Chelsea faces Crystal Palace in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Sunday. The Blues come off a UEFA Champions League elimination at the hands of Real Madrid despite winning in Spain. They are looking to make a second consecutive FA Cup final under Thomas Tuchel. Palace have reached this stage for the first time since 2016 when they were beaten at the final hurdle by Man Utd.
The Blues have lost just four times in 52 matches all season. They were 14 matches unbeaten with 12 wins going into the March FIFA break. A poor 4-1 home loss to Brentford ended the undefeated streak before a poor 3-1 home first-leg defeat to Real Madrid.
Chelsea bounced back very well from that mini-blip by thrashing an unfocused, low-intensity Southampton 6-0 away with Timo Werner and Mason Mount getting braces. In their last match, they went to the Santiago Bernabeu and won 3-2 but were eliminated having led 3-0 after 78 minutes. The side have won eight consecutive away matches, a new club record.
Chelsea Team News
Tuchel is without Callum Hudson-Odoi on the wing due to injury whilst Ben Chilwell remains absent after his serious knee injury. Romelu Lukaku is doubtful with an Achilles problem so the frontline could remain the same with Timo Werner and Kai Havertz supported by Mason Mount.
Cesar Azpilicueta could return to the starting XI with Ruben Loftus-Cheek, a hybrid wingback-cum-midfielder in the last two matches, most likely to drop out. In goal, Kepa Arrizabalaga is the usual cup goalkeeper and is expected to get the nod with Edouard Mendy earning a breather.
The Blues have won recovery days since winning at the Bernabeu where the match went to extra time. That would have been a blow to morale and a cause for fatigue too.
Expect Tuchel’s side to look to control this match but be wary of Palace’s counter-attacking threat in wide areas.
Crystal Palace Form
Since a defeat to Chelsea in the league in February, Palace went seven matches unbeaten with some superb displays. The four best results in that run included a 0-0 home draw against Man City, a 4-1 win at Watford, a 4-0 FA Cup quarter-final thrashing of Everton, and a highly deserved and impressive 3-0 home win against Arsenal.
Their last match saw a complacent display (with one eye on this semi-final) and a 2-1 loss at a heavily-rotated Leicester team. Wilfried Zaha pulled a goal back at 2-0 down but Conor Gallagher was subbed off early after an indifferent display whilst Tyrick Mitchell couldn’t finish the match due to injury.
Crystal Palace Team News
Palace will be without key central midfielder Conor Gallagher due to being ineligible against his parent club. That is a massive blow as he leads the pressing and has eight goals this season. Will Hughes is doubtful as a possible replacement and skillful winger Michael Olise is also a major doubt. He played as a number ten against Chelsea earlier this season and could have replaced Gallagher.
Another doubt is over England international left-back Tyrick Mitchell who went off with a calf injury in the last match. Jeffrey Schlupp or more likely Joel Ward may have to deputise at fullback.
Crystal Palace Motivation
Palace are capable of sitting quite deep in a mid-block and defending in numbers, as they in the 0-0 draw against Man City. They can also press high and take the match to opponents as they did in beating Arsenal 3-0 at home recently.
The loss of Gallagher affects the team’s pressing so they may sit deeper and largely look to play on the break-through Wilf Zaha.
Chelsea have won 8 away matches in a row (all comps)
Chelsea have conceded 9 goals in their last 4 matches
The Blues have won 9 consecutive away London derbies
Palace have lost 9 matches in a row against Chelsea (23-5 aggregate to CFC)
Crystal Palace have lost just once in their last 8 matches (WDWWDWWL)
Palace have kept 4 clean sheets in their last 5 matches
Chelsea will want to respond to their UEFA Champions League exit. Palace will be hugely up for this match and will have a full go at the Blues, even with a large counter-attacking approach. The loss of Gallagher feels like a key element while Chelsea’s front three have found their scoring boots again.
Best Bet: Both teams to score at 1.86
Value Bet: Chelsea to win and both to score at 3.70
Multiple Leg: Chelsea/Draw double chance + over 2.5 goals at 2.30
Correct Score Tip: Chelsea 2-1 Crystal Palace at 8.00
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