Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @aryhorblueblood)
Stamford Bridge/April 8, 2018
It was indeed a sad day on Wednesday for everyone associated with Chelsea Football Club as one of our greatest ever players, former captain and assistant coach Ray Wilkins passed away following a heart attack suffered last week. Our deepest condolences go to his family at this extremely difficult time.
I wrote in the preview for our FA Cup quarter final match against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium that our performance at the Camp Nou didn’t deserve the final result as we didn’t deserve to lose that match by such a hefty score line, but on Sunday against Spurs we deserved everything we got in that match and as much as it pains me to admit that’s just the reality. Mauricio Pochettino’s team were up for it from the off and it was obvious from the beginning that they were out to put a stop to that miserable run at Stamford Bridge and so they did and now we’ve got to move on. We lost just a solitary game at Stamford Bridge last season, to Crystal Palace, but this season we’ve already lost to Burnley and Bournemouth before losing to Spurs last time out so I’m sure West Ham United will fancy their chances on Sunday knowing this Chelsea team is a little low on confidence right now. However I think we should have more than enough in the tank to dispose of David Moyes’ side but you never know with this Chelsea team especially this season.
This is the 110th meeting these two west and east London clubs the first of which came almost a century ago a match that ended scoreless at Stamford Bridge in October 1923. Of the 109 previous matches against West Ham United, Chelsea has racked up 49 wins and lost 40 with the remaining 20 matches ending in draws. The last of their 40 wins came last December when an early Marko Arnautovic’s goal secured all three points for David Moyes’ team. West Ham has won just four of their last 25 against Chelsea in all competitions (L17 D4). Chelsea is David Moyes’ least favourite football club as he has his worst record as a coach against the Blues having won just 5 of the 36 matches he has managed against Chelsea (L20 D11). West Ham’s win against Chelsea in December is the only time so far that David Moyes has managed a win with a team other than Everton with the Scot managing 4 wins with the Merseysiders against Chelsea. West Ham has scored at least a goal in their last six matches against Chelsea in all competitions having not managed a single goal in the previous five matches before that run. The Irons has won three of their last ten matches (L5 D2) failing to win all four of their away matches in that run against Wigan Athletic, Brighton & Hove Albion, Liverpool and Swansea City. Chelsea has lost just two of our last four home matches to Bournemouth and Spurs (W3 D1).
With this match likely to come too soon for David Luiz I think it’s high time Antonio Conte draft Gary Cahill back into the defence because I think his experience and leadership will come in handy with the amount of silly goals we’ve been letting in recently, as Andreas Christensen looks like he could use some time away from the first eleven to recuperate because I think he’s spent. With West Ham likely to put numbers behind the ball and look to catch us on the counter like they did in the reverse fixture, I think the grit and energy of Danny Drinkwater will be ideal to partner N’Golo Kante in central midfield. Emerson Palmieri showed during his cameo on Sunday that he deserves a run in the side and contrary to opinion he looks fit and ready to fight for a place in the team if given a fair chance at it. I expect Davide Zappacosta to come in at right wingback for Victor Moses whose offensive output has dropped considerably since the turn of the year and that’s even counting his assist for Morata’s goal on Sunday into consideration. Just like I said in the preview for the Spurs’ game, I expect Olivier Giroud to lead the line for the singular reason that he’s more accustomed to the physical game of the Premier League while Alvaro Morata has struggled recently to adapt to that physicality. It’s yet to be seen if Pedro makes a return to the starting eleven having been consigned to the substitutes bench in our last four or five fixtures but I doubt that’s going to happen on Saturday with both Eden Hazard and Willian fit and available. Tiemoue Bakayoko has endured a difficult season so far after his big money move from Monaco last summer and I think it’ll be better to reduce his play time as we come to the end of the season and hope he’ll finally get to live up to expectations next season. This match will surely come too soon for Ross Barkley who has returned to full training ahead of the visit of the Irons to Stamford Bridge. With the prospect of a return to Europa League looking more likely after the loss to Spurs last Sunday, now may be as good a time as any for Antonio Conte to give deserving members of the Chelsea academy a run in the side. Hell, he can even start by handing Callum Hudson-Odoi his first Premier League start against the Hammers on Sunday.
