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Full-time: Crystal Palace 0-1 Chelsea

Diego Costa
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  • Diego Costa heads home his 50th Chelsea goal and his 13th of the season shortly before half-time as the visitors equal a club record set back in 2009 with their 11th successive top-flight victory
  • Antonio Conte's Premier League leaders move nine points clear of title rivals Arsenal and Liverpool
  • Unstoppable Chelsea have gone on to win the title on each of the past four occasions that they have been top of the table at Christmas
  • Costa and N'Golo Kante to miss the Boxing Day clash with Bournemouth after both collect their fifth yellow cards of the season at Selhurst Park
  • Struggling Crystal Palace have now won just one of their last 11 league matches to pile more pressure on under-fire manager Alan Pardew
  • The Eagles, who have kept only one clean sheet in 22 games, remain 16th and just three points clear of the relegation zone
  • Palace have not triumphed in any of their last nine London derbies ahead of back-to-back meetings with Watford and Arsenal

That is all for this particular blog, but be sure to join IBTimes UK again from 16.00 GMT as we provide live coverage of Manchester United's teatime trip to West Brom.

Goodbye for now.

It will be an unhappy Christmas for Palace, who may stay out of the relegation zone on goal difference only if other results go against them elsewhere.

The 2016 FA Cup semi-finalists have won just one of their last 11 league matches and you wonder how long Pardew has left to try and plug the holes on this sinking ship.

The Eagles finish the calendar year with two more London derbies against Watford and Arsenal.

Another hugely satisfactory afternoon for Chelsea, who combine Costa's clinical touch with another resilient rearguard performance to seal a club-record equalling 11th consecutive top-flight victory.

Conte's in-form side now sit nine points clear of main title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal, who face tough matches against Everton and Manchester City respectively this weekend.

Next up for the Blues is the Boxing Day visit of Bournemouth, for which Costa and Kante will be suspended.

Antonio Conte
Clive Rose/Getty Images


Crystal Palace 0-1 Chelsea

Conte is still barking orders and gesticulating wildly on the touchline as we enter the final 60 seconds of added time.

You can never accuse the flamboyant Italian of lacking passion for the game, that's for sure.

Fabregas chops down Dann and is booked for his troubles. Townsend tries to test Courtois with a free-kick from 25 yards out but a truly atrocious effort ends up in the stands.

Five minutes of added time will be played at the end of this second half.

Can Palace conjure up any late magic?

Affectionate chants of "Diego" ring out from the away end as Chelsea's goal-scorer walks off slowly. £33m summer signing Michy Batshuayi is on for the final few minutes.

Fabregas looks to put the game to bed but his shot is saved by Hennessey. It would not have counted anyway after Costa is penalised for handball.

With time running out, Palace try to apply some late pressure but an initial free-kick is cleared and a flick-on by Dann falls safe before rolling out of play.

A reminder that Chelsea have conceded just two goals during their 10-match winning steak.

Pardew makes his third and final change of the afternoon. Left-back Zeki Fryers comes on for Kelly.

After Palace fail to launch a meaningful attack down the left, Fabregas sparks a counter with a fine pass to Hazard.

The Belgian looks to wreak havoc after a faint backheel from Costa but is scythed down by Delaney, who deservedly earns a yellow card.

Alonso proceeds to bend a brilliant left-footed free-kick over the wall and against the crossbar with Hennessey beaten. So unlucky.

Hennessey confidently claims a Chelsea corner and Delaney executes an impeccable sliding block to keep Costa at bay.

Damien Delaney
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Moses is given a warm reception by both sets of supporters as he makes way for Branislav Ivanovic.

An attacking change from Palace sees Cabaye replaced by another striker in Fraizer Campbell.

Townsend does now enter the fray in place of Puncheon. Palace have just under 15 minutes left to find an equaliser.

Hennessey to the rescue for Palace as he keeps the score at 1-0 with two strong saves to deny Kante and Alonso.

