Antonio Conte ready to pick Olivier Giroud for aerial battle

Olivier Giroud

Antonio Conte was asked about whether he would persist with Eden Hazard as a false 9 today, but all signs point to him reverting to a striker. While playing three small forwards made more sense in games where the Blues were set to play largely on the counter, it doesn’t work as well for this game where they will expect to be on the front foot.

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Chelsea will have more of the ball here, and will need a focal point up front to try and get them on the scoresheet. Not only that, but if Crystal Palace play a similar team to the one they put out against Manchester United on Monday night, Conte will need an extra body in defence.

Against United Roy Hodgson had both Christian Benteke and January signing Alexander Sorloft up front as a big man-big man combo, and if he does that again it will be extremely useful to have another big body – whether that’s Alvaro Morata or Giroud – on the pitch to help out.

Today was always going to be a battle, it just may yet turn out to be more of an aerial assault than anticipated.