West Ham – Chelsea (Premier League)
Chelsea go to Upton Park on Saturday in search of their first victory of the month, something they are not used to, really. Coming out from this international break, now that the tickets for the World Cup are assigned to, it’s time to concentrate and stop losing points. West Ham may be just what the Blues need to regain momentum but surely the Hammers are planing something different. Like what they did last time around.
West Ham United’s Premier League track record has been discouraging this season. They’re in 16th place, with two victories, four draws and five losses that grant them meagre 10 points. The same as Stoke and Fulham, goal-differential is the only thing to keep them from relegation zone. The Hammers last success in the League was in October 6, a shocking 3-0 win over the Spurs at White Hart Lane.
The continued absence of Andy Carroll is maiming West Ham’s offensive. The Hammers have the third lowest scorer in the Premier League with 9 hits, only Sunderland and Crystal Palace have done worse. The other forward options do not meet Sam Allardyce’s standards and he is resorting to densely populate the midfield. He may say it worked with AVB’s men but what about Manchester City? And then he whines about the teams lack of goals. How about if you field a striker for a change?!
Defender Winston Reid will be out for some time following surgery. The New Zealand international suffered an ankle sprain in training early this month. Razvan Rat is in doubt after sustaining a hamstring injury in his game for Romania. Joey O’Brien and James Collins should be on the starting XI after being spared from their international duties. George McCarthy resumed his training. Carroll, Petric, Taylor and Diarra are still out.
Probable lineup: Jaaskelainen – Demel, Tomkins, Collins, O’Brien – Diamé, Noble – Downing, Morrison, Joe Cole – Nolan.
Chelsea are currently fourth with twenty-one points in eleven games. After wining over City, in a dramatic 90 minute hit from Fernando Torres, they’ve fallen to Newcastle (2-0) and reached a stalemate (2-2) with West Bromwich at Stanford Bridge. A 6-3-2 mark is not exactly the overwhelming parade many expected for the return of the Happy One. And yet Chelsea remain a mere 4 points adrift from the top of the table.
Surely Mourinho knows of the defensive strategy Allardyce applied with the Spurs. But to sit tight before a team with such creative players has Chelsea is an accident waiting to happen. The Portuguese’s phrase of the week is “we need more points”. You think, José?
This season’s weakest-link in the Blues team has been the offence. Getting rid of Lukaku might have been premature. Eto’o is reliable but has passed his prime. Torres, just when he was starting to warm up to the side, scoring decisive goals, hurted his knee. Although he has returned to practice it’s not likely he’ll be ready to return yet. And Mourinho has to consider Chelseas’s Internationals weariness. David Luiz, Ramires, William and Oscar played for Brazil in both friendlies – with Honduras and Chile – and to do so travelled first to Miami and then to Toronto. Hazard was on for Belgium, and Mata for Spain. Ashley Cole’s rib problem allows Azpilicueta to maintain his spot at left-back. Torres is doubtful.
Probable lineup: Cech – Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta – Ramires, Lampard – Hazard, Oscar, Schurrle – Eto’o.
When it comes to head-to-head matches between West Ham and Chelsea the latter clearly come out on top. They earned points in 9 of the 10 last clashes (7W/2D/1L). But on the most recent visit the Blues made to Upton Park they were “hammered”, so to speak, 3 to 1, Mohamed Diamé scoring the winner at the 86th minute. Are Chelsea ready for some payback or will West Ham United pull a similar stunt?