Upton Park, London
November 23, 2013; 17:30 GMT
Chelsea FC travel to Upton Park to take on local rivals West Ham, as the Premier League resumes proceedings after the international break. With both teams in desperate need of a victory, we are in for a thrilling London derby on Saturday.
West Ham have failed to win at home in the last four fixtures and with six points in the last 9 games, they are presently in a very uncomfortable position in the league; 16 on the table and out of the relegation zone merely because of goal difference, Sam Allardyce will have to turn their fortunes around before it’s too late. The only saving grace this season has been their performances in the Capital One cup, the 3-0 win at Tottenham and the form of Ravel Morrision, who has scored 5 goals so far in the campaign.
Chelsea, on their part, aren’t in an ideal situation either. Although they sit 4th in the table and are only 4 points behind first placed Arsenal, their recent form isn’t anything to write home about. After a wonderful October, they have began November in a customary disastrous manner, losing to Newcastle and luckily escaping at the hands of West Brom. They have won only once away from home this season in the league and will be looking to set the records straight against traditional rivals West Ham.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The injuries have further added to Sam Allardyce’s woes, as he finds quite a massive chunk of his squad sidelined for this fixture. The manager will be without the services of Razvan Rat, Winston Reid, Andy Carroll, Alou Diarra, Ricardo Vaz Te, Matthew Taylor, and Mladen Petric, as he prepares to welcome Jose Mourinho’s team. James Collins and Joey O’Brien are, however, expected to at least make the bench on Saturday.
Sam Allardyce will continue to use the 4-2-3-1 system, with Jääskeläinen in goal. The defence is expected to comprise of Demel (left-back), Tomkins, Collins (centre-backs) and McCartney, who’d be starting for the first time this season. Ahead of them, the Collison and Noble will shield the back-four. Former Chelsea man Joe Cole is likely to resume his role on the left flank, with Downing on the opposite side and arguably player of the West Ham season thus far, Ravel Morrison playing through the middle. Nolan is expected to lead the Hammers’ attack.
Allardyce would have seen and thoroughly analysed Chelsea’s performances against both Newcastle and West Brom by now and he will prepare his team to do an encore. West Ham will look to keep things tight at the back, defend deep and deny any kind of space to the variety of attacking midfielders that the opposition have on their payroll. Furthermore, more emphasis would be given to Chelsea’s left flank where Hazard and Azpilicueta are expected to start, and is thus the stronger of the two sides for the visiting team. Ivanovic, on the other flank, has failed to effectively contribute in an attacking capacity from right-back and Hammers would be wise to let him hog as much of the ball as possible.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Jääskeläinen; Demel, Tomkins, Collins, McCartney; Collison, Noble; Cole, Downing, Morrison; Nolan
Marko van Ginkel remains the only long-term casualty for Chelsea, while Ashley Cole and Fernando Torres are also doubtful this weekend, though the former is more likely to feature than the latter. Other than them, Jose Mourinho has the whole roster at his disposal against West Ham.
He may not hesitate in deploying a three-man backline in the second half, but 4-2-3-1 remains Mourinho’s favored system in his second spell at Chelsea. With the rise of Thibaut Courtois, Petr Cech may have to fight for the position that he has held for the last decade next summer, but for now he remains the undisputed choice for Chelsea between the posts. Ahead of him, the manager is expected to continue with Ivanovic at right-back and Azpilicueta on the left, with the central defence comprising of Terry and Luiz. With the midfield partnership of Ramires and Lampard looking increasingly shaky with every game, Mikel can be expected to start in place of one of the two. Schurrle, Oscar and Hazard are likely to feature in the third band, behind Eto’o. If Mikel starts, Jose can also field Mata in place of Oscar because of the stability provided by the Nigerian at the back, which will inturn compensate for the less than ideal defensive contribution that the Spaniard has in games.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Mikel; Schurrle, Mata, Hazard; Eto’o
- Chelsea are undefeated in 17 of their last 19 matches in the Premier League.
- Chelsea are undefeated in 14 of their last 15 matches against West Ham in all competitions.
- West Ham have failed to win 9 of their last 10 matches in the Premier League.
Statistics courtesy Whoscored.com.
Player (s) To Watch Out For
Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
With both Cole and Ivanovic struggling to deliver of late, Cesar Azpilicueta has firmly established himself as the starting full-back at Chelsea. Although it’s unsure whose position he will devour in the long run as he has started and done well at left back recently, the fact that he will start is a certainty now. His work ethics, passion on the pitch, positional sense while defending and ability to link up play on the left will be crucial for Chelsea, not just against West Ham but also as they head into the busy winter.
West Ham 0-2 Chelsea
Chelsea had dropped points against Newcastle and West Brom, before heading into the international break, and although other challengers also met with similar fates, Mourinho will be yearning to stem the rot and reestablish his team’s title credentials. A London derby against West Ham is highly tricky to call especially considering Chelsea’s away form in the league this season, but the Blues can be expected to return home with all three points.
Blast From The Past