Conte was critical of Chelsea's inability to kill off Sunderland in midweek and Chelsea are keen to ensure that they are not left relying on any late heroics from Courtois again today.

Fine centre-forward play from Benteke, who shows great strength to hold off Cahill before his volley on the turn is driven into the turf and held by Courtois.

Andros Townsend was stripped and ready to replace Puncheon, but the latter signals to the bench that he is OK to continue.

Chelsea fashion another chance thanks to Hazard's cutback. However, Fabregas shoots tamely at Hennessey.

Moses exchanges passes with Fabregas and sends in a cross towards Costa that is headed away by Dann as far as Alonso, who shows great technique to volley into the side netting.

Puncheon looks to have hurt himself here and will require treatment.

Almost an immediate impact from Fabregas. The substitute somehow bustles his way past Delaney and Ledley, but his fizzed cross from the byline is too powerful for Alonso to turn home.

Willian tees up Moses, whose shot is blocked by a determined Dann.

Fabregas is then summoned by Conte to replace the Brazilian.

Azpilicueta again rises to meet Cabaye's free-kick. Chelsea deal with another corner and Costa eventually gets the ball clear.

Luiz does well to fend off McArthur before Moses is whistled for a rash sliding challenge on Puncheon.

Kante, who probably should have been booked in the first half, is finally cautioned for a string of fouls.

He too will miss that Boxing Day clash against Eddie Howe's Bournemouth.

Victor Moses
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Chelsea are soaking up a lot of pressure just at the moment, but holding firm. Palace need to make this period of dominance count.

Azpilicueta, tracking the front-post run from Dann, heads behind an in-swinging Cabaye free-kick awarded for Kante's foul on Puncheon.

Cahill and Alonso combine to clear the corner.

Courtois comfortably claims the corner and is left holding his shoulder after what looked like a deliberate knock from a retreating Delaney.

At the other end, Kante tries his luck with a powerful drive that is pushed away by Hennessey before being headed back to the goalkeeper by Dann.

N'Golo Kante

Victor Moses, a Palace academy graduate, gets forward down the right and sends in an enticing cross to the back post that Alonso is unable to keep in play.

The Nigerian wing-back then incurs the wrath of Azpilicueta by trying to find Courtois with an early throw that goes behind for a corner.

A fast start to the second 45 from Palace. Puncheon sends a cross behind before Cabaye seizes on a difficult header from Cahill and drills a low shot that is parried and then collected by Courtois.

Signs of intent from the beleaguered hosts.

We are off and running once again at Selhurst. No changes from either Pardew or Conte at the break.

Are Chelsea destined to go nine points clear at the top of the Premier League, or can Palace respond to that late first-half setback?

Not the greatest first half you are ever likely to see, but Chelsea won't care as they lead thanks to the only effort on target in the match so far.

Diego Costa
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Dann was helpless to prevent Costa from heading home what was a tremendous cross from Azpilicueta.


Crystal Palace 0-1 Chelsea

Benteke tries to connect with a cross from Zaha but is beaten to the punch by Cahill. He wants a free-kick, but he won't get it.

Two minutes of added time signalled at the end of this first half.


It's been a relatively low-intensity effort from Chelsea thus far, but they are still set to in at half-time in front courtesy of Costa's 13th goal of the season already.

Hazard patiently keeps possession before rolling the ball out to Azpilicueta. The Spaniard then produces an inviting cross that his international teammate heads over Hennessey and into the back of the net after rising early to beat Dann.

Diego Costa

Goal: Crystal Palace 0-1 Chelsea (Diego Costa)

Zaha looks like he has overrun the ball for Palace before being clipped by Alonso just outside the penalty area.

Puncheon steps up to whip a free-kick over the crossbar. We still await our first shot on target of what has been a scrappy contest so far.

McArthur pressures Azpilicueta into finding row z with a dreadful effort before going down the other end and rising above Luiz to head Kelly's latest cross wide.

Chelsea deal with a Palace free-kick into the box and try to launch a swift counter-attack. Hazard and Costa link-up to release Alonso, who gets behind Ward all too easily.

