Crystal Palace-Chelsea Preview

National Sports

Thomas Tuchel believes Romelu Lukaku is a “perfect” fit at Chelsea but is surprised his signing has prompted talk of the European champions being title favourites.

Only champions Manchester City (48) collected more Premier League points than Chelsea (38) following Tuchel’s appointment last season, while the Blues beat Pep Guardiola’s men in the Champions League final.

They have since added Lukaku for a club-record £97.5million, encouraging optimism Tuchel’s side could lead the way this year.

But the coach was eager to point out Chelsea only finished fourth last term.

Therefore, Tuchel suggests Chelsea have ground to make up, explaining ahead of Saturday’s game against Crystal Palace: “It surprises me. Everybody saw we came fourth. When you come fourth, you are not favourite the next season.

“We have gaps to close. We let Liverpool pass us, we have gaps to close to Manchester City. I don’t see why they should be any worse than last season.

“Man City is doing the same, improving, so are Man United. I don’t see us as the only ones trying to close the gap by bringing in players. This will not be enough.

“Bringing quality, a mentality and personality, is always welcome. I don’t feel that it increases the pressure on me. It makes life more exciting as a coach.”

Palace’s new boss, Patrick Vieira, meanwhile, stressed it will take time for his team to gel.

“It is something I always wanted to do, it will be case tomorrow, so I am really excited to manage in the Premier League,” Vieira said.

“Of course the players need time and as a manager to put my ideas in place it may take longer but we are ambitious and want to compete.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Chelsea – Christian Pulisic

Christian Pulisic has scored more Premier League goals against Palace than he has vs any other opponent in the competition, with his four goals in four games against the Eagles accounting for 31 per cent of his total of 13 goals in the division.

Crystal Palace – Christian Benteke

Christian Benteke scored in his last four league appearances in the 2020-21 season – he has never scored in five consecutive Premier League games before. The Belgian striker has netted seven Premier League goals against Chelsea, against no side has he scored more in the competition.

KEY OPTA FACTS

·Chelsea have won 16 of their last 20 Premier League meetings with Crystal Palace (L4), including each of the last seven in a row.

·After winning back-to-back away league games against Chelsea in 2015-16 and 2016-17, Palace have lost their last four visits to Stamford Bridge by an aggregate score of 11-2.

·Chelsea have lost their opening match in two of the last four Premier League seasons (W2), as many as they had in the previous 23 campaigns (W16 D5 L2).

·None of the last 19 Champions League winners have lost their first league game the following season, with Bayern Munich the last European champion to do so in 2001-02. On the previous occasion Chelsea were the reigning European champions, they began their league campaign with seven wins from eight games (D1).

·As a player, Palace managerVieira never ended on the losing side against Chelsea in the Premier League, winning six and drawing four of his 10 games against the Blues. It’s the most a player has ever faced Chelsea in the competition without suffering defeat.

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