Chelsea hope to extend lead

Chelsea hope to extend lead

 In case they needed it, the short trip to Crystal Palace will re-focus Chelsea's globe-trotting players on matters at home as the Premier League slips back into gear this weekend after the second international break of the season.

Like most of their Premier League rivals, Chelsea's squad was scattered far and wide after their 2-0 home win over Arsenal on October 5, a result that left them five points clear after six wins and a draw from their opening seven matches.

The leaders will need no reminding, however, that modest Palace will have scant regard for Chelsea's clear squad superiority come Saturday afternoon in south east London.A 1-0 defeat at Palace in late March, when John Terry's own goal sealed their fate, put a serious dent in Chelsea's title ambitions last season and had Mourinho accusing some of his players of "disappearing" against certain low-key opponents.

It is unlikely to happen again, given the improvements Mourinho has made to his squad during the close-season and the clear hunger of his side to reclaim the Premier League trophy after an absence of four seasons.

Yet Mourinho would still have been anxious as he counted his players back in through the training ground gates this week.

He would have kept a particularly careful eye on Spain striker Diego Costa, whose nine league goals since signing from Atletico Madrid have fuelled Chelsea's flying start.

Despite concerns over his hamstring, Brazilian-born Costa played the full 90 minutes in Spain's surprise Euro 2016 qualifier loss to Slovakia and all but eight minutes in the win over Luxembourg when he scored his first goal for his adopted country.

Like Mourinho, Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini would also have found himself kicking his heels since his side's last game, a 2-0 win at Aston Villa.

The champions, five points behind Chelsea in second place, return to action with a Saturday lunchtime kickoff at home to sixth-placed Tottenham Hotspur. Arsenal will hope to make up some lost ground with a home match against Hull City while third-placed Southampton, beaten by Tottenham before the international stoppage, have the chance to maintain their spot in the top four at home to Sunderland.

Fourth-placed Manchester United must wait until Monday for their away match at West Bromwich Albion while Liverpool have a Sunday lunchtime assignment at bottom club Queens Park Rangers.

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