Chelsea play their neighbours from the east as West Ham visit Stamford Bridge and the home fans will be looking forward to a comprehensive win over their beleaguered rivals. Whilst the Pensioners are hitting their straps at the right time of the season, the Irons are doing the opposite and many Chelsea supporters will be expecting an easy three points from this one.
Of course, football has a nasty habit of throwing up surprises and rarely do things pan out exactly as it would seem they should. Back in October Sam Allardyce took his side to Spurs, who then held the best defensive record in the top flight, and somehow they came away with three points after a fine 3-0 win! Such a result is unlikely in the extreme here but it just goes to show that the home players – and fans – must guard against complacency.
Complacency is not usually an issue for any Jose Mourinho side and nor, ordinarily, is losing on home soil. Mourinho’s incredible home league record is well documented and whilst the continuation of his run for Chelsea relied on a dubious penalty decision against West Brom, the fact remains that this season the Blues have dropped points at the Bridge just once in 11 league games.
Chelsea, as said, are finding their best form as the season approaches the business end and Eden Hazard has been central to much of that. Willian has also excelled and if Samuel Eto’o can do as his Portuguese boss predicted, and come into his own as he adjusts to Premier League life as the season wears on, Chelsea will take some stopping.
They should certainly have far too much for a West Ham outfit that could be forgiven for suffering from shellshock at the moment. Big Sam’s men lost 9-0 in the League Cup over two legs to Man City and were dumped out of the FA Cup 5-0 by Championship side Nottingham Forest. Of course, Premier League survival is the club’s number one aim and a 2-0 win at Cardiff on the 11th January was a huge boost.
If the Hammers can continue to win the games against the fellow strugglers they won’t care what happens in games like this but even so, with Allardyce welcoming key players such as Andy Carroll back into the fold, the home side must be at their best. Carroll can menace any side, even one with six clean sheets in the last 10 (prior to the FA Cup game with Stoke) and his battle with John Terry and co could be crucial here.
Overall we expect this may prove closer than many people think. Whilst Mourinho’s men are starting to play more expansive and impressive football, on the whole they have not steamrolled sides at the Bridge and with West Ham sure to try and defend in numbers we think a safe, yet unspectacular home win is the order of the day.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-0