The Spaniard then tries to pick out Willian with a low left-footed pass that is snuffed out by Puncheon.

Cabaye, still sporting that bleached blond hair that would not have been out of place in a 90s boy band, concedes a free-kick in a dangerous area after sliding in recklessly on Alonso.

Instead of testing Wayne Hennessey with a cross into the box, Willian decides to play it short to Kante and his hopeful shot is blocked by Delaney.

That was a real waste.

Yohan Cabaye

We've reached the 30-minute mark at Selhurst Park. Still goalless.

Speaking of players with questionable temperament, Zaha is going to be spoken to by Moss and Palace captain Scott Dann now after a petty disagreement with McArthur over whether or not he should join the wall after bundling over Hazard.

What an unnecessary stoppage.

Wilfried Zaha
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Azpilicueta is incredulous not to be awarded a foul after being barged over by Puncheon while trying to shield the ball out of play for a goal kick.

Costa then looks to break forward for Chelsea but is left holding his face after a collision with McArthur.

Much has been made of Costa supposedly turning over a new leaf and going 11 matches without a yellow card.

However, he has now reverted back to his old tendencies with a silly foul on Ledley that earns him his fifth caution of the season.

He will now be suspended for the visit of Bournemouth to Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day.

Diego Costa
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The first real chance of this opening 20 minutes falls to Palace. Cabaye picks out Martin Kelly with a smart through ball and his first-time cross from the right is scuffed wide by Puncheon.

Had he made better contact, there was little Courtois would have been able to do about it.

Jason Puncheon
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David Luiz mishits the subsequent free-kick from a good position, but still earns a corner as Ward throws out a boot to turn the ball behind.

The attack ends with a Kante cross to the back post that is too high for Luiz to reach.

Costa almost pinches a Palace backpass before a succession of Chelsea crosses are dealt with.

Joel Ward then picks up the first yellow card of the afternoon for stepping across Hazard and preventing the Belgian from collecting Willian's clever pass after driving from midfield and combining with Costa.


Cynical play from Kante as he hauls down McArthur to prevent a Palace break. The referee initially waves play on before eventually pulling it back to give the French international a ticking off.

Surely that should have been a booking?

Alert defending from Cahill to head clear Ledley's cross before it can reach Christian Benteke.

The former Liverpool striker has scored five goals in his last six games.

Chelsea's turn to probe now Hazard receives possession from Willian and drifts past Yohan Cabaye with ease. He tries to play a neat-one two with Costa, but Damien Delaney makes an important block.

Delaney then concedes possession cheaply to N'Golo Kante, who tries to pick out the run of Hazard only for a sliding Cabaye to intervene at the crucial moment.

Zaha leaves Alonso with twisted blood before producing a far-post cross that is headed back across goal by James McArthur before being hacked clear by Cesar Azpilicueta.

The dependable Chelsea defender was rewarded for his trademark versatility with a new three-and-a-half year deal earlier this week.

Marcos Alonso comes forward unchallenged down the Chelsea left and lofts a dangerous ball into the path of Diego Costa.

However, the fiery striker makes his run too early and is quickly flagged for offside.

He doesn't agree.

The ball has largely been bogged down in midfield during the opening exchanges. Chelsea's stand-in skipper Gary Cahill, making his 350th Premier League appearance today, follows Courtois with a dreadful pass to no-one that goes out for a throw on the near side.

Chelsea were indebted to Thibaut Courtois for his superb stoppage-time save that denied Sunderland an unlikely point in midweek, but he's made a nervy start here with a sliced clearance that sails straight out of play.

Given his electric recent form, Palace are understandably keen to get Wilfried Zaha involved early.

Referee Jonathan Moss blows his whistle and we are finally underway in misty south London.

Chelsea, decked out all in white, will kick from right to left in this first half.

The teams emerge from the tunnel and Selhurst Park is still shrouded in a chilly fog that requires the floodlights to be switched on.

Not to sound too much like a Formula One commentator here, but visibility will be tricky this afternoon.

