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Crystal Palace-Chelsea Preview
Say this for Chelsea - they do not lack for excitement.
Coming off a wild draw that kept their hopes for Champions League advancement intact, Frank Lampard's side look to spoil a couple of milestone moments for Crystal Palace on Saturday in a London derby at Stamford Bridge.
The Pensioners (7-2-2) trail Leicester City on goal difference for third place, but they have opened a six-point gap on Chelsea for fourth. Lampard's side had their fourth Champions League match Wednesday, scrambling from a three-goal deficit in the final 27 minutes to salvage a 4-4 stalemate with group favourites Ajax.
Reece James' equaliser capped a three-goal outburst in an 11-minute span, canceling out most of a disastrous opening 45 minutes in which they had two own goals in addition to conceding one. Jorginho had penalties on either side of halftime, his second coming after talisman Cesar Azpilicueta started the fightback on 63 minutes.
The result left Chelsea in second on seven points, behind Ajax on goals difference and ahead of Valencia on goals scored.
"I'm relieved from the position of half-time," Lampard admitted post-match to the club's official website. "I told the players at half-time I thought we could draw the game 3-3, win it 4-3 or it might be 4-4. The moments we conceded in the first half were a mixture of sloppiness, and also some bad fortune.
"I felt we were in the game because of our pressing off the ball. We just needed a bit more in the final third, and we needed to lift the spirit of the stadium. I'm delighted with that part of it. We are a probably a bit disappointed in the end not to win it, but in the cold light of day we were 4-1 down, so it was a good result on those terms."
Chelsea's defence, which started out in disarray with no clean sheets in their first nine matches before recording three in a five-game span, have ebbed back to the other end with nine goals shipped in their last four contests. The Pensioners have conceded 28 goals in 18 overall matches, which includes the UEFA Super Cup loss on penalties to Liverpool.
Despite those issues, the Blues still have five wins on the bounce in league play. Mason Mount is questionable for this match with an ankle injury suffered versus Ajax, and could be replaced by Ross Barkley. Jorginho will sit out due to a yellow-card accumulation, but N'Golo Kante is expected to be available.
Tammy Abraham, who leads the Pensioners with 10 goals in all competitions, and had one of those two own goals versus Ajax, is looking to score his first goal for Chelsea in six matches at Stamford Bridge since his brace versus Sheffield United on Aug. 31.
Crystal Palace (4-3-4) continue to hover in the top half of the table, entering this contest in ninth place with 15 points, which is also two out of fifth. The match is also the Eagles' 100th Premier League London derby and 300th top-flight match for Roy Hodgson, but also finds them in the midst of a challenging gauntlet in which this will be Palace's fourth consecutive contest against a top-five side.
"I remember the times with Bristol City, the pitches we played on, the quality of the stadia and all of those things had improved already enormously by the time I came back to England," the 72-year-old Hodgson recounted to the team's official website.
"The training facilities at Blackburn were so different to the training facilities at Bristol you couldn't even begin to compare them. We were playing on top class pitches and you had fantastic training facilities."
Palace have gone 0-1-2 in the first three legs after a 2-0 loss to Leicester City on Sunday, yielding both goals in the final half-hour. Hodgson's team have been inconsistent almost from match to match but have still claimed seven road points in their last four matches outside Selhurst Park.
The match will also be a homecoming for Palace defender Gary Cahill, who spent seven seasons with Chelsea and was part of their 2012 Champions League-winning side before moving on a free transfer in the offseason.
Palace winger Andros Townsend could miss his second straight match with a muscle strain, and Hodgson is sweating the availability of James McArthur, who was forced off late versus Leicester with a back issue.
Chelsea have won the last three meetings, doing the double last term that included a 3-1 victory in the corresponding fixture.
Updated November 8, 2019