Conte asks for improvement from Chelsea forwards

N'Golo Kante

Catherine Ivill Getty Images

After a bleak two weeks of traveling to Manchester, which saw a grand total of zero points gained against United and City, Chelsea's hopes of finishing in the top-four were stung.

Chelsea prepared for its Champions League trip to Barcelona by beating Crystal Palace 2-1 on Saturday to close the gap on the English Premier League top four to two points.

Chelsea claimed three points after a turbulent week, but their performance still left something to be desired as Crystal Palace almost clawed their way back into the match with a display of fighting spirit.

It was 2-0 seven minutes later with a goal that was as elegant in its creation as it was farcical in its final moments.

"It's a shame we didn't play the whole of the game as we played the second half", Roy Hodgson, the Palace manager, said. An own goal from Martin Kelly then made it two in the first half.

Play switched to the other end and it was Giroud once more, flicking a foot at a swerving shot from N'Golo Kante. Marcos Alonso was allowed to maraud down the left wing and square to the edge of the box.

Antonio Conte was a manager under pressure before this match, as much because of his perceived pessimism over his team's prospects as their results.

Conte also spoke about his striking options in detail but at the same time, refused to give too much away about who will actually start against Crystal Palace and the coming games.

The opening goal came from a player Conte has sometimes been reluctant to rely upon, but who has proven highly dependable for Chelsea this season.

The defeat leaves the Eagles stranded in 18th place, one point adrift of Southampton in 17th.

Chelsea will welcome Crystal Palace to Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon and Antonio Conte has been speaking about a number of his players during his press conference ahead of the game.

Palace, however, looked livelier in the second half after Wilfried Zaha replaced Christian Benteke and Alexander Sorloth hit the post. They toyed with Palace at times and but for a late goal from their former defender Patrick van Aanholt, it would have been a comfortable evening. Unfortunately the Belgium striker could not time his jump correctly and nodded the ball harmlessly up in the air for Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to collect easily.

Davide Zappacosta and Gary Cahill come in for Victor Moses and Antonio Rudiger, with the Germany global getting a full rest ahead of Barcelona on Wednesday.

All things being equal, Chelsea's best approach against Barcelona would probably be to replicate the 3-5-2 system that underpinned their best performance of the season against Atletico Madrid in September, the last time they dominated and picked apart elite opponents.

Unused subs Caballero, Ampadu, Emerson, Moses.

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