Chelsea sets its sights on the Premier League, embarking on a brief journey to Selhurst Park for a Monday night showdown against Crystal Palace. A victory would propel the Blues into the top 10 in league standings.
Here are three things to look forward to.
1. Will Mauricio Pochettino stick with the lineup from Villa Park?
Last Wednesday, Chelsea delivered their finest performance under Pochettino, showcasing sharpness and a hunger to dominate. The lineup picked by the Argentine manager played a pivotal role in shaping the Blues' dynamic play.
Despite the upcoming game falling outside the usual Saturday or Sunday schedule, the Monday fixture grants Chelsea an extra day or two for preparation. However, injuries and players' match fitness remain critical considerations. Benoit Badiashile, one of the starters, was sidelined due to an injury, and his availability is still uncertain.
A significant factor in recent strategy discussions has been the absence of Raheem Sterling from the lineup. His performance has been lackluster in recent weeks, often hindering the team's buildup with slow play and ineffective runs that typically end in collisions with defenders. For Chelsea to replicate the hunger and desire displayed at Villa Park, Sterling must remain on the bench.
2. Crystal Palace's poor form should help Chelsea's case.
Roy Hodgson's squad is currently not in a great place, with fans calling for the veteran English manager's dismissal amidst a series of disappointing performances. Additionally, they will be without a few key players due to injuries, notably missing their three pivotal talents: Marc Guehi, Michael Olise, and Eberechi Eze.
However, they possess players capable of challenging Chelsea. Despite Chelsea securing a win in the late December reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge, it was a hard-fought victory. Jean-Philippe Mateta and Jordan Ayew proved to be a handful for the home side. Both players will be ready for action against the Blues. Chelsea, with their inherent quality, has the potential to overcome the hosts once again, but they should anticipate a challenging encounter.
3. Last match before a big week.
Monday's match holds significant weight for Chelsea on multiple fronts. Following this fixture, they face a daunting away game at Etihad Stadium against the reigning champions, Manchester City. Afterward, Chelsea prepares for their most important match of the season so far—a showdown with Liverpool at Wembley for the EFL Cup.
Securing a positive result and performance at Selhurst Park is crucial for Chelsea ahead of these pivotal matches. Anything less could dampen morale for both the team and its supporters. Facing Manchester City poses a formidable challenge, but a strong showing on Monday is essential for Chelsea to signal their readiness and build momentum for the high-stakes encounters that lie ahead.