CRYSTAL PALACE’S start to the season has been record-breaking, just not in the way they would have hoped for.
The Eagles became the first side to lose their first four opening games without scoring when they were beaten by Burnley last month, and it’s only got worse.
We’re now into October and Palace have failed to get a point or score a goal in the top flight.
They will hope their eighth league game will bring some relief, although it will not be easy against reigning champions Chelsea.
But with Antonio Conte’s side going into the game on the back of defeat to Manchester City before the international break, and without key players Alvaro Morata and N’Golo Kante through injury, now may be the best time to face the Blues.
The game at Selhurst Park kicks off at 3pm and isn’t being shown on TV in the UK.
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Our friends at Football Whispers preview where the game may be won and lost.
Key battle – Milivojevic and Cabaye vs Bakayoko and Fabregas
With Kante injured, Chelsea are missing a crucial part of their side. Palace will hope his absence gives them a glimmer of hope.
With no Kante and Danny Drinkwater still not fit, the Blues’ midfield duo will be Tiemoue Bakayoko and Cesc Fabregas, who have only played together as the two central midfielders in a 3-4-3 once before – a 5-1 Carabao Cup win against Nottingham Forest.
The Spaniard only played for 56 minutes in that game before being replaced by Ethan Ampadu, so it’s a pairing that won’t have the understanding of how each other play.
And Palace can take advantage of that, but that will come down to their own midfield duo of Luka Milivojevic and Yohan Cabaye, who will have to be much better than in recent weeks.
Roy Hodgson trusted them in the middle of the pitch against Manchester City and Manchester United, both games of which saw the Eagles completely outplayed.
But Selhurst Park should be rocking for a London derby, and that could help the duo raise their game.
Crystal Palace will be desperate to at least score a goal and will hope someone will finally pop up and hit the back of the net.
With Christian Benteke and Connor Wickham injured, they are lacking in the striker department, meaning it’s likely that Bakary Sako plays up top, as he did against Manchester United.
Of the players to have played five or more of Palace’s seven games and are fit, Andros Townsend is averaging the most shots per game – 1.7.
And in terms of expected goals, the Eagles player with the highest xG so far this season is Benteke with 1.79.
But the former Liverpool striker injured, Jason Puncheon is next on the list, with 1.24. Perhaps Palace’s best hope of a surprise goal would be from Wilfried Zaha coming off the bench.
The winger is ready to play a role on Saturday after not featuring since the first game of the season due to injury.
He is unlikely to start, but could give Chelsea something to think about coming on as a substitute.
For the Blues, Michy Batshuayi will be keen on proving his worth with top scorer Morata out.
The Belgian already has five goals this season, but none in his three Premier League appearances. The rest of the Blues front three, likely to be Pedro and Eden Hazard will also scare the not-so-secure Palace backline.
Hodgson started with a 4-4-1-1 as many expected he would at Crystal Palace, but with Ruben Loftus-Cheek injured against United, he switched to a 4-2-3-1.
The Chelsea loanee can’t play against his parent club this weekend, and with the Eagles having no recognised senior striker, they are likely to stick with a 4-2-3-1 they’ve employed in recent weeks.
Conte has switched between a 3-4-3 and a 3-5-2 this season, tending to employ the latter in games against top-quality opponents.Palace aren’t one of them, so expect the 3-4-3 used to great effect for the Blues last season.
How the teams are likely to be set up
With Loftus-Cheek, Benteke and Wickham unavailable, it would be no surprise to see Sako stay up front in a 4-2-3-1 for Palace.
Zaha is likely to be in the 18, but Townsend and Schlupp should start on the wing.
Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1): Hennessey; Ward, Sakho, Delaney, van Aanholt; Milivojevic, Cabaye; Townsend, Puncheon, Schlupp; Sako
Chelsea may have Drinkwater available after a calf injury, but he is unlikely to make his first start for the Blues at Selhurst Park.
David Luiz has served his suspension and is likely to come into the team for Andreas Christensen, while Willian will likely to miss out on the starting line-up after having to return from Brazil later than the rest of his colleagues on international duty.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Alonso; Pedro, Batshuayi, Hazard
Key stats heading into the game
Only Portsmouth in 2009/10 went as long as Crystal Palace before registering their first points of a Premier League campaign – recording a win over Wolverhampton Wanderers in their eighth game.
Crystal Palace won 2-1 the last time the two sides met.
The Eagles’ last two victories over the Blues have been followed by two successive defeats to Chelsea in their next encounters.
Despite failing to score a league goal this season, Crystal Palace are actually 12th in the Premier League xG table – with 7.14 expected goals, showing just how wasteful they’ve been. Chelsea are in tenth with 7.67.
No side has seen more red cards in the Premier League so far this season than Chelsea’s three. That will have something to do with the Blues averaging more fouls per game than anyone else – 12.9.
Crystal Palace are averaging the most dribbles per game in England’s top flight – 13.3.