Navigating the graveyard

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Tony Conte at the Cobham press conference

The Blues travel to Palace this weekend, conscious of underperforming in their home defeat to Man City and only too well aware that Selhurst Park has a reputation as a graveyard for Chelsea ambition.

Tony Conte has to get his tactics right as the Eagles’ desperation for points means that those wily foxes Roy Hodgson and Ray Lewington – each possessed of vast knowledge of the Blues down the years – will stymie, hassle and trip the visitors at every turn.

Alvaro Morata is still nursing his hamstring, so Michy Batshuayi is likely to start up front against Palace.

Meanwhile central defender David Luiz is back from his three-match suspension… although he still has a bandaged wrist after fracturing a bone while clattering into the advertising hoardings against Arsenal. Andreas Christensen, who has proved an able deputy, will drop to the bench.

Chelsea have weathered a fierce run of fixtures, and it was no cause for shame or grief that the Blues lost to a City side who, even at this early stage of the season, must be title favourites for their overall squad strength and quality in every position.

In theory, Chelsea have the most straightforward run to Christmas with Palace, Watford, Everton twice, Bournemouth, Swansea, Newcastle, West Ham, Huddersfield and Southampton among the opponents.

That’s not counting the two tricky fixtures of Manchester United at the Bridge and Liverpool at Anfield. On paper we’re already looking at a 1-2-3 of City, Chelsea and United.

The Blues’ squad strengthening in the summer was a bafflingly ham-fisted exercise, and Conte wants to make amends in January with three new signings to (hopefully) tackle the cups and later stages of European competition, as well as maintain pressure on the two Manchester giants.

Scouts are already drawing up a hitlist of wants, with perceived strength gaps up front and in central midfield.