Who: Crystal Palace FC vs. Chelsea FC
What: English Premier League Week 32
Where: Selhurst Park, South Norwood, London, England, United Kingdom
When: Saturday, March 29, 2014
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast London
Time: 3 p.m. (UK) 11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports Network, NBC Sports Live Extra (US)
Worldwide Livestreams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Radio: SiriusXM FC SIRI 94 (Internet 94), TalkSport Radio, BBC Radio 5 Live
Referee: Lee Mason
3-Way Odds: Crystal Palace +650, Chelsea -230, Draw +350
Total: Over 2½ Even, Under 2½ -120
Decimal Odds: Crystal Palace 9.50, Chelsea 1.36, Draw 4.60
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 2.00, Under 2½ 1.83
Fractional Odds: Crystal Palace 17/2, Chelsea 4/11, Draw 18/5
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 1/1, Under 2½ 5/6
Alternate Odds: Chelsea -1 -140, Crystal Palace +1 +115
Chelsea -1½ +140, Crystal Palace +1½ -170
Over 1½ -325, Under 1½ +260
Over 3½ +250, Under 3½ -310
First Half: Chelsea -½ -275, Crystal Palace +½ +220
Over 1 -120, Under 1 -110
Chelsea Even, Crystal Palace +550, Draw +130
Odds to Win Premier League: Chelsea 9/4 (Manchester City 10/11, Liverpool 3/1, Arsenal 100/1)
Source: LVH SuperBook (Las Vegas, Nevada, USA)
3-Way Odds: Crystal Palace +821, Chelsea -228, Draw +363
Total: Over 2½ +103, Under 2½ -112
Source: Pinnacle (Willemstad, Curaçao)
Chelsea plays its fourth London derby of the month of March when it heads to Selhurst Park on Whitehorse Lane in the borough of Croydon, in South Norwood, to face Crystal Palace in what heading in looks like a pretty big mismatch.
The Blues have fared very well in their other three derbies this busy month (3-0-0), defeating town-mates Fulham (3-1), Tottenham Hotspur (4-0) and Arsenal (6-0) and outscoring them by a combined 13-1 to secure all nine possible and essential points.
Jose Mourinho’s side heads into this match as very nervous league leaders with Liverpool and Manchester City just as hot as his Little Horses right now and nipping at their royal blue heels or hooves or boots or whatever the hell "Little Horses" wear on their little feet. Hey, ask Eva or something.
But Chelsea’s biggest and really only opponents now have it a little bit tougher, with the Reds hosting sixth-place Spurs and the Sky Blues at fourth-place Arsenal this weekend, although it does seem in-form Liverpool and City probably should both win their games and keep the pressure on, or possibly overtake the first-place Blues should they slip up.
Crystal Palace (8-4-18) will begin the day in 17th place, just three points above the relegation zone and the Eagles (6-2-7 at home) and emergency manager Tony Pulis do have to worry about possibly losing their precious spot in the English Premier League if they can’t start getting some offense.
The Eagles have now gone an ugly 513 minutes without scoring a goal from open play and with striker and leading scorer (five goals) Marouane Chamakh (hamstring) still a big question mark days out from the match, Palace will definitely be hoping for the former Arsenal man to return for them to have any chance to knock Humpty Dumpty from his fabled wall.
If the talented Chamakh can’t go, expect Pulis to go with either Cameron Jerome or Glenn Murray at the striker spot but against the league’s best defense and strongest goalkeeper (Petr Cech), getting quality attempts will definitely be a struggle, let alone actually putting the ball in the net, something Palace may actually be allergic to.
Chamakh missed the Eagles' last game, a 1-0 loss against Newcastle United at St. James’ Park, but even if the 30-year-old Moroccan returns, he’s returning to a team which has no player with more than one assist, a pretty pathetic statistic with April here next week and the Premier League season dwindling down.
One bright spot for Palace has been goalkeeper Julian Speroni, but the Eagles have never really worked up much momentum this season and their present 17th spot in the Premier League table mirrors their current 17th spot on the very sad and very red and grey—for them—EPL Form Table.
And with dates against Everton (April 16), City (April 27) and Liverpool (May 3) still on tap, Palace is one club which will be extremely happy if it should somehow end up staying up in England’s top flight.
What will happen here?
Chelsea (21-6-4, 69 points) and manager Jose Mourinho will head into this fixture fairly confident they can beat the Eagles and grab the three points, but no doubt the Blues will be looking over their shoulders with Liverpool and City now scarily stalking them like Michael Myers in Halloween.
Motivated by this hopefully healthy fear, veterans Cech, John Terry, Frank Lampard (five goals), Fernando Torres (four goals) and quite possibly even The Defender Formerly Known As Ashley Cole will find a way to lead the Europa League champions to a win here against an opponent that scores like it’s scared to.
And, if those Real Househusbands of SW6 can’t get it done, those energetic and nimble Little Horses Eden Hazard (team-leading 14 goals and seven assists), Cesar Azpilicueta, Andre Schurrle (seven goals), Oscar (seven goals) and Nemanja Matic will surely save the day, right?
One octogenarian whom Chelsea will unfortunately be without against the host Eagles here is striker Samuel Eto’o (hamstring), who hurt himself early in the Blues' last game—a 6-0 drubbing of Arsenal—after earlier scoring the game’s first goal.
According to a report in the London Evening Standard, the 33-year-old Cameroonian hopes to return for Chelsea’s first leg of its UEFA Champions League quarterfinals series against Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes on April 2.
But, with or without Eto’o, Chelsea should easily roll in this game and the -230 price at the time of this writing (Tuesday) looks like an absolute steal. The Blues are an unbeaten 6-1-0 in seven meetings with Palace (18-4 goals) and have outscored their Not-So-Noisy Neighbors 17-4 in winning the last five meetings, four of which have gone over the posted total.
Despite its importance to the league leaders, this isn’t a game which should be overthought by the serious or casual handicapper. After slipping up at Aston Villa, The Special One simply won’t let his boys be in a position like that against opponents they’re "supposed to" beat heading down the season’s homestretch.
Expect someone like Gary Cahill or Branislav Ivanovic or Matic or maybe even Demba Ba to be the hero this time around on a team that can get both playmaking and scoring from almost anyone in its starting XI—except Cech, who will sadly probably never know what it’s like to actually score a goal.
When these two met earlier this season in December at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea won 2-1 as Ramires tallied the game-winner for the home side in a match where all the scoring took place in the first 35 minutes of the game.
Torres gave the Blues an early 1-0 lead before Chamakh equalized for the Eagles at the 29-minute mark.
Palace almost came away with a point and a surprising draw on late shots by Jason Puncheon, Damien Delaney and Stuart O'Keefe, but the 31-year-old Cech was up to the task and helped preserve the victory.
After this contest and the aforementioned Champions League game in France against PSG and Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Wednesday, next up on Chelsea' schedule is a date with Stoke City at Stamford Bridge in Premier League play (April 5), followed by the return leg against PSG in West London on April 8.
And if you haven’t been paying attention to Chelsea’s season up to this point, well, now would be a pretty darn good time to start, Mr. Van Winkle.
PREDICTION: Crystal Palace 0 Chelsea 3
BETS: Chelsea -230, Chelsea -1 -140, Over 2½ Even
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