Chelsea’s Reece James shows no fear coming up against Wilfried Zaha

Spare a thought for all those Fantasy Footballers out there who figured Cesar Azpilicueta was a sure thing. Of course he will start against Crystal Palace. Why wouldn’t he?

The 30-year-old right back is Chelsea captain. He had started each of the club’s last 73 Premier League games, a run dating back to December 2, 2017.

It would take something special to shift this seemingly immovable object. Then Reece James arrived, the 19-year-old kid who is quickly winning the trust of Frank Lampard.

Reece James produced a brilliant display coming up against Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha

Reece James produced a brilliant display coming up against Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha

Reece James produced a brilliant display coming up against Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha

James showed no fear both in attack and defence at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon

James showed no fear both in attack and defence at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon

James showed no fear both in attack and defence at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon 

The teenager who spent last season on loan at Wigan Athletic in the Championship was starting in a Premier League game for the first time, relegating Azpilicueta to the bench.

In front of 40,000 at Stamford Bridge, he had to look after Wilfried Zaha, the dribbling king of south London. In the opening 20 minutes, Zaha touched the ball twice.

In the opening 30, seven touches. James limited the Palace man from doing what he likes to do.

What also stood out was James’s positioning off the ball. He found space on that right wing by hugging the touchline and shifted into attack mode seamlessly.

In first half stoppage time, James’s low cross ought to have led to a goal. It just escaped the boot of Tammy Abraham, then Gary Cahill blocked Willian’s effort.

Frank Lampard has shown huge faith in James, who started ahead of Cesar Azpilicueta

Frank Lampard has shown huge faith in James, who started ahead of Cesar Azpilicueta

Frank Lampard has shown huge faith in James, who started ahead of Cesar Azpilicueta

There was more of the same at the start of the second half. James was seen in the opposition half more than his own, occasionally meandering into midfield.

Then Chelsea broke the deadlock, meaning he might have more defending than attacking to do.

There was pressure on the young man, but James – whose sister, Lauren, is a Manchester United player – handled it all well, limiting Zaha as he grew into the game.

This victory for Chelsea capped a wonderful two weeks for James.

On October 30, he started against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup. On November 5, he made a substantial impact as a substitute against Ajax in the Champions League.

His contribution in that comeback perhaps convinced Lampard to start him here. Maybe he had been considering this for a while. Whatever the reason, his faith was rewarded.

Tammy Abraham scored again as Lampard's Chelsea made it six straight Premier League wins

Tammy Abraham scored again as Lampard's Chelsea made it six straight Premier League wins

Tammy Abraham scored again as Lampard’s Chelsea made it six straight Premier League wins

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