March comes to an end with a first competitive visit to London SE25 for nearly a decade. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton turn their attention south…
It gets tighter and tighter at the top and Chelsea have a chance this weekend to set down a marker in the title run-in when we kick off before Manchester City and Liverpool. Attention switches focus across town later on Saturday as City travel to Arsenal. Liverpool host unpredictable Spurs on Sunday. But before that Chelsea return to a happy hunting ground in south London where three points are a must.
At Crystal Palace they can muster a lusty din at their 26,000-capacity stadium, especially in a local derby against a club whose hopes they can dash. Less impressive is their pre-match eagle. Unlike its counterpart at Benfica, which majestically soars around the Stadium of Light to oohs and aahs, Kayla the bald eagle flies a more prosaic A to B for the inducement of raw meat.
Cheerleaders and relentless drummers among the self-styled Ultras of the Holmesdale Road end add to the spiritual invocation of the age of Malcolm Allison, of fur coat, Fedora and three fingers infamy (he held them up to Chelsea fans to indicate goals at a cup tie).
Amid a blaze of publicity, Palace’s telegenic 1970s manager once hired a celebrity psychic called Romark to lift the legendary ‘gypsy curse’ on Selhurst Park. Job done, the pair fell out over remuneration and Romark promptly applied a hex of his own. Sure enough, within a few years they were cursed with having to ground-share with Charlton, then Wimbledon.
This is Chelsea’s last London derby of the season and the goal difference from the previous nine has been +18. The Glaziers have suffered plenty of capital punishment at Selhurst: 0-2 to Arsenal, 0-1 Tottenham and, most alarmingly, 1-4 Fulham. Their only points return was at home to West Ham.
Chelsea’s demolition derby last weekend indicated once again that since their move from Highbury to Emirates Arsenal lack the marble halls to bring home the league title. Off the back of the second 45 against Spurs, Stamford Bridge had witnessed eight goals in two halves against our biggest capital rivals. The opening four against the Gunners came after four straight half-time blanks in the top flight.
The 6-0 exploding of Arsenal was the biggest victory at the Bridge since the 8-0 against Aston Villa and the 13th time we have scored half a dozen or more in a Premier League game.
However, the media have been far happier dwelling on the frailties of Arsenal than Chelsea’s qualities. Thomas Rosicky even suggested the first two strikes, wonderful finishes from Samuel Eto’o and Andre Schurrle, were ‘almost like own goals.’
Much of the other analysis has suggested the Blues had little real impact on the outcome – as incidental as the time of day or a change in the weather. That is how Jose will like it, of course: the little horse that is quietly becoming a force of nature.
‘Tornado Approaching’ was how L’Équipe chose to report Chelsea’s hammering of France’s favourite English side, and the impact in the banlieues of Paris ahead of Tuesday will have been considerable.
Paris Saint-Germain, meanwhile, were sneaking a 1-0 win at Lorient, in the first weekend of action since the pairing of the league leaders in France and England in the Champions League quarter-finals.
The Ligue de Football Professionnel offer fantastic support to their member clubs, regularly scheduling Ligue 1 matches involving Champions League participants to allow longer recovery and preparation for the midweek games.
PSG’s next two will take place on Friday evenings at 7.30pm, giving the French league leaders a clearer run than the Blues. This extra day could be more crucial in the second leg in London, which comes on Tuesday 8 April – just 72 hours after the close of Stoke’s visit to the Bridge.
The Parisiens’ key man Thiago Silva fractured a cheek bone in match at Lorient, but this is not expected to affect his participation in our meeting, the club’s official website reported.
The race for the Premier League Golden Boot
Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 28
Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) 20
Yaya Toure (Man City) 17
Sergio Aguero (Man City) 15
Eden Hazard 14
The race for the Premier League Golden Glove
Petr Cech 14
Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal) 13
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) 12
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Manchester United v Aston Villa 12.45pm – BT Sport
Crystal Palace v Chelsea 3pm
Southampton v Newcastle 3pm
Stoke v Hull 3pm
Swansea v Norwich 3pm
West Brom v Cardiff 3pm
Arsenal v Manchester City 5.30pm – Sky Sports
Fulham v Everton 1.30pm – Sky Sports
Liverpool v Tottenham 4pm – Sky Sports
Sunderland v West Ham 8pm – Sky Sports
|Sat 29 Mar||C Palace (a)||Arsenal (a)|
|Sun 30 Mar||Tottenham (h)|
|Sat 5 Apr||Stoke (h)||Southampton (h)|
|Sun 6 Apr||West Ham (a)|
|Sun 13 Apr||Swansea (a)||Man City (h)||Liverpool (a)|
|Wed 16 Apr||Sunderland (h)|
|Sun 20 Apr||Sunderland (h)||Norwich (a)|
|Mon 21 Apr||West Brom (h)|
|Sun 27 Apr||Liverpool (a)||Chelsea (h)||C Palace (a)|
|Sat 3 May||Norwich (h)||C Palace (a)||Everton (a)|
|Wed 7 May||Aston Villa (h)|
|Sun 11 May||Cardiff (a)||Newcastle (h)||West Ham (h)|
Chelsea have the best defence in the Barclays Premier League, conceding only 23 goals in 31 games including 14 clean sheets.
