17 min: Rudiger plays a neat ball over the top for Morata. He flicks it towards Wayne Hennessey … but the linesman’s flag is already up. The Palace goalkeeper thumps the ball back downfield. Chelsea are still finding their feet.
15 min: Zaha is a magnet for Palace. The forward drives forward before being hauled down by Ross Barkley, one of four Chelsea shirts in close proximity. The resulting free-kick is underwhelming, but the hosts are not having it all their own way.
14 min: Van Aanholt plays a neat give-and-go with Zaha as Palace counter, but the left-back, bombing down the left wing, fails to spot the unmarked Townsend breaking his neck down the opposite flank. Palace are deadly on the break.
13 min: Dann’s crossfield ball is hopeful, and Chelsea re-build down the right flank. Palace have looked dangerous with the ball in the opposition half, with both Zaha and Townsend keeping the Chelsea defence on tenterhooks.
12 min: Willian dances his way past a couple of Palace shirts as he navigates into the box, but Alonso cannot latch on to his neat pass. That was a silky little run by Willian but Palace win it back and Townsend earns a free-kick 40 yards from goal.
10 min: David Luiz hoofs the ball straight out of play for a Palace goal-kick in search of the marauding Cesar Azpilicueta. A Sarri shake of the head. Palace look to calm things down, but it just keeps coming straight back at them.
7 min: A couple of minutes of panic for Palace, with Barkley’s low ball troubling the back line. Scott Dann and co went missing for a moment. Townsend hurries down the right to alleviate pressure.
5 min: Barkley gifts the ball to Townsend after a poor pass in search of Jorginho. The Palace forward does well to hold the ball up with scarce support, before eventually laying the ball on for Wilfried Zaha. Chelsea back off as he drifts inside but the attack fizzles out. Palace have made a decent start, prompting a healthy rendition of Glad All Over from the away supporters.
4 min: Jorginho’s not had a brilliant opening few minutes. He has just been penalised for handball on halfway, after scooping the ball away from Townsend. Chelsea easily clear the free-kick downfield.
2 min: Willian pries down the left, beating Aaron Wan-Bissaka to the byline. The Brazil winger drills in a low, where Pedro is lurking, having beaten James Tomkins to the ball but he cannot make any firm contact on the ball. Now Palace look to counter themselves, with Wilfried Zaha winning an early corner.
1 min: Meyer turns over possession on halfway. He has a spring in his step. After laying the ball back for Scott Dann, he shuffles upfield and easily shifts past Jorginho just outside the box before Marcos Alonso takes the sting out of his low cross. Palace have seemingly settled quickly, with Meyer influential early on.
The teams are out of the tunnel at Stamford Bridge. We are just a few pre-match formalities away from the off, plus a minute’s silence to mark Remembrance Day as well as the five people who died in last weekend’s helicopter crash in Leicester.
Roy Hodgson talks. “Max Meyer has been in such good form really, coming on to the field from the bench and each time he has made a bit of a difference for us,” the Crystal Palace manager says. “The job up front, Wilf and Andros understand it very well, so it has been harder and harder to leave Max out of the team, so I decided to rejig things a little bit. It’s very good to have two centre-forwards of Ayew and Sorloth’s class on the bench. Football is becoming much more of a 14-man game than it was. There is so much pace, intensity in the game these days.”
Of Meyer, the injured Crystal Palace defender Joel Ward says the German forward “has a little bit of the devil in him”. He said: “Going forward, he has got that eye for the pass and he offers us something slightly different.”
Maurizio Sarri speaks. “I spoke with the doctor yesterday and he said to me that Hazard is doing better and better, but probably he is not ready play for 90 minutes,” he says. “We decided altogether for the bench, I think that it is very important for us to have him on the bench for the last 30-35 minutes, if necessary of course.” Asked if he would only call upon the Belgium international if required, Sarri replied: “At the moment, yes. At the moment, yes.” Of the match itself, he said: “I think it will be a very dangerous match for us, because they have a lot of players very fast. They are very dangerous on counterattacks. We need to keep the right positions in the offensive phase, not to give them too much space.”
There is another start for Ross Barkley, the midfielder transformed under Maurizio Sarri. After scoring in each of his last three appearances, Barkley has been undroppable of late, though was rested for the Carabao Cup win over Derby County in midweek. Roy Hodgson, the Crystal Palace manager who handed Barkley his maiden England cap five years ago, admits the former Everton midfielder has unlocked some of his undoubted potential:
Ross is showing everything we thought he could and should be. He was unlucky with his injury, which set him back when he got to Chelsea, but he has done exceptionally well to battle through that. He certainly looks a lot fitter than the last time he was working with England. When he came to us [in 2016], he did realise he wasn’t as fit as he should be and, to get a place in that 2016 squad, he really worked unbelievably hard to get his weight down and his body back into the right shape. He hadn’t been playing a lot of regular football at that time. But Barkley was one of many talents that came into the England team a few years ago and a player who, if he can get a run of games and keep himself fit, has everything you are looking for in a midfield player. I’m very pleased for him.
Headline team news: Eden Hazard, as expected, is on the substitutes bench for Chelsea, while Crystal Palace’s own playmaker, Max Meyer, is handed only his second league start. Wilfried Zaha, James McArthur and Cheikh Kouyate all shake off minor knocks to start at Stamford Bridge. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, the midfielder who shone on loan at Palace last season, starts on the bench for Maurizio Sarri’s unbeaten side:
Chelsea: Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, David Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Pedro, Morata, Willian
Subs: Caballero, Cahill, Zappacosta, Fabregas, Loftus-Cheek, Kovacic, Hazard
Crystal Palace: Hennessey; Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, Van Aanholt; Milivojevic; Meyer, McArthur, Kouyate, Townsend; Zaha
Subs: Guaita, Kelly, Schlupp, Riedewald, Puncheon, Sorloth, Ayew
Referee: Michael Oliver
Unbeaten, in imperious form and boisterous mood, Chelsea are a force to be reckoned with. Maurizio Sarri’s side are plainly enjoying themselves, none more so than Eden Hazard, who is expected to feature after recovering from a back injury, though Ross Barkley’s emergence from the Stamford Bridge shadows means there is no need for the Belgium forward to be needlessly thrown in from the off. For Crystal Palace, the good news is they have their own injury boost, with Wilfried Zaha fit again after a shoulder problem. Without Zaha, Palace are predictable and bereft of any sting in attack. Palace are without a win in their past five games, and unsurprisingly Roy Hodgson has been loth to play down the challenge. “We can’t disguise the enormity of the task,” he said. “We can’t make out it will be easier than it is going to be.”
Kick-off: 4pm (GMT)