Chelsea vs West Ham United
Venue: Stamford Bridge
TV: Sky Sports Main Event
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Chelsea welcome a West Ham United side who are on an iffy run of form conceding seven goals in their last four including a 2-0 defeat to Everton and a 4-3 win against Huddersfield. Chelsea meanwhile have lost only one of their last five and come into this game after a strong 3-0 victory over Brighton last week.
Chelsea are in the midst of an intense battle for one of the final two Champions League spots along with Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham. Chelsea currently sit in fifth on 63 points with United behind them on 61, Arsenal are in fourth on 63 whilst Tottenham are in third on 64. The West London side will be buoyed at the look of United’s run in as the Red Devils still have to play City and Chelsea. Arsenal however have it much easier and it may well be the two North London sides that sneak in. Having said this, Arsenal’s defeat to Everton at the weekend gives Chelsea the chance to jump up to third with a win against the Hammers.
West Ham meanwhile, barring a miraculously bad turn in form, are safe from relegation for this season. They sit comfortably in 11th on 42 points, 14 points clear of Cardiff down in 18th. As long as they remain as solid as they have been so far this season, the rest of this campaign may well just peter out into nothing. A distinctly average season is not necessarily a bad thing, just requires a rethink and building on top of the solid foundations.
It seems that Sarri may have been reading my previews, or just every piece of literature being written about Chelsea in the last week. Callum Hudson-Odoi finally started a Premier League match against Brighton and he put in a good show providing an assist for Giroud’s goal – knowing Sarri I have a feeling he may well be benched again this week though. Giroud is also one that, when starting, has played well but he too will likely drop back to allow Higuaín to come back in.
In the midfield, Loftus-Cheek has been in very good form so far scoring in his last two games and may well keep his space ahead of Barkley and Kovacic. Creativity from the midfield has been something the Blues have been lacking this season, relying instead on Hazard from wide. However, Loftus-Cheek is beginning to show exactly what he can do and he could prove pivotal in the run in.
The defence has been largely the same all season with Emerson coming in for Alonso once the Spaniard’s defensive positions were exposed about three times in one game. Luiz and Rudiger are expected to stay in the middle of the defence with the evergreen Azpilicueta on the right flank.
West Ham United
There isn’t much to say about the Hammers team selection. When you look at the XI on paper you actually realise that it’s a pretty damn strong starting line up, one that does not belong in eleventh place in the Premier League table.
Rice looks set to start in the holding role in front of the back four with Antonio, Noble, Lanzini and Filipe Anderson to start in front of him. Anderson is a bit of a doubt but it is likely he will be declared fit to play in time for Monday evening.
Hernandez will be the starting striker one imagines with Arnautovic on the bench ready to come on and be his usual destructive self in the second half. West Ham vs Chelsea games are usually quite entertaining and the East Londoners have been known to shock their West London rivals in recent years so don’t write Pellegrini’s men off, they may well just do something here.
Predicted Starting XIs
Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Emerson; Kante, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek; Willian, Higuain, Hazard
West Ham (4-1-4-1): Fabianski; Fredericks, Diop, Balbuena, Cresswell; Rice; Antonio, Noble, Lanzini, Anderson; Hernandez
Score Prediction: Chelsea 1 West Ham United 2
I think West Ham will get the win here. A must win for Chelsea and a kind of meaningless game for their opposition is exactly the type of match Chelsea under Sarri would lose. It is crucial that Chelsea win this but they are prone to a slip-up and I think this may well be one of them.