Premier League preview: Crystal Palace vs. Chelsea

AP Photo/Matt Dunham
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  • Chelsea could climb to 14th in the PL
  • Blues seeking 1st win under Hiddink
  • Crystal Palace could reclaim 5th
  • Palace aiming for 7 games unbeaten

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When Crystal Palace and Chelsea take the field at Selhurst Park on Sunday (Watch live at 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via Live Extra), it’ll be the hosts, not the visitors who also happen to be the reigning Premier League champions, seeking to extend a six-game unbeaten run (three wins) in the PL. In stark contrast, a win for Chelsea would be just their third in 11 league games.

Since Jose Mourinho was fired on Dec. 17, Chelsea have won once and drawn twice, with the lone victory coming before Guus Hiddink, who’ll manage the club for the rest of the season, took charge — not exactly the uptick in results they might have been hoping for, but then again, one point is better than none (six of Mourinho’s last nine games in charge were losses). Meanwhile, it’s Palace who are challenge for European qualification this season, as they entered the weekend fifth in the league table but have since fallen to seventh after victories by Manchester United and West Ham United.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Arsenal, Manchester clubs all win ]

On the injury/suspension front, Palace will be without midfielder lynchpin Yohan Cabaye (yellow card accumulation), as well as Yannick Bolasie (hip), Connor Wickham (hamstring) and Dwight Gayle (hamstring). The Blues will be missing only Radamel Falcao (leg) with absolute certainty, while Gary Cahill has a chance to return from the ankle injury that kept him out of the Blues’ scoreless draw with Manchester United on Monday.

Palace upended Chelsea in their first meeting of the season, setting into motion the tumultuous season that’s plagued the Blues ever since. Chelsea won in their last visit to Selhurst Park, a 2-1 victory last October.

What they’re saying

Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew: “It’s been an astonishing year and the Premier League has been shook up a bit. We have definitely upped our game and it’s a season that’s thrown up a few surprises. I don’t think anyone would doubt that the middle pack downwards has improved. The Leicesters, the Stokes, the Evertons, the Liverpools are all good sides while the top teams, for whatever reason, are just struggling a little bit.”

Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink: “The players have experienced a very bad half year. They have to lift it up and that’s what we have talked about in the locker room. Everyone is convinced we couldn’t go on on the same path and we have shown that in the last three games.”

Prediction

Cabaye is a massively important player for Palace, for whom the Frenchman is the best ball-winner and passer at the club. For basically the first time all season, Diego Costa is coming off a good performance (two goals scored vs. Watford), so maybe this is the game the Blues use to get back on track and finish the season on a positive note. Then again, maybe not. Palace 1-2 Chelsea.