Crystal Palace
Dan Mullan/Getty Images

So how have these two London rivals fared against one another in the past?

Well, as per the BBC, Palace's 1-0 victory in March 2014 was their only home league win over Chelsea since 1990.

John Terry
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Chelsea have come away victorious on five of their last six trips to Selhurst, keeping four clean sheets in the process.

Not good omens for Pardew's side.


He might be vying with Swansea's American pretender Bob Bradley as the bookies' favourite to be the next top-flight gaffer to lose his job, but Pardew is still set to reach an impressive milestone today.

By taking charge of his 302nd Premier League match, he ties for 10th on the all-time list. That's level with Joe Kinnear and 17 short of ninth-place Graeme Souness.

Joe Kinnear
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Sir Alex Ferguson leads the way with 810, followed by Arsene Wenger, Harry Redknapp, David Moyes, Sam Allardyce, Steve Bruce, Mark Hughes, Martin O'Neill and Alan "I'm available" Curbishley.

Esteemed company indeed.

Most have attributed Chelsea's remarkable upturn in form to their switch to a 3-4-3 system that was finally implemented by Conte following an embarrassing 3-0 defeat at Arsenal.

Pardew, however, believes his Italian counterpart's excellent man-management skills have been the greatest influence on that recent success.

"It's a system he knows very well; he's coached that system so he's got it pretty nailed down," he said. "But they've still got world-class players. Don't think it's about this, or that. The manager's done a great job but the world-class players are at the top of their game. And the best thing he's done is not the system: he's man-managed those people to perform better.

"Hazard and Costa are a different proposition this year, and they'll be the first to admit that, Fabregas too. Coming from Serie A it's a different type of football and he's got to grips with the toughness of the Premier League, and the physicality of it. He inherited players that were used to it, and he's been helped by that. He's still done a fabulous job, the system suits them, and at the moment they look unbeatable."

It had been rumoured this week that a certain section of Palace supporters were planning to stage a walkout in the 21st minute of today's clash in order to draw attention to the 21 defeats the team has suffered this year. Such a dismal 2016 started with a 3-0 home loss to Chelsea, of course.

Pardew, though, did not seem to have any knowledge on the subject.

"I wasn't aware of that if I'm honest but my view on that is that this team is fighting for the Palace shirt and I'll make sure it fights to the last minute of every game," he said.

Alan Pardew
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Hazard is back for Chelsea, although it is Pedro rather than Willian who is withdrawn to accommodate the former PFA Player of the Year's return.

Nemanja Matic
Getty Images

Cesc Fabregas loses his starting midfield berth to Nemanja Matic, despite his winning goal on Wearside.

Kurt Zouma is again named as a substitute, although Ruben Loftus-Cheek loses his spot on the bench as a result of Hazard's comeback.

Conte opting for a more robust lineup in anticipation of a physical encounter, perhaps?

Puncheon does indeed return for Palace, with Lee Chung-yong demoted to the bench. Joe Ledley replaces the injured Flamini.

Joe Ledley
Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Jordon Mutch, who has recently been linked with a January switch to Jaap Stam's Reading, is named as a substitute alongside former Royals youngster Noor Husin. Youmg midfielder Aaron Wan-Bissaka drops out of the matchday squad altogether.

Chelsea XI: Courtois, Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill, Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso, Willian, Diego Costa, Hazard

Subs: Begovic, Ivanovic, Zouma, Chalobah, Fabregas, Pedro, Batshuayi

Crystal Palace XI: Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Kelly, Zaha, Cabaye, McArthur, Ledley, Puncheon, Benteke

Subs: Speroni, Fryers, Husin, Mutch, Lee, Townsend, Campbell

Official team news on the way....

A very welcome sight for Chelsea supporters...


Along with Terry, out-of-favour playmaker Oscar will also play no part for the visitors again today as he closes in on a lucrative £60m switch to Chinese Super League outfit Shanghai SIPG that will reportedly see him trail only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as the third-highest paid player on the planet.

