By, Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @aryhorblueblood)
London Stadium/December 9, 2017
Antonio Conte takes his team to the London Stadium on Saturday lunch time for another Premier League fixture as the December fixture congestion continues. David Moyes is still waiting for his first win as West Ham manager since taking over from Slaven Bilic about a month ago. This is not going to be an easy game with West Ham fighting at the wrong end of the table. With little turnaround time in between fixtures both coaches will be looking to freshen up their squads as they will be in action in midweek for another round of Premier League fixtures.
We have faced our neighbours from East London a combined 108 times, the first of which came in a scoreless draw in a match played at our home ground back in 1923, with the following numbers for Chelsea (W49 L39 D20). In the Premier League however our dominance of this fixture is much more pronounced with 24 victories in 42 matches (L11 D7). In the last 10 meetings between these two London rivals West Ham have won just two (L6 D2) and if that’s the last 10 when they have been the hosts the stats looks identical with 6 Chelsea victories to West Ham’s 3 and the last ending in a stalemate. We have won 7 lost 2 and drew 1 of our last 10 visits to East London to face West Ham in the Premier League. In the Premier League era, we’ve failed to get a goal against West Ham and we ended up losing the game four times and escaping with a draw on three occasions so getting on the front foot early may be the key to winning the game on Saturday. We certainly have an intimidating record against the Hammers but like I always say football isn’t played on paper so I hope our players turn on the jets against what’s surely going to be a fired up West Ham.
Antonio Conte is surely going to freshen up the team that fought so valiantly for the win against Atletico Madrid but ultimately fell short meaning we ended our Champions’ League group stage in second place. One player that’s likely to be in the starting lineup on Saturday despite playing a starring role on Tuesday night is Eden Hazard because I don’t think Antonio will want to incur the wrath of his Belgian destroyer with him seemingly back to his utmost best. Davide Zappacosta provided Antonio Conte with a different option at left wing back with him not looking out of place when playing in that position against Atletico Madrid in midweek. He was as solid defensively as he was effective in attack and I’m sure Conte might look to play him there again giving Alonso some time off to rest and recuperate. On the opposite wing, Victor Moses is gradually coming back to his best after his recent injury episode with another eye-catching performance in the Champions’ League following his impressive showing at the weekend and he should be keeping his place if the coach feels he’s up to it. Danny Drinkwater should also be coming back into the team after sitting out the game on Tuesday night with Tiemoue Bakayoko likely to be the one to make way after his not so impressive display on Tuesday. This may also be the perfect time to give Kante a little bit of rest ahead of a busy festive period. Willian has been calling for additional playing time but he did his chances no big favours with his showing on Tuesday night but he could still get his chance depending on what the coach’s plans are. Antonio Rudiger will feel hard done by for missing out on Tuesday after but he should be in line for a return at the weekend. The trio of Kenedy, Musonda and Batshuayi got a run out for the U23s against MK Dons in the Checktarade Trophy with all three of them completing the 90minutes as they continue to improve their fitness with Batshuayi weighing in with two goals following his cameo on Tuesday night and he should be ready should the coach decide to give Alvaro Morata the rest his recent performances deserves.
Editor’s note: Drinkwater has been ruled out by Conte with an illness
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Cahill; Victor Moses, Fabregas, Drinkwater, Kante, Alonso; Hazard, Batshuayi.
Last Five Matches: DWWWW
Injuries: David Luiz (Knee) –Out;
David Moyes has certainly got West Ham playing better than they have done in the early parts of this season and they were unfortunate not to leave the Etihad Stadium with anything by virtue of their performance. Cheikhou Kouyate, who has been an ever-present so far this season, is a doubt for this match having left the Etihad with a suspected hamstring injury and he’s not alone in that regard with Michail Antonio also a doubt, and the duo of Andy Carroll and Javier Hernandez are definitely out. Moyes has preferred the central defensive pairing of Angelo Ogbonna and Winston Reid but had to draft in Arthur Masuaku to deputize for the injured New Zealander but normal service should restored with Reid back fit. Pablo Zabaleta and Aaron Cresswell should continue as the full backs. If Antonio is not passed fit, then record signing Marko Arnautovic will be the obvious choice to replace him with Manuel Lanzini moving further forward to play in the striking role, but Ghanaian Andre Ayew is also an option to play in that position with the Ghanaian causing us some trouble in the past. Moyes has lined up his team in 4-2-3-1 formation but at the Etihad he lined his team up in a 3-5-2 formation with the trio of Declan Rice, Angelo Ogbonna and Aaron Cresswell protecting Adrian’s goal. Zabaleta and Masuaku played as wing backs while the trio of Kouyate, Edimilson Fernandes and Pedro Obiang lining up in midfield and Lanzini played just behind Michail Antonio in attack. That’s likely to be the way West Ham will line up tomorrow afternoon with just a change to the playing personnel because of injury. The pace and power of Andre Ayew will surely pose some problem for our defense, likewise the direct running of Marko Arnautovic depending on what Moyes’ game plan will be
Hart; Rice, Reid, Ogbonna; Zabaleta, Obiang, Fernandes, Ayew, Cresswell; Lanzini, Antonio.
Last 5 matches: LLDLL
Injuries: Jose Fonte (Malleolar injury) –Out; Michail Antonio (Muscle) –Doubt; Andy Carroll (Knee) –Out; James Collins (Hamstring) –Out; Cheikhou Kouyate (Hamstring) –Doubt; Javier Hernandez (Hamstring) –Doubt; Sam Byram (Thigh) –Doubt.
Michy Batshuayi vs. Angelo Ogbonna
I think this will be the perfect time for the Belgian to make his return to the starting line up and on his day Batshuayi can cause any defender a lot of trouble and he seemed to be working on the physical aspect of his game more as he showed against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday because to get the better of this Italian he must be physically very strong as Ogbonna is as physical as they come.
Eden Hazard vs. Pablo Zabaleta
In the form that Eden Hazard is now I’m sure the veteran Zabaleta will not be looking forward to this duel. Hazard gave the whole of the Atletico Madrid’s defence a massive run around and I do not envy the Argentinian.
Cesc Fabregas vs. Pedro Obiang
If you stop Fabregas from operating optimally then you are on the road to stopping Chelsea as an attacking force as the Spaniard is the distributor-in-chief of this Chelsea team and Obiang will likely get a mandate to stop Fabregas by every means necessary.
Although David Moyes is still looking for his first win as West Ham but performances of the team under the Scot has certainly improved and he will be looking for it to continue when the champions visit the London Stadium on Saturday lunch time. Antonio Conte on the other hand will be hoping his team can get back to winning ways, after only managing a draw in the Champions’ League in midweek, in order to pile the pressure on both Manchester clubs ahead of their Super Sunday showdown. A win for us at the London Stadium will certainly serve us in good stead with another away game on the horizon as we travel to the John Smith’s Stadium to face Huddersfield on Tuesday. This is hoping our recent good run continues at the weekend. Until Tuesday, Keep The Blue Flag Flying High!
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Sky Sports
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