Chelsea v Crystal Palace
Live on BT Sport 1
Chelsea struggling to finish in top four
Title defences for Chelsea have proved turbulent seasons in the recent history and this year has been no different. Antonio Conte has cut a disgruntled figure throughout the campaign and it would be something of a surprise if the Italian remained in charge at Stamford Bridge next season. Chelsea face a big challenge qualifying for the Champions League again with the side five points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham with nine games remaining.
Chelsea deservedly received scathing criticism for their extraordinarily negative approach in last week's 1-0 defeat at champions elect Manchester City. Conte played without an orthodox striker, as Eden Hazard forlornly led the attack, with the hosts cruising to victory. It was their fourth defeat in five Premier League games which included dismal three-goal losses at home to Bournemouth and at Watford.
Palace need to get best players back to fitness
Roy Hodgson's hopes of steering Crystal Palace to safety have been put at risk by a spate of injuries at the wrong time. The loss of Wilfried Zaha has been the most significant one with the Eagles losing all nine league games when the attacker has been absent this season. With Palace 18th in the table, it is vital the team can call on the services of Zaha and the other injured first-team players in time for the run-in.
There has not been too much wrong with Palace's performances recently although results have gone against them. An 88th minute Harry Kane goal settled their contest at Selhurst Park recently in a 1-0 win for Tottenham. In their last match, Hodgson's side led Manchester United 2-0 after goals from Andros Townsend and Patrick van Aanholt. But United fought back and a stunning strike from Nemanja Matic in the 90th minute sent Palace to another cruel defeat.
Blues looks far too short in current form
Chelsea were always going to be short-priced favourites for this game but there are too many doubts against them to pile in on the hosts at odds of just 1.321/3. With only one win in their last five league games, Chelsea are hardly in the best of shape and have let down odds-on backers on several occasions recently. Throw in a trip to Barcelona on Wednesday in the Champions League, which could see several players rotated, and there are plenty of reasons to swerve the champions.
Crystal Palace are 13.012/1 outsiders for this game but perhaps should not be dismissed out of hand. After all, the Eagles have beaten Chelsea in the last two clashes between the sides including a 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge last April. Countering this, Palace are without a win in six matches and have lost their last three games with the squad shorn of key players.
The draw is on offer at 5.95/1 but the last 13 clashes between the teams have failed to produce a stalemate. Chelsea have also gone nine domestic games without being held which limits interest in this bet. Palace have drawn nine games in the league this season but only one of these has come against teams in the top nine of the division. Overall, a back to lay option could be worth considering on the visitors at big odds although this market can be left alone.
Both teams can score with defences failing to convince
Both teams to score is generously priced at 2.245/4 and appeals strongly for this match. Crystal Palace have scored in 13 of their last 15 fixtures which includes their last seven away matches. But the visitors have failed to keep a clean sheet for six games and Chelsea should have few problems finding the net. The champions have conceded ten goals in their last five league matches so both teams to score must have a big chance of returning profits this weekend.
Anthony Taylor takes charge of this weekend's game at Stamford Bridge with the referee sending off three players this season - all in the FA Cup. Taylor dismissed five players in 41 matches during the 2016-17 campaign.
Willian has had a hand in 16 goals in his last 17 starts for Chelsea in all competitions with 11 goals and five assists. Willian is available at 15/8 to net this weekend.
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