Football

'Chelsea look unbeatable'

Pardew praises Conte for doing a 'fantastic' job with the Blues

EPL
CRYSTAL PALACE CHELSEA

Even before a ball has been kicked, Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew appeared to have already thrown in the towel.

The Eagles chief admitted yesterday ahead of tonight's game against Chelsea that the league leaders look "unbeatable" and he credited Antonio Conte for rejuvenating the Blues in his first season in charge.

"Coming from Serie A, it's a different type of football, but Conte's got to grips with the Premier League," said Pardew.

"He's been helped by his players having history in the Premier League, but he's done a fantastic job. They look unbeatable at the moment.

"(Eden) Hazard and (Diego)Costa are a different proposition to last year and they'll admit that. (Cesc) Fabregas too.

"It's a tough ask and no point denying it."

They look unbeatable at the moment. "(Eden) Hazard and (Diego)Costa are a different proposition to last year... (Cesc) Fabregas too. Alan Pardew on Chelsea

There is a stark contrast between the two teams' form, with Chelsea having won 10 league games in succession to open up a six-point lead at the top while Palace have managed only one victory in their last 10 matches.

A group of Palace supporters calling themselves "Pardew Out Mob" plan to walk out in the 21st minute of tonight's game in protest at the team having lost 21 league matches this calendar year.

"I wasn't aware of that," Pardew said yesterday.

"My view is that this team are fighting for the Palace shirt and I'll make sure they fight to the last minute of every game."

Midfielder Mathieu Flamini is the latest injury victim but Jason Puncheon will be available again after suspension.

Meanwhile, Fabregas believes he has shown he can be an integral part of Conte's side having until recently been thought to be surplus to requirements.

The 29-year-old midfielder has taken a more prominent role since returning to the side at the start of this month after a two-month absence.

Having started two of the last three games, he is expected to retain his place for tonight's game against Palace.

Fabregas pressed his case for a regular start with the only goal of the game at Sunderland in midweek that secured Chelsea's 10th successive league victory.

He believes he is demonstrating he can slot in effectively into Conte's rejigged 3-4-3 formation that has been the key to the club's upturn in fortunes.

"People forget it's only the second time in my life, in my whole career, I've played this system," Fabregas told chelseafc.com.

"My teammates have played a lot more than me. Against Manchester City (in early December), it was a big test because it was the first game. I'm getting used to it, I feel very comfortable.

"I have a lot of players in front of me so I can pick passes between the lines, they run into space and I have protection behind me.

"I'm really enjoying it and I think it suits me a lot." 
- WIRE SERVICES

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