West Ham v Chelsea

by - December 09, 2017

Saturday lunchtime sees Chelsea head out to East London and visit West Ham’s relatively new home. It comes on the back of 2 dominant performances at home in which The Blues comfortably overcame an early 1-0 deficit to beat Newcastle, and then outplayed, but could not outscore Atlético Madrid on Tuesday evening.

Antonio Conte’s side go into this match unbeaten in the Premier League since 14 October, a run of 7 matches, which includes 6 victories. The manager has been buoyed in recent weeks by the emergence of Andreas Christensen as a dependable first team regular in the centre of the defence, the performances of Alvaro Morata, Cesc Fabregas and N’Golo Kante, but in particular the outstanding rise to the very top of his game by Eden Hazard. The Belgian has been completely unplayable over the last few matches, scoring goals at  will and receiving man of the match awards for fun. Despite all their other options, Chelsea are clearly a better attacking force with Hazard in their line up and even more so at the moment as he seems capable of taking the whole opposing defence apart single handedly.

The bad new for Conte is that David Luiz is still unavailable with his ongoing knee problems and now Danny Drinkwater is out with an illness. The latter is a real shame as he has not only improved from game to game but was improving during each match. In the second half on Tuesday, Drinkwater was unfortunate to not get a goal nor even an assist against Madrid. His energy, combativeness and ball retention would have been ideal for this London derby. With Luiz also missing and the manager still not risking the emerging talents of the young Ethan Ampadu, there is likely to be a recall to the starting line up for Tiemoue Bakayoko. Having started the season in impressive fashion for a young 22 year old playing in his first season in the Premier League, Bakayoko’s recent performances have not been so good. With the likelihood that Conte will stick with the 3-5-2 formation, he is limited for choices to play alongside Kante and Fabregas in the midfield. Otherwise we can expect few surprises, with the rested Alonso returning to the left wing back role and Moses keeping his place on the right following his return from injury.

West Ham have just started a resurgence, probably due to new manager syndrome. They were only narrowly defeated by the runaway leaders Manchester City. Goalkeeper Joe Hart was ineligible to play against his parent club and was replaced by Adrian who played well enough that he could retain his place against The Blues.

David Moyes could well have Javier Hernandez back to give him more options but it is a lack of goals that has turned a number of Ok performances into defeats. They are on a run of 8 winless matches in which they have only scored 6 goals. Their tally of only 10 points after 15 matches is their lowest ever in The Premier League.

However, despite all the stats being in favour of an away win, The Hammers new manager has clearly been concentrating on tightening their defending and the Chelsea players will find them a tough unit to get through. At the other end, Chelsea’s ability to convert chances into goals was quite woeful on Tuesday and I’m sure finishing practice has been at a premium all week in training.

In what could be a tight, low scoring match, hopefully the extra class of Hazard and his colleagues will make the difference and Chelsea can close the gap before Sunday’s Manchester derby.

Written by Jon Ellis, Chelsea FC home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on twitter: @ClitheroeBlue

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