Jose Mourinho claims that it is Chelsea who have the toughest run-in of the three title challengers because they are the only club still involved in the Champions League.
On paper, Chelsea’s final set of fixtures is the most favorable, with just one of their opponents, Liverpool, currently in the top nine in the league. In contrast, Manchester City have to take on high-flying Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton, while Liverpool not only face City and Chelsea but also have to get past Tottenham. Yet, Mourinho, who has continued to publicly play down his side’s title chances throughout the campaign, disputes that Chelsea have it easier.
“Ours is the most difficult because we play Champions League and they don't,” he said, according to Chelsea’s official website.
“We have to play with two or three days in between and we have to change our focus from the Premier League to the Champions League, go back to the Premier League and then go back to the Champions League for another big game against Paris St-Germain.
“Liverpool keep going in their perfect season while we have no time to prepare matches like they have. It is a big advantage City have just now and an advantage Liverpool have had since the start of the season.”
Chelsea head to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace on Saturday in their first away game since a shock 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa. And Mourinho, who was sent to the stands after Willian and Ramires were sent from the pitch at Villa Park, again boldly suggested that referee Chris Foy had an agenda in his decisions.
“The only thing I didn't learn is to lose with that kind of refereeing performance because it is not a mistake, it is a performance,” he stated in comments that may well land him in further disciplinary trouble.
Palace gave Chelsea plenty of problems when the sides last met in one of Tony Pulis’ first games in charge last December before the Blues prevailed with a narrow 2-1 win. But after a strong start to the former Stoke City manager’s reign, Palace’s form has tailed off. After five matches without a win, Palace sit just one place and three points above the relegation zone with the team below them, Sunderland, having a game in hand.
The main problem is all too apparent, with Palace having scored just once during that run. And Pulis’ side will again face a challenge to get on the score sheet on Saturday with top scorer, and the man who got the goal at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season, Marouane Chamakh, again ruled out with a hamstring injury. Fellow forward Dwight Gayle is also unavailable after picking up an ankle injury in training.
Chelsea are also limited up front with Samuel Eto’o failing to recover from a hamstring problem that forced him off after scoring the opening goal in the 6-0 demolition of Arsenal a week ago. Ashley Cole remains sidelined with a knee problem, while Marco van Ginkel continued his recovery from a long-term injury by playing in another Under-21 game on Friday. While Willian returns from suspension, Ramires still has another two matches of his to serve.
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League clash will kick off at 11 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBCSN, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.