Premier League | Stamford Bridge | Sat 14 Dec | 3pm
The Special One vs The Special Cap.
Forget the Mourinho effect, it’s all about the Pulis effect. The former Stoke manager, often derided for his pragmatic approach to tactics (e.g. kick it long and kick the opposition), has transformed the fortunes of Crystal Palace.
- Chelsea 1-0 Steaua (CL)
- Stoke 3-2 Chelsea (Prem)
- S'land 3-4 Chelsea (Prem)
- Chelsea 3-1 So'ton (Prem)
- Basel 1-0 Chelsea (CL)
- Palace 2-0 Cardiff (Prem)
- Palace 1-0 West Ham (Prem)
- Norwich 1-0 Palace (Prem)
- Hull 0-1 Palace (Prem)
- Palace 0-0 Everton (Prem)
After losing his first game in charge against Norwich, the Welshman has guided his side to back-to-back Premier League wins over West Ham and Cardiff, keeping two clean sheets in the process. The Eagles are now second from bottom, level on points with the Hammers in 17th and, if results go their way this weekend, they could jump up to 15th.
Pulis’ direct approach may not be easy on the eye, but it’s getting the best out of the Premier League’s most unfashionable strike force, Cameron Jermone and Marouane Chamakh. The former couldn’t get a game under Pulis at Stoke and the latter couldn’t hit a barn door for either Arsenal or West Ham, but now they’re both thriving.
With the rest of the team organised, disciplined and working hard, the front two are bullying back fours and scoring goals.
Over in west London it would be foolish to say Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea has been a disaster, but it hasn’t quite stirred things like everyone expected.
The Portuguese manager would argue his side are second in the Premier League and through to the knockout stages of the Champions League, but there has been an inconsistency holding his team back.
Even he has publicly criticised his misfiring strikers and leaky defence. Chelsea’s form has dipped since October, and their last nine games have produced five wins, three losses and a draw.
A superb late winner from Oussama Assaidi on Saturday saw the Blues lose 3-2 against Pulis’ former club Stoke. Three goals shipped against the Potters made it six in their last two away games.
After defeat at the Britannia, Mourinho poked fun at his side’s defensive frailty, suggesting that even the training ground dummies could score from set-pieces in training. If that’s the case they could be in trouble on Saturday when they come up against dead-ball-loving Pulis and his two in-form dummies.
Chelsea’s Brazilian playmaker Oscar will undergo a late fitness test to see if he’s ready in time for Saturday’s clash at Stamford Bridge.
Palace’s medical team will assess the fitness of Dean Moxey, Jerome Thomas, Adlene Guedioura and Jack Hunt before the trip to west London.
Key battle: John Terry vs Marouane Chamakh
A battle of two men rejuvenated by their managers. John Terry, winner of 12 major honours, only made 14 Premier League appearances last season after suffering with injury problems and a loss of form. His time at Chelsea looked to be up, but under Mourinho the 33-year-old is enjoying a new lease of life.
He scored on his 400th top-flight appearance and is playing with the same machismo and confidence he did during his pomp. Against Southampton, the former England skipper made 9 clearances (more than any of his team-mates), won 4 aerial duels (the third-best record on the day), and seized on 4 loose balls.
Chamakh’s brief will be simple - win headers in both penalty areas and hold the ball up to give the defence a reprieve. In the last few games he’s shown he can do more than just that by scoring two in two and taking creative responsibility in the attacking third.
During Palace’s 2-0 win over Cardiff, the Moroccan was the Eagles’ top passer, completing 35 out of 42. Of those exchanges, 18 came in the final third – the most on the day. He created 3 goalscoring chances and netted himself, too. Defensively he made 7 ball recoveries, with Palace enforcer Mile Jedinak the only player to better this total. If Chamakh is up for a fight, the south Londoners have a chance of nicking a result.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Chelsea 4-1 Palace (Prem, Mar 05)
- Palace 0-2 Chelsea (Prem, Aug 04)
- Chelsea 6-2 Palace (Prem, Mar 98)
- Palace 0-3 Chelsea (Prem, Sep 97)
- Chelsea 0-0 Palace (Prem, Mar 95)
They have more in common than meets the eye. Fashion sense is the trait you would least expect the Portuguese silver fox to share with the baseball-cap wearing Welshman, but since returning to west London, Mourinho has favoured comfort over style. After causing a wobbly knee epidemic with sharp dress sense during his first spell, Mourinho has ditched the dapper Armani coat for a club puffa jacket and tracksuit. Pulis will look across the touchline admiringly.
Both managers are willing to do whatever it takes to win games, whether that’s using archaic tactics or benching World Cup winners. Style both on and off the pitch is not important, it’s winning the three points that counts. Saturday will be no different.
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- Chelsea have gained more points from losing positions than any other team in the Premier League this season (11).
- Crystal Palace have averaged just 0.93 points per game in Premier League London derbies - only Fulham (0.91) have a lower return against clubs from the capital.
Both sides have not scored in Palace's last seven matches.
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Palace are on a fine run, but expect that to end on Saturday at Stamford Bridge. After losing to Stoke, Chelsea need to bounce back. The Blues to win 3-0.