As far as homecomings go, Frank Lampard’s return to Chelsea has been nothing short of remarkable.
The former England midfielder succeeded the outgoing Maurizio Sarri in the summer, inheriting a team plagued with instability after waving their best player goodbye before being slapped with a two-window transfer ban by FIFA.
Despite the malaise surrounding the club in July, Chelsea currently sit fourth – tied on points with Leicester in third – and only two points behind reigning champions Manchester City.
Favourable results this weekend could even see Chelsea move into second spot, something even the most ardent of Blues supporters may have thought impossible four months ago.
But what makes Lampard’s results so impressive is that they have come during the midst of a nightmare injury crisis this season which shows no sign of dissipating any time soon.
Newly-capped England midfielder Mason Mount is a major doubt for the weekend’s visit of Palace, while Ross Barkley, N’Golo Kante, Antonio Rudiger and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are also expected to miss out.
Kante and Rudiger were two of the first names on the team sheet last season yet the Frenchman has struggled to string together a run of games during the current campaign while the German has made just a single appearance under Lampard.
Flamboyant winger Callum Hudson-Odoi has only just return to first-team action following his Achilles injury, while the likes of Pedro, Andreas Christensen, Mateo Kovacic and Emerson Palmieri have all spent time on the sidelines since the start of September.
In their absence, Lampard has put his faith in the club’s youth - and been repaid handsomely.
Mount and Fikayo Tomori – both of whom played under Lampard at Derby County last season – have seen their fine form rewarded with England call-ups, while Tammy Abraham has proven himself to be among the most prolific marksmen in the league.
The 22-year-old, whose place in the team had been questioned by some at the start of the season, has answered has critics in fine fashion, banging in nine goals in 11 appearances.
And after scoring the crucial fourth to rescue Chelsea a point against Ajax during a 4-4 thriller on Tuesday night, Reece James is pushing to usurp club captain Cesar Azpilicueta in the starting line-up under Lampard.
From a position in which the Blues appeared destined to struggle, Chelsea are now on the cusp of winning a sixth consecutive Premier League game – something the team have not managed since their last title-winning campaign under Antonio Conte in 2017.
However, Palace are among the candidates to become this season’s surprise package and, despite no win in three games, sit ninth in the table ahead of both Man Utd and Spurs.
Their away form has been a huge part of their success; only Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea have picked up more points on the road than Palace since the start of last season.
Speaking on Friday, manager Roy Hodgson was full of praise for his opposite number Lampard – a man who played under Hodgson with England a number of times.
"Lampard has done a very good job, there’s no question about that - the club has done a good job in encouraging the manager and his staff to blood some of the players that had previously been out on loan,” the 72-year-old said.
"Everyone at the club deserves a pat on the back for that. And I’m certain that Frank will be more than happy with how the team has started, the way the team has played and where they find themselves both in the league and the Champions League.
“When he [Lampard] and Steven Gerrard went into management I had no doubt that they would succeed. For me it was a question of whether they would go to a club that would give them a chance to really show their great management material.
"For me there is no surprise at all."
Those kind words will count for nothing when the whistle blows on Saturday afternoon however with bragging rights at stake during a feisty London derby at Stamford Bridge.
Can Chelsea extend their remarkable winning run – or will Palace crash the party? Watch all the action exclusively live on BT Sport 1 HD and BT Sport Ultimate from 12pm on Saturday.
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