Chelsea are aiming for a seventh successive away victory in all competitions, which would be a new club record for the top flight.
A seventh consecutive win would equal the Blues’ longest overall sequence of away success set from 4 February to 8 April 1989, when Bobby Campbell’s team burst out of Division Two in record-breaking fashion with 99 points.
A return to the winning habit across town on Saturday would be welcome after the 0-1 reverse to Manchester City a fortnight ago at the Bridge. Disappointment at that set-back is tempered by the knowledge that at the same stage last season (following the loss at Arsenal), the future champions had a near-identical record of won four, drawn one, lost two, and 12 goals scored. The only anomaly is that the Blues have so far conceded three goals fewer in defence of the title.
Along the way, we have won the first three away matches in the league for the first time since 2009/10 under another Italian, Carlo Ancelotti, and that season turned out rather well.
While this is Chelsea’s third all-capital city clash of the campaign, it is the Eagles’ first. Palace lost three out of four altercations with their neighbours at home last season. The Blues won two of our four away games in 2016/17 (including against the Eagles) and lost two.
Our hosts this weekend are in a difficult phase. No team in the history of the top tier of English football had ever lost the first seven without scoring a goal. They are also only the fifth team to endure seven winless games from the start of the campaign, and the first since Portsmouth in 2009/10.
The others were Manchester United (who lost 12 on the spin in 1930/31, including a 6-2 thrashing by Chelsea), Bolton Wanderers (10 in 1902/03), and Liverpool (eight in 1899/1900).
History suggests a bad prognosis for Palace. Three of the previous four in their predicament were relegated, Liverpool being the exception. Pompey’s fate was sealed when a nine-point deduction was imposed after they slipped into financial administration.
However, new Palace boss Roy Hodgson has twice previously delivered salvation to teams in the depths of despair. The Fulham side he took over in December 2007 were on a seven-game losing streak but after an inauspicious start they managed four wins in five to stay up. In spring 2011, West Bromwich Albion rose from 17th to 11th under his tutelage.
After this weekend, the Glaziers will have played three of the top four sides, but the window of opportunity to beat the trio of clubs immediately above them does not present itself until December. ‘We’re very wounded at the moment,’ Hodgson lamented after a 0-4 loss at Old Trafford. ‘We’re like a boxer: we’re being knocked down by superior fighters.’
Chelsea have had mixed fortunes in the ring with the 70-year-old former England manager over the years. There were seven wins, two draws, and four defeats against his highly-drilled Blackburn, Fulham, Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion teams between October 1997 and March 2012. Palace are the fifth side he has pitted against the west Londoners.
The intensity of the autumn calendar for the Premier League’s international players has been thrust into the spotlight by a slew of injuries sustained or reported during the World Cup qualifiers.
The most concerning for Chelsea fans was the problem suffered by N’Golo Kante. The Bulgaria-France match during which he was substituted was Kante’s ninth outing in 38 days for club and country, and that is with Chelsea handing the vital midfielder time off when possible.
Last season’s Footballer of the Year was far from alone in succumbing. Other Premier League victims over the international break include Fabian Delph of Manchester City, Marouane Fellaini of their city rivals Man United, Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Dejan Lovren, Shkodran Mustafi from Arsenal, Josh King - Bournemouth, Shane Long - Southampton, Wilfred Ndidi - Leicester, Nacer Chadli - West Brom, Matt Ritchie - Newcastle and Davy Propper and Ryan Fraser - Brighton.
Chelsea Ladies’ reward for inflicting more home discomfort on Bayern Munich in midweek will become clear in the Women’s Champions League Round of 16 draw in Nyon from 12.30pm on Monday. Under the rules, Emma Hayes’ side cannot be paired with WSL rivals Manchester City, and they will be placed in the pot for unseeded clubs.
The best that can happen this weekend...
Nothing does it like seven-up!
Premier League fixtures
Liverpool v Manchester United 12.30pm - Sky Sports
Burnley v West Ham 3pm
Crystal Palace v Chelsea 3pm
Manchester City v Stoke 3pm
Swansea v Huddersfield 3pm
Tottenham v Bournemouth 3pm
Watford v Arsenal 5.30pm - BT Sport
Brighton v Everton 1.30pm
Southampton v Newcastle 4pm - Sky Sports
Leicester v West Brom 8pm - Sky Sports
Visit again later for more of the Briefing.
Crystal Palace have asked fans attending Saturday’s game to:
• Arrive early. Turnstiles open at 1.30pm with a fanzone open outside from 11am
• Bring no bags where possible
• Expect a 100 per cent search regime
• Note that no hot food is allowed through turnstiles
• Plastic bottles with non-alcoholic drinks up to 500ml will be allowed providing they have an unbroken seal