CHELSEA v Crystal Palace: Preview

Venue: Stamford Bridge
Date: Sunday, 3 May
Kick-off: 13:30 BST

Where do you start with a preview like this?
This lunchtime’s game sees us at home, to Palace but it’s not just any game against Palace because a win today could give us our fourth Premier League title.
Jose Mourinho has been clear ahead of the game that any celebrations should be put firmly on ice until the fat lady has actually opened her vocal chords and insists the home crowd should provide the soprano until that time. I, for one, don’t doubt Stamford Bridge will be in fine voice – I just hope that adds motivation rather than pressure for the players.
Naturally, in the last few weeks, irrespective of our results, we’ve faced constant criticism about the way Jose has set the team out. The bottom line though, is that Jose Mourinho is a top boss who has given us what we’ve needed this season, when we’ve needed it. From spoiling us with some sublime football and attacking flair that was a privilege to see early season, to the solid, professional displays in defence when grinding out a result late on. He’s an absolute master when it comes to winning – and today, win or lose, we should be singing his praises (literally).
Not that securing the title today is a forgone conclusion though because Crystal Palace won’t just be visiting to make up the numbers. Right now, Pardew’s side have the best away form in the league. Our players will have to want a result an awful lot more than the visitors if that larger lady is to air her lungs!

MANAGER’S VIEWS
Going into today’s game, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho says “The basic thing about football is the most pure feeling: you go there, you want to win. It doesn’t depend on the level you are. To be champions in the Premier League is not a different feeling to being champions in League One, League Two or the Conference. Everyone has his level, but in terms of human feelings, they’re exactly the same.”
Whilst on our ‘boring’ tag, the Chelsea manager says “You analyse it by every perspective and you find always a Chelsea very strong in every ranking: goals scored, goals conceded, record at home, record away, number of victories…That’s why, in such a difficult league to win, we’re top of the league since day one, which is not a record, but especially in modern football, it’s something very difficult to do.”
Palace boss Alan Pardew meanwhile, says of his opposing manager “Last time we met I was at Newcastle. Jose was pretty upset. We beat them 2-0. He didn’t come for a drink after that one. I hope he’s cheered up a little bit.”
On today’s game, Pardew says “It’s a good game for Chelsea because we’ve achieved our objective [avoiding relegation]. Our players have lost a little focus. At this level, two per cent less focus is enough to lose a game. I hope on Sunday we’ll get back the tough edge we had when we played Sunderland and Manchester City. Our victory over City was probably the most satisfying result I can remember as manager. We did everything almost perfectly and got a bit of luck. We will need that against Chelsea. I expect Jose to get Chelsea over the line [and win the title] but I don’t want him to do it against me on Sunday.”
And on the whole ‘boring’ debate, the Palace boss says “Chelsea have entertained us. Certainly for the first half of the season, they were the best team by some distance. Nobody said then they were boring. Recently there has been a little bit more ‘let’s not lose’ mentality and I get that. When you are making sure [of the title] you start not being as flamboyant. You have to admire Jose’s functionality. Any other team in their position might have had a wobble but, when Jose gets into these positions, he gets the job done. What really sets him apart from all other managers is the success he delivers. He won the Champions League at Porto with a team that had no right to do that. Then to do it at Inter Milan where, for a few years, they had no chance of winning it. And he creates tremendous loyalty. You do not find many players who criticise the way he goes about his work regime which means he is taking care of the whole squad.”

SQUAD NEWS
For Chelsea, Diego Costa (hamstring) is still out. Loic Remy (calf) and Thibaut Courtois (hip) are both available again.
For Palace, Marouane Chamakh and Fraizer Campbell (both hamstring), are out. Joel Ward (shin) should be available and Lee Chung-yong (foot) could start

TEAMS
CHELSEA (Possible line-up): Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Matic; Willian, Fabregas, Hazard; Drogba
PALACE (Possible line-up): Speroni; Kelly, Dann, Delaney, Souare; Jedinak, McArthur; Zaha, Puncheon, Bolasie; Murray

LAST SEASON
Chelsea 2-1 Palace (14th December 2013)

RECENT FORM
Chelsea: WWWWDW
Palace: WWWWLL

OTHER STUFF
•Palace have only ever won twice at Stamford Bridge
•Chelsea have lost just one of their last 14 league meetings
•Chelsea have lost just three of their 50 matches in all competitions this season.
•Chelsea have kept the most clean sheets in the Premier League this season
•Palace have kept the least clean sheets this season
•Palace have lost just one of their last eight away matches in the league
•Palace have managed only seven wins in 30 previous Premier League London derbies away from home

PREDICTION
Never done scores and I’m not about to start now but I think it’s a fair bet the green-eyed monster will be on one today whatever the outcome.

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