David Luiz will again start for Chelsea at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday, with Jose Mourinho denying reports that the defender could be set to exit the club in January. The Brazilian made his first appearance in over a month in the victory against Steaua Bucharest in midweek and, with Gary Cahill’s fitness not being risked, he will again partner with John Terry. Despite repeated suggestions that Mourinho is not a big fan, he says that he is happy to have Luiz at his disposal.
“His future is that he has a long term contract, there has been no contact from other clubs, so at this moment everything is clear,” he said, according to Chelsea’s official website. “He's our player, we are so happy he's back, especially at a moment Cahill isn't playing so we need him and John to play a second game in a row.”
Mourinho also confirmed another team selection, with Cesar Azpilicueta set to return to the side in place of Ashley Cole. The experienced England international returned to the side against Steaua after Azpilicueta had taken his role for the previous five matches, but Mourinho suggested that Cole will no longer be an automatic first-choice.
“I need the team to change, I need fresh people, I need Azpilicueta to play tomorrow and Ashley to be fresh to play at Sunderland,” he explained. “I'm not saying we have a compromise on that, I'm not saying it's a law that in this period it's one or the other one, I trust both and I choose the one I think is better for the occasion. It's good to have options.”
With a Capital One Cup quarterfinal to come against Sunderland on Tuesday before a meeting with Premier League leaders Arsenal the following Monday, ahead of the packed festive period, it is a vital time for Chelsea. But they will first be desperate to get back to winning ways against Crystal Palace, after falling to defeat against Stoke City last time out in the league.
And a fixture against Palace suddenly looks a much tougher proposition than it would have done just a few weeks ago. Since taking over as manager Tony Pulis has built on the tight defense established under caretaker Keith Millen. With back-to-back victories, Palace have now lifted themselves off the foot of the Premier League table and only remain in the relegation zone on goal difference. Still, with those two results achieved at Selhurst Park, Pulis is expecting a very different proposition away at Chelsea.
“I think they're in a fantastic position and they're still fighting on four fronts,” he said, according to Sky Sports. “At Selhurst Park you can make it difficult and you can make it more of a competitive match. When you go away, it can be, in my experience, very, very difficult.
"The pressure is off us; I don't think anybody expects us to go to Chelsea and win the game. The important thing is the players go there and do their best, they enjoy the game and they enjoy the challenge."
Pulis has an injury doubt over Dean Moxey, while Adlene Guedioura is definitely ruled out. Yannick Bolasie is back from suspension.
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBCSN, with a live stream available via NBC Sports Live Extra.