Ahead of Crystal Palace’s trip to Stamford Bridge, there are a few tactical stand points which are of interest heading into the game.
Coming up against Crystal Palace’s low blocking 4-5-1, Chelsea may need to be patient to break down Hodgson’s side. Palace’s deep defence will mirror that of Watford’s on Saturday, and another dominant midfield performance will be required. Jorginho will be a huge miss for Chelsea, who completed 117 passes on Saturday and an assist, but with N’Golo Kante nearing a return to fitness, it could be the perfect opportunity for the Frenchman to step in. This would see a more influential ball playing role for one of Chelsea’s midfielders, and whoever steps up to do so will have a huge influence on the game. Mateo Kovacic impressed against Watford, completing 135 passes, however the early goal, which came courtesy of an excellent pass from Jorginho, highlights the Italian’s influence, and he could be sorely missed on Saturday.
James v Zaha & van Aanholt:
Palace opted for a targeted press of Leicester’s right full back Ricardo Pereira, and this helped win the ball back in high areas and exploit the attacking threat of Wilfried Zaha. Marcos Alonso particularly struggled on Tuesday night and could’ve been a target for this target, but is expected to be replaced by Emerson, so Palace may look to target the right back in order to try get the Zaha involved high up the pitch. Who starts at right back awaits to be seen, as a half time switch from Lampard on Tuesday helped to change the game with the introduction of youngster Reece James. Getting himself on the scoresheet, as well as creating a chance and attempting seven crosses, he showcased his attacking ability in the memorable comeback. A Premier League start may await, and it will be an interesting battle up against the tricky Ivorian winger.
There is a potential weakness at left full back for Crystal Palace, particularly with Zaha pushing higher, and sides are now looking to target Patrick van Aanholt. Leicester built 42% of their attacks down that wing in their victory on Sunday, whilst West Ham and Man City both utilised this avenue, providing assists for their goals down this flank. Who Chelsea select at right wing should have a huge influence on the game, and full back James will be well suited to bombing on down the flank, so it won’t be a surprise to see Chelsea target this wing.
Zouma to Dominate:
Kurt Zouma in particular impressed against Watford up against the hard working, physical Andre Gray, and his dominant performance helped isolate the Watford man, and struggle to link the play. With four headed clearances, winning all five of his defensive aerial duels and making six clearances, he is well equipped coming up against the similar threat of Jordan Ayew. Chelsea will be hoping the French defender can dominate once again, and if he is able to, Palace will struggle to get a foothold in the game.
Although not the only key battles going into the game on Saturday, it is just a few areas which could have a bearing upon the outcome of the match. The impressive form of Christian Pulisic and Tammy Abraham is obviously worth noting, and coming up against the experienced backline of Palace, who have frustrated many sides this season, a patient Chelsea performance will be required.