Chelsea vs Crystal Palace
Venue: Stamford Bridge
Kick off: 6:30PM
Antonio Conte believes Chelsea cannot afford to drop any more points in their pursuit of a top-four Premier League finish, starting against Crystal Palace this evening.
The Blues have suffered back-to-back league defeats and trail fourth-placed Tottenham by five points and seventh-placed Liverpool with nine matches remaining.
Chelsea lost the reverse fixture at Selhurst Park in October and Conte admits his side’s results must improve if they are to stay in the hunt for Champions League qualification.
“The teams ahead of us are going with great velocity,” Conte said. “For this reason I think it’s important for us don’t lose points, don’t drop points, in every game. We must go [with] speed. We have to go.”
Conte must decide whether to play Alvaro Morata or Olivier Giroud up front, or to continue with Eden Hazard as a false nine in tactics which were criticised during their loss at Manchester City on Sunday.
“Sometimes the critics are constructive, sometimes [they] are rubbish,” Conte added. “I think that we must have respect for the job of the other. At the end pundits are pundits. Managers are managers.”
Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante has trained all week and could feature, having fainted at the Blues’ training ground ahead of their loss to Manchester City last weekend.
Defenders David Luiz (ankle) and Ethan Ampadu (hamstring) and midfielder Ross Barkley (hamstring) are out, but midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko is available again.
Palace will hand late fitness tests to Wilfried Zaha (knee ligaments) and Mamadou Sakho (calf), while Roy Hodgson also has the on-loan Timothy Fosu-Mensah available again following his ineligibility against parent club Manchester United.
Willian has had a hand in 16 goals in his last 17 starts for Chelsea in all competitions (11 goals, 5 assists).
Chelsea possible XI: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill, Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso, Willian, Hazard, Giroud.
Crystal Palace possible XI: Hennessey, Bissaka, Kelly, Tomkins, Van Aanholt, McArthur, Milivojevic, Townsend, Soerloth, Schlupp, Benteke.