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Zappacosta, Kante, Fabregas, Emerson; Hazard, Giroud, Willian.
Last Five Matches: LWLWL
Injuries: David Luiz (Knee) – Out; Ethan Ampadu (Ankle) – Out.
David Moyes has turned to the 3-4-3 formation in their last three matches albeit with mixed results. While he lost the first two matches in which he used the formation against Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium and Burnley at the London Stadium, the formation did finally secure three points against the Saints last time out. Moyes has done a lot of rotation in recent matches due to a combination of injuries and tiredness. Having lost his place in the team to Adrian since December Joe Hart has been recalled between the sticks in time to make a final push for the England No. 1 shirt ahead of the World Cup this summer. Moyes is likely to keep faith with the same back three of Declan Rice, Angelo Ogbonna and Aaron Cresswell that kept a clean sheet against Southampton last weekend with Pablo Zabaleta and Arthur Masuaku in the wingback positions if Moyes stick with his 3-4-3 formation. Cheikhou Kouyate and captain Mark Noble have been the chosen two in the base of the Hammers’ midfield since switching to a back three formation with Michail Antonio, who is out for the remainder of the season with an hamstring, and Joao Mario providing support for Marko Arnautovic in attack. Edimilson Fernandes came in for the injured Antonio against the Saints but the ailing Manuel Lanzini, if considered fit enough for this match, is a different option for that position. Should Javier Hernandez be able to overcome his recent illness in time for kick off then Marko Arnautovic may revert back to his position on the wing especially if Lanzini couldn’t make it to the starting lineup.
Hart; Rice, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Zabaleta, Kouyate, Noble, Masuaku; Arnautovic, Hernandez, Mario.
Last 5 matches: WLLLW
Injuries: Michail Antonio (Hamstring) –Out; Javier Hernandez (Illness) – Doubt; Manuel Lanzini (Knee) – Doubt; James Collins (Hamstring) – Doubt; Winston Reid (Knee) – Out; Sam Byram (Ankle) – Out; Pedro Obiang (Knee) – Out; Andy Carroll (Fractured Foot) – Out.
Davide Zappacosta vs. Marko Arnautovic
Considering Arnautovic’s impact in the reverse fixture back in December then this is going to be a long day for Zappacosta if he’s chosen ahead of Victor Moses in the RWB position but the Italian’s pace should stand him in good stead against the Austrian speedster.
Cesc Fabregas vs. Cheikhou Kouyate
Antonio Conte will be hoping Fabregas performs better against West Ham than he managed against Spurs last time out as the Lilywhites subdued him almost in every respect and David Moyes will be hoping Kouyate can manage the same against the Spaniard on Sunday.
Eden Hazard vs. Pablo Zabaleta
Eden Hazard needs to get his mojo back and fast because his performances in recent matches have been below his very high standard and Sunday is as good a time as any to start especially against an ageing Pablo Zabaleta. Should Hazard be in his usual element on Sunday then it’s going to be a torrid time for the Argentine.
This is our last London derby of this season and we’ve not covered ourselves in glory in derbies this season with 2 wins, 2 draws and 3 losses in the seven derbies this season. After the way the reverse fixture played out at the London Stadium David Moyes will be full of confidence going into this fixture but they are likely to come up against a Blues’ team seeking redemption after last week’s loss to Tottenham. Antonio Conte has reiterated his commitment to the Blues’ course following comments made during the week by his compatriot and former Chelsea player and manager Gianluca Vialli. But it’s one thing to say something and another to mean it because it was pretty obvious the Italian’s demeanour has changed from last season and that seem to have affected his players and he has spent too much time complaining this season but if he says he’s committed to the Blues then I’m taking his word for it. Although I’m convinced that he’s for us, three points against the Hammers will help to further convince me as we head to Wembley next Sunday to face Southampton in the FA Cup semi-final. Until next week, please remember to Keep The Blue Flag Flying High!
Thumbnail image courtesy of: ZimBio
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