Giroud coming in to start through the middle.
The Frenchman has had 23 shots this season, scoring only twice. He is the 16th best shooter from these two sides. It’s too little for a World Cup Winner, even one who didn’t score a single goal in Russia. If the ball of the match relies on Giroud’s feet, maybe there is a good chance for a draw. Otherwise, Chelsea will win 2-1.