After a somewhat uncertain start to the campaign, Chelsea could really do with all three points when they host Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League on Saturday (7:30am ET).
Chelsea finished fourth last season, level on points with third, and have been the biggest spenders of the off-season. They have invested over $250 million (£200m), $190m / £150m net, in an effort to bridge the chasm that separated them from the top two of Manchester City and champions Liverpool.
It is far too early for definitive judgements but Chelsea have so far failed to impress. A 3-1 win over Brighton in their opener didn’t really reflect the balance of play in that encounter. Liverpool then outplayed them in a 0-2 defeat at Stamford Bridge and those results were followed by a draw away to newly promoted West Bromwich Albion last weekend.
It could have been much worse. Chelsea were three down before the half-hour mark after West Brom’s first three shots all found the back of the net. Frank Lampard’s side piled forward thereafter, outshooting their hosts by 17 to six in the remaining hour of play. Goals from Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham, the last-mentioned of those in the 93rd minute, saw them rescue a point.
It was somewhat ironic that after all the new attacking arrivals, it was three of last season’s players, all academy graduates, who got Lampard out of a pickle that he primarily put down to individual mistakes on all three of West Brom’s goals. It must also be noted that at a collective level, some of last season’s issues don’t yet seem to have been solved, most notably in defence.
There have been some extenuating circumstances, albeit ones that aren’t exclusive to Chelsea. They have a number of new players to integrate, have struggled with injuries and probably won’t get Christian Pulisic, a key attacking contributor down the final stretch of last season, and new arrival Hakim Ziyech, onto the pitch until mid-October. Things will need to start coming together for them sooner rather than later.
Crystal Palace come into Saturday’s match with two more points on the board than their hosts following victories over Southampton and Manchester United in their first two matches of the campaign, followed by a 1-2 defeat at home to Everton last weekend.
Roy Hodgson and his side felt hard done by after a soft handball penalty proved to be the difference between the two sides. Everton had taken an early lead, only for Cheikhou Kouyate to head home a back-post corner to equalize before the half-hour mark. Then Joel Ward was adjudged to have handled inside the area, despite what appeared a pretty natural body position, and Everton fired home the winning goal from the penalty spot.
Palace finished 14th last season, fairly comfortably clear of the bottom three, but their underlying metrics were among the league’s worst and also declined season on season. An upper mid-table defence was allied to the second worst attack in the division. Their tally of 31 goals made them one of just three teams to score less than one per match.
They also had the oldest squad in the league, with an average, minutes weighted, age of almost 30. Their 0ff-season dealings to date have at least tried to rectify both that and their issues in front of goal, with 22-year-old attacking midfielder Eberechi Eze joining from Queens Park Rangers on a permanent deal, while Michy Batshuayi (26) has been borrowed from Chelsea. The latter will be unavailable on Saturday due to a clause in his loan deal.
Despite the points on the board, Palace’s metrics haven’t looked great in the admittedly very limited sample size so far this season, and improvement will likely be necessary if they are to avoid being pulled downwards as the season progresses.
Hodgson’s side lost home and away to Chelsea last season, but the second of those was a ding-dong, back-and-forth encounter that only ended 3-2 in Chelsea’s favor. Palace are not a great team, but they do have pacey forwards capable of capitalizing on Chelsea’s deficiencies defending transitions. Even if they do eventually come away with nothing, there is unlikely to be that much difference between the two sides come the final whistle.
So our Chelsea vs Crystal Palace predictions and betting picks verdict for this preview is:
- Bet on Crystal Palace +1 goal on the spread @ +130 with Bovada.