Chelsea have won 12 and drawn two of the 14 games we have been ahead at half time.
We have only lost seven points from winning positions this term.
The Blues have won 17 and drawn two of the 20 league games when we have scored the opening goal.
Chelsea are nine points up compared with the corresponding 31 fixtures last season.
In 2014 we have kept 11 clean sheets and conceded just seven goals in 17 games in all competitions.
We have won 25 points from a possible 45 away from Stamford Bridge this term.
|Feb 26||Galatasaray (Champions League a)||D 1-1|
|Mar 1||Fulham (a)||W 3-1|
|Mar 8||Tottenham (h)||W 4-0|
|Mar 15||Aston Villa (a)||L 0-1|
|Mar 18||Galatasaray (Champions League h)||W 2-0|
|Mar 22||Arsenal (h)||W 6-0|
Premier League scorers (62)
Hazard 14 (4 pens), Eto’o 8, Oscar 8, Schurrle 7, Lampard 5 (1 pen), Torres 4, Ba 3, Ivanovic 3, Terry 2, Willian 2, own goals 2, Cahill 1, Mikel 1, Ramires 1, Salah 1.
League games since
An away win: 1
An away draw: 2
An away defeat: 0
|Wed 2 Apr||Paris Saint-Germain (Champions League) away||7.45pm|
|Sat 5 Apr||Stoke City home||5.30pm|
|Tue 8 Apr||Paris Saint-Germain (Champions League) home||7.45pm|
Frank Lampard’s next converted penalty will be his 50th for the Blues.
CRYSTAL PALACE STATS
None, although they did win the Zenith Data Systems Cup in 1991.
The Eagles best season was in 1990/91 under Steve Coppell when they finished third to champions Arsenal and runners-up Liverpool.
Palace are the Premier League’s lowest scorers with 19 goals. That’s a goal every two hours 22 minutes. More recently, they have scored one goal (a penalty) in the last 471 minutes.
Tony Pulis’s side have failed to score in 16 of their 30 Premier League games (seven at home).
Crystal Palace have gained two points from the 18 games in which their opponents opened the scoring.
No team have dropped fewer than Palace’s six points from winning positions this season although the Eagles have gained only two points from losing positions, which is the worst record in the Premier League.
At Selhurst Park, Palace have won 20 points from a possible 45. They have won six at home against Sunderland, West Ham, Cardiff, Stoke, Hull and West Brom, two draws with Everton and Norwich and seven defeats against Tottenham, Swansea, Fulham, Arsenal, Newcastle, Man Utd and Southampton.
Manager Tony Pulis
Days in charge: 125
|Feb 8||West Brom (h)||W 3-1|
|Feb 22||Man Utd (h)||L 0-2|
|Mar 2||Swansea (a)||D 1-1|
|Mar 8||Southampton (h)||L 0-1|
|Mar 15||Sunderland (a)||D 0-0|
|Mar 22||Newcastle (a)||L 0-1|
Premier League scorers (19)
Chamakh 5, Gayle 3 (1 pen), Puncheon 3, Bannan 1, Gabbidon 1, Ince 1, Jerome 1, Ledley 1, Mariappa 1, Murray 1 (pen), O’Keefe 1.
League games since
A home win: 2
A home draw: 5
A home defeat: 0
Palace’s major completed January transfers and spring loans
Ins Wayne Hennessey (Wolves, £3m), Jason Puncheon (Southampton, undisclosed), Scott Dann (Blackburn Rovers, undisclosed), Joe Ledley (Celtic, undisclosed), Thomas Ince (Blackpool, loan), Cameron Jerome (Stoke, loan).
Outs Kevin Phillips (Leicester City, free), Jimmy Kebe (Leeds United, loan), Jose Campana (Nuremburg, loan), Stephen Dobbie (Blackpool, loan), Owen Garvan (Millwall, loan), Kwesi Appiah (AFC Wimbledon, loan).
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
The referee is Lee Mason. His only other Chelsea game this term was our defeat at Newcastle in November. He was also in charge of Chelsea’s highest score under Jose Mourinho prior to Arsenal last weekend, the 6-1 FA Cup thrashing of Macclesfield in 2007.
Ramires (second of three) is suspended.
David Luiz has eight domestic yellow cards and is two bookings away from a two-match suspension.
Visit again tomorrow for Part Two of the Briefing.