Everything you need to know ahead of Saturday’s Premier League match at Stamford Bridge as the Blues welcome the Eagles.
Chelsea can take two significant steps towards the Premier League title over the course of the next week with back-to-back home matches, against Crystal Palace and Manchester City.
Antonio Conte’s men are 10 points clear at the top of the table and go into their double-header in top form but the challenge will be for the coach to get his players going again after a two-week international break.
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Saturday’s opponents Palace have won three games in a row to steer themselves out of the relegation zone but, with only 28 points on the board, they will be fighting for their lives against the league leaders.
Chelsea beat their fellow Londoners at Selhurst Park in December but that was when they were struggling under former boss Alan Pardew. Palace are now starting to shine under new manager Sam Allardyce and they are likely to prove a difficult obstacle for the table-toppers to overcome.
Eden Hazard, Victor Moses, Thibaut Courtois, Diego Costa and John Terry all have had problems in the last fortnight. However, none of the injuries are thought to be serious and Hazard told reporters in Belgium that he expects to be back in time for the resumption of Chelsea’s march towards the title.
Conte said that he is “confident” that Hazard will return for Chelsea against Crystal Palace after missing his side’s match against Stoke City and the international break.
The winger’s compatriot, Courtois, returned home early from international duty early to get treatment for fluid accumulation in his hip.
Moses, meanwhile, was unable to feature for Nigeria during the break to a calf strain. The wing-back has been substituted early in each of his last two outings, against Manchester United and Stoke City, and Saturday’s match could come too soon for him.
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As for Terry, the veteran centre-half didn’t make the bench against Stoke, with Conte confirming afterwards that he was carrying a minor knock. He will be fit for Saturday, having trained for the entire week.
Elsewhere, Costa had an injury scare on Spain duty, which necessitated x-rays, but the striker has already been given the all-clear by national team doctors.
David Luiz is still playing through the pain of the minor knee injury sustained at the feet of Sergio Aguero in December but he has been afforded a much-needed rest over the international break, after being overlooked for Brazil’s World Cup qualifiers.
Chelsea have no players suspended for the match and have had few issues with discipline all season. Terry has been their only player to seed red all campaign and even his dismissal came in the FA Cup against Peterborough United.
However, Costa, Luiz and Pedro are all three bookings away from a two-match suspension as each one has racked up seven yellow cards during the campaign so far. It is worth noting, though, that the 10-booking rule is ‘reset’ after the second Sunday in April.
CHELSEA POTENTIAL STARTING LINE-UP
Conte is once again set to use his tried-and-tested first XI, injuries permitting of course. The Blues are having success by making fewer rotations than their rivals while playing in a 3-4-3 formation.
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In terms of personnel, Pedro and Willian have been battling it out for the right-wing berth, while Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas compete for a place in central midfield alongside N’Golo Kante. There are signs that the Spaniard is set to get the nod over the Serbia international, but Conte recently dropped him again for the more defensive-minded Matic.
Costa will lead the line as he continues his fight with the likes of Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Everton’s Romelu Lukaku for the Premier League Golden Boot.
CRYSTAL PALACE TEAM NEWS
Chelsea loanee Loic Remy is injured and ineligible to face his parent club on Saturday. Connor Wickham is also out with a knee injury, which means Christian Benteke will start up front for Sam Allardyce’s side.
In midfield, Palace will be without Mathieu Flamini, while James McArthur faces a late fitness test ahead of the game. Patrick van Aanholt has an ankle injury and Pape Souare is also out in defence due to a thigh problem.
Steve Mandanda faces a race to be fit in time, with Wayne Hennessey set to continue in his place if Palace’s first-choice goalkeeper fails to recover from his knee trouble.
BEST OPTA MATCH FACTS
Crystal Palace’s away win at Chelsea in August 2015 is their only top-flight away win at Stamford Bridge (D5 L8).
Chelsea have used the fewest players (21) and made the fewest changes to their starting XI overall (26) in the Premier League this season. In 2015-16, the champions Leicester City also topped these categories (33 changes to starting XI and 23 players used).
Diego Costa’s next Premier League goal will be his 50th in the competition and would be the seventh Chelsea player to reach that milestone for the club.
TV COVERAGE & KICK-OFF TIME
The game isn’t broadcast on UK television live but the highlights will be shown on BBC’s Match of the Day on Saturday night. MOTD starts at 22:30 GMT.