Hodgson braced for Chelsea backlash
- Roy Hodgson refuses to believe that Chelsea's current calamities have made them extra vulnerable to an upset at home to his Crystal Palace side.
- Antonio Conte's Premier League champions lost 2-1 to the Eagles in October and have the chance of revenge at Stamford Bridge in Saturday's evening kick-off.
- Palace have lost four of their last six games and won just twice in 2018.
Roy Hodgson refuses to believe that Chelsea’s current calamities have made them extra vulnerable to an upset at home to his Crystal Palace side.
Antonio Conte’s Premier League champions lost 2-1 to the Eagles in October and have the chance of revenge at Stamford Bridge in Saturday’s evening kick-off.
The Blues will kick off with the aim of putting a turbulent few days behind them that have put Conte’s future under the microscope once more.
The Italian was roundly criticised for his timid tactics at Manchester City last week, which saw his side lose by the only goal of the game but never really look like conjuring up an equaliser.
Chelsea are in danger of going four games without victory having won just four of their last 15 fixtures in all competitions.
That has left them out of the Champions League qualification places in fifth place — and they will remain there whatever happens on Saturday.
Hodgson saw his Palace side beaten 3-2 at home by Manchester United on Monday and conceded the third in stoppage-time to remain in the bottom three.
And he refuted any suggestion that it was a good time to be coming up against the fallen champions.
“No, normally when you come up against a team who are not having the best of times, that can be very dangerous,” he said.
“Chelsea are the champions of England. They’ll be champions of England until a new champion is crowned. They have fantastic players, are a brilliantly run and powerful club, and have a very good manager and coaching staff.
“There aren’t too many positives I can take playing Chelsea away. All you can hope for is we can in somehow reproduce the performances we have put in in the last two games.”
Palace have lost four of their last six games and won just twice in 2018.
However, Hodgson has been boosted by a quicker-than-anticipated return to training of Wilfried Zaha.
Zaha scored the winner in the game at Selhurst Park but had been expected miss the remainder of the campaign because of a knee injury.
But the 25-year-old, sidelined since February 4, is likely to be in the squad that travels to Stamford Bridge.
“It is a remarkable recovery and we have to be very careful,” Hodgson said.
“But we’re very happy to see him back as quickly as it’s happened, and that’s credit to him and the medical staff here. The initial prognosis was end of season, rather than six weeks.
“It would be unrealistic for him to start the game. But if he’s physically fit medically and mechanically, there’s no reason he couldn’t be involved.”
Conte has been linked with a summer switch to Paris Saint-Germain amid speculation that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has lost patience with the Italian but Gianfranco Zola was convinced his fellow countryman’s reputation had not been tarnished.
“This season perhaps hasn’t been quite as good as last season but the team is still doing well,” he said.
“Compared to last season, yes, of course it’s not as good, because Chelsea dominated the league so much. The Premier League is such a difficult competition, so it is uncommon to see a team dominate for two or three years in a row.”
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