Venue: Selhurst Park
Date: Saturday, 29 March
Kick-off: 15.00 GMT
Jose Mourinho must be surprising a few people this season. Aside from him getting the hump against Villa – which he was perfectly entitle to do given Foy’s ‘performance’ – he’s a more relaxed version of our old Special One. More than that though, he has us playing football that’s a pleasure to watch. We still have a defence as tight as a Scots wallet under Jose and even without the ‘proper’ striker there’s been so much made of this season, our attacking play is, at times, a thing of beauty.
Today though, might be one of those scruffy games we just have to grind out a result because we may ‘only be playing Palace’ with both the history and form books pointing to an easy 3 points but Tony Pulis has done a decent job of turning round a side destined for the drop not so long ago. Arsenal, Spurs and United have all found them hard to beat but then this is a side fighting to stay in the Premier League – and we can’t afford another Villa!
Going into today’s game, Palace boss Tony Pulis says of his opposition “Jose is one of the elite managers in the world. I look at his record and he’s managed the great teams. The great teams need to win and he does that for them. He doesn’t just win on home soil, he wins away too. Of all the teams in the Champions League this year I always fancied Chelsea to go the furthest because of his experience, the way he prepares teams and sets them out. They are organised and structured and when the coach is like that and you’ve got top, top players you’ve got a chance.”
Whilst on Mourinho, Pulis says “I met him after the game at Stamford Bridge and he was a very interesting character. Whether you like him for what he is off the pitch, that’s personal. Some people will like you, some people won’t. The time I had with him, he was charming. It’d be nice to see if we win if he’s as charming.”
Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho meanwhile, says of Palace “We played there in my first season, in 2004, but many of the players haven’t – and some of them don’t even know where the stadium is! I do and I know what we can expect. They are noisy, they support their team, they put pressure on opponents and the referee. But that’s nice. Without violence, that’s something I like. I miss Portsmouth, so I’m happy to go to Crystal Palace.”
And on the opposition manager, says “Tony started with a team in a difficult position. It wasn’t the beginning of the season. It was a few months after, they were bottom of the league. It looks like other managers were approached and many didn’t want the job because the feeling was, ‘This team has no quality to stay in the Premier League’ – that it was a lost battle. But he went there, step by step changed his team, brought in the players he wants, and his team are there. They are not yet still in the Premier League. They still need points. The normal tendency is to give the Manager of the Year to the champions. But if Palace stay up, he can feel like a champion. He’d have won his challenge. So why not?”
For Villa, Dwight Gayle (ankle) and Maraoune Chamakh (hamstring) are both injured although Barry Bannan is in contention to start after missing last weekend through illness.
For Chelsea, Samuel Eto’o (hamstring) and Ashley Cole (knee) are out and van Ginkel (knee) is on his way back, although played for the under-21s. Ramires has another couple of games on the naughty step following his red card at Villa but Willian is available again after his ban.
PALACE (Possible line-up): Speroni; Mariappa, Dann, Delaney, Ward; Puncheon, Dikgacoi, Jedinak, Bolasie; Ince; Jerome.
CHELSEA (Possible line-up): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Lampard, Matic; Schurrle, Oscar, Hazard; Torres.
Chelsea 2-1 Palace (14th December 2013)
Head to head, Chelsea have won our last five meetings as part of a 12-match unbeaten run against Palace in the league.
Palace had just one shot on target in last weekend’s defeat at Newcastle and have the Premier League’s worst goalscoring record (19 goals), failing to score in 16 of their 30 matches. On current form, Palace have only managed two points from their last five matches and scored once during that winless run.
Chelsea meanwhile, have kept 14 clean sheets and conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League (23). Our 6-0 win over Arsenal last weekend was Jose Mourinho’s biggest victory as Chelsea manager in all competitions.
As Villa showed though, there’s no such thing as a dead cert in this league. If we’ve done with the celebrations from last weekend we should be able to focus on the job in hand today and grind Palace down, if our heads are still in the clouds and Torres doesn’t step up in Eto’s absence however, we could shoot ourselves in the foot here.