Chelsea close out the calendar year with the first match of the second half of the season, traveling across the city to Selhurst Park to take on a resurgent Crystal Palace. The Eagles have won just three games since the start of October, but all three of them have come in December, including a famous 3-2 win at the Etihad against Manchester City last weekend.
With teams around us dropping points left and right, Chelsea must not waste this opportunity to close the gap to those ahead of us and increase the gap to Arsenal in fifth (currently at two points, with the game-in-hand, after Arsenal were wiped clean by Liverpool, 5-1, yesterday).
Date / Time: Sunday, December 30, 2018, 12:00 GMT; 7am EST; 5:30pm IST
Venue: Selhurst Park, London, England
Referee: Craig Pawson — the fourth match of the season for Pawson already; Chelsea have won all three so far without conceding a single goal (3-0 Southampton, 4-0 Burnley, 2-0 Fulham). Pawson has seen the Eagles beat the Blues twice before however, both time at the Bridge, in 2015-16 and 2016-17 (both 2-1 to Palace).
Crystal Palace team news: Other than perpetually injured striker Christian Benteke, and a few other small issues, Palace basically have a fully fit squad ready to administer another loss on the Blues, just like last October.
Palace are one of the lowest scoring teams in the league but have a defensive record that few outside the top four can match, so this is unlikely to be a walk in the park even as they sit just a handful points above the relegation zone.
Chelsea team news: Maurizio Sarri is down to just two healthy wingers (Hazard and Willian), so he’ll have to decide whether to put the Hazard-as-false-nine experiment on hold and play a proper striker (both Giroud and Morata should be fit), or maybe draft in Loftus-Cheek or Emerson to play on the wing opposite Willian.
Since the 18-match unbeaten run came to an end, Chelsea have struggled to find consistency. No better time than the present to start anew and build on the 2-1 win midweek at Watford.
Previously: Chelsea won the first meeting of the season 3-1, with a brace from Morata keying the Blues victory.