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Cesc Fàbregas must start for Chelsea against Crystal Palace

Saturday 1st April 2017
Antonio Conte's Chelsea resume their title march this afternoon, hosting Crystal Palace. The Blues will look to maintain their ten-point lead atop the table. A rejuvenated Palace have climbed to sixteenth place in the Premier League, on twenty-eight points, four clear of Hull City in eighteenth. While the Eagles are a team still very much in trouble, they will prove a strong test for Chelsea. Manager Sam Allardyce is a master at grinding points from situations in which his team should lose. Consequently, Conte may have a dilemma in midfield. N'Golo Kante, tipped by many as Player of the Season, is inarguably the Italian's first name on the team sheet. But who should partner him? The choice rests between Nemanja Matić and Cesc Fàbregas.
The Blues have not lost in twelve games, since their first in 2017, against Tottenham. This run, coupled with their pursuit's inconsistency, positions the Stamford Bridgers to render last season's epic collapse a minor aberration. Nemanja Matić has done a fine job next to the Frenchman as his usual partner, putting his own troubles from 2015-16 behind. The Serbian has rediscovered his form in both facets of the game. His ability to get forward or play a more incisive pass makes him a better attacking choice than Kante but, although neither is a slouch, there is only one winner when considering defensive ability and work-rates.

Conversely, when compared to the former Barcelona and Arsenal star with whom he competes for minutes, Matić pales in the opposite manner. Cesc Fàbregas is creative on another level. His quick feet and outstanding passing allowing him to start an attack from his own half with a raking cross-field pass. Defensively, however, he struggles mightily to match Matić's ability.

Against Palace, Chelsea are likely to enjoy sixty percent or more possession. Big Sam will happily allow the Blues to dominate the ball, hoping to pick them off on the counter-attack. The fact Chelsea will boss possession plays into Cesc's wheelhouse.

The Catalonian will be in his element, his willingness to drop into deeper positions to pick up the ball vital. Against Manchester City or Liverpool, the midfielder would be under constant pressure from high pressing, his opponent's attacking prowess scrutinising his defensive ability, as well.
Against a side from the table's lower reaches, Cesc will find his defensive duties cut in half, his time on the ball doubled. He will be able to dictate play in Palace's half. Fàbregas might play the ball onto Pedro, Eden Hazard, or Diego Costa's feet. He will also have many chances to thread balls through Palace's defence, giving his forwards half a chance to create shooting opportunities.

The Kante/Matic combination is unquestionably the partnership for big games. Their superb defensive abilities and work rates make it difficult to break through Chelsea's midfield. However, in games in which Chelsea can dominate possession, Fàbregas' inclusion is a must. There is little to fear from Crystal Palace's attack. If an opponent's chances will be minimal from the start, the Blues should maximise their own. Therefore, it is in Chelsea's best interest for Cesc to be given the nod this weekend.
Ben Darvill

I graduated with an upper second class degree in English and Creative writing from Cardiff Metropolitan University. I have been a freelance sports writer since leaving University and have written for a number of online websites. I am a Chelsea and England fan but I enjoy watching any team play as I have an intense passion for football.

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