Fresh from being crowned champions of the world for the first time in their history, Chelsea return to Premier League action with a London derby against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
The match will be Chelsea’s first league outing in almost a month, but they take on a Palace side still winless in the top flight so far this calendar year.
The Club World Cup has its detractors, but try telling that to Thomas Tuchel and his players following their triumphant return from Abu Dhabi.
Kai Havertz – scorer of the winner in the Champions League final last season – secured another trophy for the club with a penalty late in extra time of their final against Palmeiras on Saturday, wrapping up a 2-1 win.
That is now two pieces of silverware for the Blues this term, and there could still be three more to come with an EFL Cup final against Liverpool at the end of this month, a Champions League last-16 tie with Lille and the Premier League still mathematically within their reach.
At the very least, the Club World Cup success should give an injection of momentum into the latter bid, although it may be too little too late with Chelsea now 16 points adrift of leaders Manchester City, albeit with a game in hand.
The faltering form of those behind them means that Chelsea remain fairly comfortable in third place – six points clear of fifth-placed West Ham United with a game in hand – despite the Blues failing to win back-to-back league games since October.
Chelsea celebrate scoring a goal against Tottenham Hotspur on January 23, 2022
Tuchel’s men have a chance to do just that on Saturday courtesy of their 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in their last Premier League match on January 23, since when they needed extra time to see off League One Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup before going on to win the Club World Cup.
That triumph over Tottenham was their first in five league games and only their third in 10 since December 1 – a run which includes defeat to West Ham in their last away London derby.
Having won their previous seven such matches before that, Chelsea now face the prospect of losing back-to-back top-flight London derbies on the road for the first time since December 2017, when incidentally they were beaten by Palace and West Ham in succession.
The Eagles have only won one of their last 16 Premier League London derbies, though, and they head into Saturday’s match in growing need of victory.
Patrick Vieira’s side have slipped down to 13th in the table having taken just three points from the 15 on offer so far this calendar year.
Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira reacts on February 12, 2022
Nine points still separate them from the relegation zone and so Palace will not be looking nervously over their shoulders just yet, but the improving form of many of those behind them has marginally increased the urgency to find a return to winning ways.
Back-to-back draws against promoted duo Norwich City and Brentford – both of whom are below them in the table – would not have raised too much hope that they could push for a top-half finish, although Saturday’s showdown with Chelsea may hold cause for more optimism.
Two of Palace’s five wins this season have come against teams starting the day in the top four, with Vieira’s men having already toppled Tottenham and Man City this season.
Another victory on Saturday would see them win three games against top-four teams in a single top-flight campaign for the first time ever, although they go into the weekend having lost both Premier League home games so far this year.
Not since July 2020 have Palace lost three top-flight home games on the bounce, but it would take an unexpected reversal of form to avoid that fate this weekend.