Discussing that potential switch yesterday, Conte warned that the Chinese market was a danger "not only for Chelsea, but all the teams in the world".

On Oscar, he said: "I think the most important thing for us must be the passion. Okay? The passion for football. If you haven't got that, it's no good. No good. I repeat: this concept is very important. Before the money must be the passion, the passion for the sport, for football. We started to play when we were children without money, and only for the passion. Then, also, came money but the passion is more important than money, for me.


"Oscar is a really good player. A good player. For me, I was very proud to have him in my squad and have him as my player. I'm proud of his attitude, his commitment and his behaviour, which have been fantastic. I have great respect for every decision made by a single player.

"If you ask me, 'are you sorry?', then yes, I am sorry. I am sorry because he's leaving as a really good player and a really good man. I must be honest about this. But, also, I understand him and his decision."

Palace's considerable list of absentees was one of the main themes of Pardew's presser, with the under-pressure boss admitting that injuries are putting a "strain" on his struggling squad.

First-choice goalkeeper Steve Mandanda is still sidelined with a knee injury, while James Tomkins is targeting mid-January to make his return from a groin strain. Winger Bakary Sako is also missing alongside strike pair Loic Remy and Jonathan Benteke, while Connor Wickham has sadly been lost for the rest of the season due to cruciate ligament damage.

Jason Puncheon
Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Mathieu Flamini predictably sustained his own groin issue after surprisingly being handed his first start for the club during a controversial 2-1 defeat to Manchester United in midweek. It remains to be seen when or indeed if left-back Pape Souare will be able to play again after he broke his thigh bone and jaw in a serious car crash back in September.

One piece of good news for the hosts concerns Jason Puncheon, who is available again today after serving an automatic one-match suspension for accumulating his fifth yellow card of the season during a crazy 3-3 draw at Hull City.

Chelsea remain without captain John Terry indefinitely due to a buttock injury, although Eden Hazard has returned to training after missing Wednesday's 1-0 win over Sunderland with a knee problem suffered against West Brom last weekend.

However, speaking at his pre-match press conference, Conte declined to reveal if the influential Belgian, who was replaced by Willian at the Stadium of Light, would make an instant return to his starting XI amid a typically busy December fixture list. After three games in less than a week, the Blues face Bournemouth on Boxing Day before closing out the year at home to Stoke City.

"Yeah, I think he's fit," said Conte. "Then I have to see if I decide to put him in the starting eleven. But he's fit. Today he trained with us. For sure, not only for him but also the other players, I have this night, also, to decide.

Eden Hazard
Clive Rose/Getty Images

"It's not easy to play three games in six days. We played against Sunderland on Wednesday, and came back at 4am here. Only one day to prepare the game, and play a match at 12.30pm. For this reason, it's important to see every single detail and then to take the best decision for tomorrow.

"But the situation is normal because, before with Eden, we played a lot of games and played very well. Then it happens that a player can have an injury. I hope when there is this kind of situation, the substitute plays very well.

"But I need all my players in every game. It's important to have the possibility to choose, above all when we are in an emergency. Until now we've been lucky because we haven't had a lot of injuries."

"At the moment they look unbeatable"

Alan Pardew has been effusive in his praise of Antonio Conte's transformation of Chelsea this week as Crystal Palace welcome the in-form Premier League leaders to a foggy Selhurst Park attempting to stop them from matching a club record of 11 consecutive top-flight wins that would open up a nine-point gap at the summit before title rivals Arsenal travel to Manchester City tomorrow and Liverpool contest the 227th Merseyside derby on Monday evening.

Antonio Conte

Such a formidable run surely has to end at some stage, but many will doubt that Palace are a team capable of stepping up and stopping them in their tracks. FA Cup final aside, the Eagles have endured a pretty wretched 2016 and Pardew has come under real pressure with his side only three points clear of the relegation zone having won only one of their last 10 league matches.

Will this London derby be all one-way traffic, or are the hosts capable of throwing a spanner in the works? Stay with IBTimes UK to find out.