Chelsea vs Crystal Palace: 3 Blues who must start in London derby

So far, the festive period for Chelsea Football Club has been defined by missed chances, and unforced errors. Tonight at Stamford Bridge provides an opportunity to rebound.
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Chelsea FC - Premier League
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Chelsea FC - Premier League / David Rogers/GettyImages
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Nothing has come easy in the first few months of Mauricio Pochettino's rein at Chelsea Football Club. Momentum is quickly squandered while injuries continue to overload a side that cannot afford them. Just five clubs in the Premier League have suffered more defeats than the west Londoners since the 2023/24 campaign began in mid-August.

Poch's men gave its fans little to believe in at the beginning of the festive fixture period, dropping all the points in a dreadful display on the road against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Christmas Eve. The Blues return to the confides of Stamford Bridge for a highly anticipated London derby against a Crystal Palace team that is moving in the same direction as its neighbors to the northwest. With Bournemouth's resurgence, the Chels are now on the outside looking in at the top-half of the table.

Despite Wednesday marking the halfway point in the west Londoners' campaign, this has to be viewed as a must-win contest. The Eagles are just four points away from drawing level with the west London outfit. Palace has not taken all three points in a league match since November 4 against Burnley, amassing just three draws from its last seven games. In front of its fans, prior to the new year, with the outside noise increasing, a win would do a lot of good for the club as a whole. Here are three players Poch must insert from the off to earn that positive result at the Bridge.

3 Blues who must start against Crystal Palace in the SW6

3. Malo Gusto

His display on Sunday afternoon at Wolves arguably went under the radar a little bit given what he did in the EFL Cup and the result at the end of 90 minutes. Malo Gusto has been nothing but a bright spot in a defense that continues to do itself no favors with the kind of mistakes its making. He finished tied for second on the team in total chances created last time out.

Christmas Eve was his first start since returning from a knee ligament injury. In fact, the last time Poch called his name to serve in the starting XI prior to a few days ago was in late October in a 2-2 draw vs. Arsenal. It is only going to be a matter of time given the increased minutes before he contributes to his third goal in CFC blue.

Now that Reece James is out for an extended period of time, the French defender is a lock going forward in the west Londoners' starting lineup. No center back provides the kind of dynamism Gusto can. His ability to widen the Blues' attack, take on full backs, and win defensive battles consistently make No. 27 as irreplaceable as they come in this squad. The way he overlaps the winger on the right unlocks opportunities the west London side have to figure out a way to capitalize on. His accurate long balls, and precise crosses can only go so far if the players up front fail to test the opposition's keeper.