By Tim Harrison
A bitter London duel takes place on the hill near Selhurst station this weekend as Chelsea cling to the top of an unforgiving Premier League.
On the face of it, a journey to Crystal Palace is well-timed as Alan Pardew’s men have struggled for form… but the Eagles’ gutsy performance at Hull suggests they’ve turned a corner.
Palace may have only beaten the Blues twice in the Premier League era, but those wins in 2014 and 2015 included a painful 1-0 result towards the end of 2013/14 that still stings.
Then, as now, Chelsea were at the top of the table. Liverpool and Manchester City were breathing down their necks, with games in hand, when Palace – under touchline jack-in-the-box Tony Pulis – won via a John Terry headed own goal after he mistimed his connection to Joel Ward’s cross.
At the end of the season, the Blues finished third; the only crumb of comfort being Demba Ba taking advantage of Steve Gerrard’s slip to scupper the Scousers’ chances of the title.
Pulis, who nearly thwarted Chelsea last weekend, went on to be named manager of the season.
West Brom were well-prepped for Sunday’s battle at the Bridge, making the superbly oiled Chelsea machine shake and rattle.
The Blues stuck to a game plan that made it nine wins on the trot (still shy of Sparta Prague’s 55-game winning run between 1919 and 1923!), but only a moment of individual brilliance by Diego Costa, whose strength and unexpected turn of pace for made the difference.
Captain Haddock pounced on a fractional hesitation by Gareth McAuley, shook off the Baggie and sent a peach of a shot curling into Ben Foster’s net.
West Brom’s tactics nearly worked. By delaying goal kicks and throw-ins, they disrupted Chelsea’s rhythm and made it hard for the Blues to build flowing moves.
Palace, backed by their baying hordes, will be just as tough.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.