Crystal Palace 1-4 Chelsea
- Goals: Christian Benteke (£5.5m) | Kai Havertz (£8.2m), Christian Pulisic (£8.2m) x2, Kurt Zouma (£5.3m)
- Assists: Jeffrey Schlupp (£5.3m) | Callum Hudson-Odoi (£5.7m), Havertz, Mason Mount (£7.2m), Reece James (£5.0m)
- Bonus Points: Pulisic x3 Benteke x2 Mount x1
Chelsea made short work of Crystal Palace, with star turns from Kai Havertz (£8.2m) and Christian Pulisic (£8.2m) and another solid shift from Mason Mount (£7.2m).
The victory was a redemption of sorts after Gameweek 30’s 5-2 drubbing by West Brom, and Fantasy managers will have looked upon the attacking intent of Chelsea’s advanced midfielders with interest.
Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft
At the heart of Saturday’s victory was the interplay between Havertz and Pulisic.
The pair have struggled, for various reasons, this season, but coach Thomas Tuchel’s decision to use both in attacking roles paid dividends against Palace.
Havertz was again employed as a false nine, a position he’d been handed for the midweek Champions League win at Porto, with Tuchel’s tactics vindicated at Selhurst Park.
“He needs to be in high positions, either half positions or the number nine position. This is not a big difference for me. He got a second chance to show up after Porto and he did that.”
Not that the coach was unequivocal in his praise:
There is still room to improve in finishing, he can be more ruthless, he should have scored more, but it was a good step and a good performance.
Of the six big chances Havertz has had this season, three came against the Eagles.
He opened the scoring from the first one and should have beaten the over-employed Vicente Guaita (£4.8m) from close range towards the end of an otherwise impressive outing.
As for Pulisic, he started a third straight match under the German for the first time, with the coach talking pre-match about finally finding the right position for the USA international:
I think the half positions in the front three could be a perfect fit for him.
He’s certainly finding some late-season form – three of his four goals this campaign have come over the last two Gameweeks.
Gang Of Four
Two other midfielders shone brightly at Selhurst Park.
Chelsea’s most popular FPL asset, Mount (18.1%), set up a goal – one of two big chances he created on the day – and carried a consistent goal threat, as mentioned in the members section.
That was enough for the England international to pip Havertz to the final bonus point award, and his six-point haul on the day took him back into FPL’s top ten midfielders.
Wing-back Callum Hudson-Odoi (£5.7m) was another to impress.
His assist for Havertz’s opener was one of a match-leading five chances created and he was consistently deployed well in advance of his team-mate on the opposite flank, Ben Chilwell (£5.8m).
Not that either wing-back will attract many more owners as long as Tuchel continues to chop and change his personnel. Hudson-Odoi has started just two of the last seven matches and Chilwell two of four.
The former Leicester full-back’s start at Selhurst Park meant that Marcos Alonso (£5.7m) was only among the substitutes, which was yet another reminder to his owners in FPL that they need a strong playing bench to accommodate his sporadic luxury appearances.
A thumping Christian Benteke (£5.5m) header meant a second straight Gameweek without a clean sheet for a Chelsea defence that had managed four in a row before that. Given that the Belgian’s effort was the Eagles’ only shot of the game, Fantasy bosses will find the latest shut-out loss particularly galling.
But the 7.8% of managers with Kurt Zouma (£5.3m) in their sides had that particular disappointment offset by a fifth goal of the season from their man.
That’s the most by any centre-half, and only Leeds United’s Stuart Dallas (£5.1m) has more (seven) among defenders, although he’s spent chunks of the season in midfield.
It was Zouma’s fourth headed goal of the campaign – the most by a defender – and three have been set up by Mount, as was the case on Saturday.
The Frenchman may not have even played, however, had Andreas Christensen (£4.7m) not missed out with a minor hamstring injury.
Fun Boy Three
Tuchel is already making a name for himself as a tinkerer, but he seems to have found a nice attacking blend in Havertz, Mount and Pulisic.
Chelsea’s run-in is mixed, with visits from Brighton and Fulham to come over the next three Gameweeks, but West Ham, Man City, Arsenal, Leicester and Aston Villa among their last six opponents.
Factor in FA Cup and Champions League duties and second-guessing Tuchel’s line-ups could be the stuff of madness, but that trio at least have the potential to offer a lot of goal threat for players classed as midfielders in FPL.
Palace, meanwhile, spent the first half on Saturday doing a very good impression of a team thinking of post-lockdown beaches.
The one faint glimmer of hope came from Benteke, who scored his second goal in four starts and earned some praise from boss Roy Hodgson:
He’s doing well. He’s certainly working hard. He’s trying to do the sort of things we’re preaching and asking him to do, and it’s very good he’s starting to score some goals. His goalscoring for the last couple of months has been on a regular basis.
Those managers willing to consider Benteke, or any other Hodgson man, should take into account the fact they will face Leicester and Man City after a Blank Gameweek 32.
And although there will be a Double Gameweek (involving Southampton away) after that, they still have to face Liverpool, Arsenal and Aston Villa before the season’s end.
Crystal Palace XI (4-4-2): Guaita; van Aanholt, Kouyaté, Cahill, J Ward; Eze (Schlupp 59), Riedewald (McCarthy 59), Milivojevic, Ayew (Townsend 76); Zaha, Benteke.
Chelsea XI (3-4-3): E Mendy; Rüdiger, Zouma, Azpilicueta; Chilwell, Kovacic (Ziyech 83), Jorginho (Kante 61), Hudson-Odoi (James 76); Pulisic, Mount, Havertz.