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PREVIEW: Chelsea vs Crystal Palace


JUST when we were getting used to clean sheets and goals flying in for Palace, the fixture list throws up the challenge of Chelsea – at Stamford Bridge.

It has been a quite brilliant few weeks for the Eagles, notching three wins, and one draw in their last five games.

But, make no mistake about it, tomorrow's game is going to be a mammoth task. Chelsea are extremely strong at home, especially under boss Jose Mourinho, who is still undefeated at the Bridge in the league over two spells in the dugout.

And past results aren't too favourable for the Eagles either. Ten goals have been shipped in west London during their last two visits; in 2005 and 1998.

In fact, the statistics don't make good reading at all. Palace have won just once in the league at Stamford Bridge – that was way back in 1982 thanks to a 2-1 win.

The last time Palace beat Chelsea? A 3-1 win in the League Cup at Selhurst Park in 1993.

OK, I'm not one for being pessimistic, but then again, Palace do go into this game in very confident mood.

Furthermore, the Eagles will be fully aware that the Blues defence can be breached, with just one clean sheet kept in their last ten league games. Buoyed by back-to-back clean sheets against West Ham and Cardiff City, boss Tony Pulis may have stuck with the same starting XI again in 4-4-2 formation but it looks like he will be forced to tinker one or two positions.

Most teams visiting Stamford Bridge tend to play five in midfield, but they say the best form of defence is attack, so keeping in-form strike duo Cameron Jerome and Marouane Chamakh might be a good idea.

But that means the midfield are going to have to work their socks off, including the wide men, who will need to help out the full-backs to stop the threat Chelsea pose.

The Blues have quality all over. Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Frank Lampard, Oscar, Willian and Ramires – the list goes on – and all are expected to feature at some point on Saturday depending on their fitness levels from their Champions League win against Steaua Bucharest on Wednesday.

They had the luxury of changing their team around against the Romanians, having started with Lampard, Willian, Hazard and Oscar. And then Schurrle and Ramires came off the bench. The likes of Mata and Torres didn't even come on, which could mean they face the Eagles.

Demba Ba grabbed the winner after ten minutes, so Mourinho may decide to stick with the striker, while Ashley Cole, who spent time on loan at Palace in 2000, returned to the starting XI.

In terms of team news for Palace at the time of going to press, Yannick Bolasie's three-game suspension was up and he will be vying for a return to the starting XI.

Dean Moxey suffered a hamstring injury last weekend against Cardiff and was replaced by Adrian Mariappa after 25 minutes. However, Advertiser Sport understands Moxey has "a chance" of featuring, according to assistant manager Keith Millen.

"It's not too bad, the hamstring," he said. "We did the right thing bringing him off last Saturday.

"There is minimal damage, which is good. We won't risk it but it's not torn or a long-term thing.

"The worst case is he'll miss this weekend, but he has got a chance. We just need to see how he is."

If Moxey does miss out, that could mean right-back Joel Ward may have to continue on the left side of the defence, although Jonathan Parr, who is yet to feature this season after his comeback from injury, will be desperate to take part.

Jonny Williams, who was a Chelsea fan as a youngster, will be hoping to step out onto the Stamford Bridge turf for the first time as a professional although he is yet to start under Pulis.

As expected, Palace fans have bought all their allocation in the far corner of the stadium - so the team can expect plenty of vocal support from the travelling army, as they take on one of the league's toughest assignments.

PREVIEW: Chelsea vs Crystal Palace

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