Chelsea v West Ham Preview (Premier League) – 26th December 2014

Chelsea kick off early on Boxing Day as they host fourth placed West Ham at Stamford Bridge. It’s the start of a tough week for the league leaders, with games at home to Southampton and away to Spurs coming up in double-quick time.

The Blues are looking to protect their narrow lead at the top of the Premier League table, with second placed Manchester City having a much easier set of fixtures between now and New Year’s Day. That could hand them the advantage going into 2015, given the tough games Chelsea have. Chelsea will be looking to rise to the occasion over the next week, which they’ll need to do to become champions.

West Ham know they’ll be in for a very tough game here, after their win over Manchester City earlier this season their manager Sam Allardyce said Chelsea were a more difficult side to face than City. He talked about how tactically ridged City were, while Chelsea could adapt their tactics from game to game depending on the opposition.

West Ham have that ability too, as they have shown this season. They’ve been known as a physical, aerial side in recent years, but fan protests last season have led to them adding more firepower and adopting a more attacking style. Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho joined in the summer, and they’ve given West Ham more options up front, and that means they can also play football on the floor and have someone up top to finish it off. They can still play a direct game, with Andy Carroll coming back into the fold.

That makes them a difficult team to play against, and it is part of the reason they’re doing so well this season. Given Andy Carroll’s recent form and the problems he causes John Terry, he should make an impact against the Blues on Friday. Stewart Downing is another one to watch, he’s been in excellent form for West Ham this season.

For Chelsea, expect a couple of changes from the side that won at Stoke on Tuesday night. Oscar will be a prime candidate to come in, possibly for Mikel. Aside from that, it’s hard to see Mourinho making many other changes, unless they’re enforced. He’s given nearly all the players a rest at some point this month, so they should be fresh for this clash after Christmas.

This game last season finished 0-0, with Jose Mourinho criticising West Ham’s defensive tactics. This fixture is hardly likely to be the same, and we think there should be goals here with both sides having an attacking outlook. That result was one of the games where Chelsea couldn’t finish off their chances, which led to the signings of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa. A few goals would be good for Chelsea in this one, as would a start like the one they had against Stoke on Monday night.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 3-1