Graham Potter’s first Premier League game in charge of Chelsea is a tricky trip to London rivals Crystal Palace.
Potter’s debut in the Stamford Bridge dugout ended with a disappointing 1-1 home draw against Red Bull Salzburg — a result that leaves the Blues bottom of Champions League Group E and with work to do to qualify for the knockout stages.
Now attention turns to domestic matters and the trip to Selhurst Park will be an interesting gauge of how Potter intends to go about his task as Chelsea manager.
Will he continue to react to what he expects from his opponents as he often did as Brighton boss, or will he look to impose a more dominant style now he is at a bigger club?
Against Salzburg, it seemed like it was the former, with Potter playing Raheem Sterling at left wing-back as part of a system designed to exploit the space on the flanks of the Austrians’ narrow formation.
However, with three weeks having passed between his appointment and first league match as Chelsea manager, Potter will have had time to devise how to get the best from an underperforming but hugely talented squad.
Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira has a handful of injury concerns and will be without defenders Nathan Ferguson and James Tomkins, who have ankle and calf problems respectively.
Goalkeeper Jack Butland is close to returning from a broken wrist but will not displace first-choice goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.
Midfielder James McArthur is also closing in on a return from the groin injury that has kept him out all season and the club vice-captain could make the bench.
Potter has a near fully-fit squad to choose from and the new Chelsea manager has concerns over only midfielder N’Golo Kante and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.
Both players could be in contention considering they have returned to training, but Potter may opt to play it safe and rest the pair ahead of a hectic run of fixtures.
Crystal Palace have a miserable record against Chelsea, losing each of the last nine Premier League meetings, while also losing 2-0 to the Blues in last season’s FA Cup semi-final.
However, the Eagles have a more encouraging record against Chelsea’s new manager, with Palace never losing to a Potter side.
In Palace’s six games against Brighton while Potter was the Seagulls’ manager, the Eagles recorded two away victories and drew each of the other four meetings 1-1.
Palace also faced Potter when he was manager of Swansea, knocking the Championship side out of the second round of the 2018-19 Carabao Cup.
The south London side have also frequently impressed against the top teams since Vieira entered the dugout, claiming four points off both Manchester City and Arsenal last season while also beating Manchester United and Tottenham at Selhurst Park.
And while Chelsea did complete the double over Vieira’s men last term, the Blues were fortunate to grab an 89th-minute winner in February’s Selhurst Park meeting.
While hugely impressive, Chelsea’s incredible run of 10 successive wins against Crystal Palace cannot go on forever and may finally come to an end this weekend with a draw.
Palace have taken only six points from their first six league outings but have already faced three of the so-called big six and have offered up positive performances on each occasion.
Vieira’s men earned an impressive point in a 1-1 draw at Anfield and were unfortunate to lose 2-0 to Arsenal in a game they arguably should have got a point from.
The Eagles were eventually outclassed at Manchester City, but the fact that Palace managed to take a 2-0 lead at the Etihad Stadium before getting overwhelmed highlights the attacking threat they pose.
As they transition to new approaches in both the boardroom and the dugout, Chelsea currently sit a rung or so below City, so Palace will be hopeful of being as competitive as they were against Arsenal and Liverpool.
There is no lack of quality at Chelsea and Potter will doubtless get his new club firing on all cylinders soon enough. However, the squad and set-up is very different to what he has been used to at previous clubs and there may be a few bumps along the road as he gels with his new team.