Chelsea will be aiming for their second straight victory as they face a potentially tricky encounter with London rivals Crystal Palace, who lie two points above the champions in the early season standings after a positive start.
New signing Pedro Rodriguez was thrown straight into the Chelsea team for the game at West Bromwich Albion last weekend, and it proved to be an inspired decision by manager Jose Mourinho, with the Spaniard scoring their opener and then laying on the second. The signs were that the recent arrival from Barcelona could be the man to breathe new life and renewed vigour into a side which had started slowly having previously made few significant moves in the transfer market.
It was, however, still a difficult afternoon for the Blues in the West Midlands as they survived an early Albion penalty and then held on grimly after going down to 10 men for the final 35 minutes as John Terry completed a disappointing week by seeing red. The final whistle brought relief and an acknowledgement that their title challenge is up and running, but they will know better than to take Palace lightly here. Full-backs Branislav Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta must be given adequate protection against their explosive widemen.
Like Pedro, the newest of those wingers wasted little time in making an impact as Bakary Sako struck late on to earn Palace victory at home to Aston Villa, in a game where they recovered well from the setback of seeing a goal given in their favour and then ruled out. So far in their opening three games, Alan Pardew’s side have shown that they look very well equipped for a possible tilt at finishing in the Premier League’s top eight, with strength in depth throughout the squad.
Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy has proven that with three assured performances so far since joining from Queens Park Rangers. His first half save from Villa’s Gabriel Agbonlahor was crucial in the context of the game, and did him no harm in his attempts to be first choice between the posts when Julian Speroni returns from injury. If Chelsea are on form, this is likely to be his busiest afternoon at the club so far, and so will offer him with ample opportunity to boost his chances further.
Gary Cahill will return to the Chelsea back four in place of the suspended Terry, with recent defensive acquisition Baba Rahman still lacking in match fitness. Oscar is likely to miss out again due to injury.
The visitors are unable to call upon Mile Jedinak, who was injured against Shrewsbury Town in the League Cup, while Yannick Bolasie is now ready to return to the fold following the death of his father.
Last Meeting: Chelsea secured the Premier League title with victory in this fixture on the first weekend of May. It was not a classic, but it fitting that Player of the Year Eden Hazard was the man to score the game’s only goal, winning a penalty and then after his initial effort was saved by Julian Speroni, nodding in the rebound. Jason Puncheon went closest for Palace, firing a powerful shot agonisingly wide.
Played for both – Danny Granville: In this day and age, few players join Chelsea after impressing at clubs such as Cambridge United and find a way into the first-team, but Danny Granville managed to do just that in 1997, representing a feature of what seems a largely bygone era. He made 18 league appearances for the Blues and won the Cup Winners Cup in 1998. He later spent six years at Palace, representing them in the top-flight in the 2004-05 season as they narrowly succumbed to relegation.
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