Belfast Telegraph

Kurt Zouma admits champions Chelsea are feeling pressure following loss to Crystal Palace

By Matt McGeechan

Kurt Zouma has suggested it is taking Chelsea time to adjust to being the defending Barclays Premier League champions.

Jose Mourinho's side are the one the others are trying to dethrone and on Saturday lost 2-1 to Crystal Palace - the team against whom they secured the title in May.

Chelsea, after a second loss in Mourinho's 100th home league game, have four points from their opening four matches and are eight points behind rivals Manchester City.

"We have to improve everything," Zouma said.

"Mentally we have to improve. The season after we are champions, it's really difficult to prepare ourselves.

"To improve is more difficult, but we have to improve ourselves and keep going, keep working."

Zouma believes the international break comes at a good time for Chelsea, who next face Everton on September 12.

They could yet add Toffees defender John Stones to their ranks, but the Merseyside club have so far resisted offers.

"We have to think about winning points and after the break will be good for us, I think," the France defender said.

Mourinho felt Chelsea should have had a penalty when the score was 0-0, when Zouma had his shirt pulled by Connor Wickham.

Zouma added: "I think it was a penalty kick. The referee didn't whistle, but the game wasn't over with that."

Bakary Sako's opener was cancelled out by Radamel Falcao's first Chelsea goal, but Joel Ward restored Palace's lead for their first win at Stamford Bridge in 33 years.

Sako turned Yannick Bolasie's cross back towards Ward for the winner after scoring for a second straight week.

Sako, who signed on a free after leaving Wolves, said: "I was really confident that I could play in the Premier League and I wanted to prove to everybody that I could to keep up the good work that I was doing at Wolves.

"We have a really good team and a strong squad so we're going to keep working to get better and better."

Palace defender Damien Delaney appreciated the significance of the result, but had a measured response.

"I felt we were deserving of it," he said.

"We'll all calm down in time and realise that it's only three points.

"To get to nine points this early in the season is amazing.

"A couple of years ago we had seven points in November. We're not even out of August yet and we've got nine."

Bolasie made his return after missing two matches following the death of his father.

"It's been a difficult couple of weeks for him. He's a good kid," Delaney added.

"It was the best thing for him, coming here.

"Hopefully that will cheer him up a little bit and he can get back to doing what he does best, which is playing well."

Belfast Telegraph


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