West Ham United will welcome Chelsea to the London Stadium, with the stakes in this derby higher than ever before as the top four race hots up.

The games are coming thick and fast all across Europe and with the controversial Europan Super League dead and buried for now, the top four race in the Premier League is set to intensify. On Saturday, a big game in this chase will be played at the London Stadium, where West Ham United will host Chelsea.

West Ham United have been one of the surprise packages in the 2020/21 Premier League season. The Hammers, after narrowly staving off relegation last season, have completely transformed into European football hopefuls, with a top four finish not out of the question at all. The defeat to Newcastle United last weekend, though, was a dent to their Champions League hopes and they sit a place below their visitors.

Speaking of, Chelsea head into this weekend placed fourth in the Premier League standings, ahead of West Ham by just goal difference. The Blues have seen a strong start under Thomas Tuchel become a thing of the past, having failed to win three of their last six games in all competitions, with their most recent clash ending in a goalless draw against Brighton & Hove Albion.

The reverse fixture, played at Stamford Bridge back in December, saw Chelsea cruise to a 3-0 win over West Ham. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

West Ham United

David Moyes has been handed a boost on the team news front ahead of the visit of Chelsea. On Saturday, the West Ham United manager will be bereft of the services of at least four first-team players, while he is also sweating over the fitness of another squad member.

The good news, though, comes in the form of Jesse Lingard’s availability, with the Englishman showing no ill-effects of the thigh injury he recently sustained. Meanwhile, Aaron Cresswell is set to face a late fitness test to determine his availability in his bid to return from a hamstring injury of his own.

The likes of Arthur Masuaku (knee), Declan Rice (knee) and Michail Antonio (hamstring) all remain on the sidelines, while Craig Dawson is suspended after being sent off last week against Newcastle United. The absence of Dawson means Fabian Balbuena ought to start in the three-man central defensive unit alongside Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna.

Lukasz Fabianski will hope to make amends after a sub-par display against Newcastle, with West Ham lining up in a 3-4-1-2 formation once again when Chelsea pay them a visit. The key decision will pertain to the left wing-back spot, where Ryan Fredericks could be handed a start, if Cresswell is not fit enough to start.

On the right flank, there is no looking past Vladimir Coufal, with Mark Noble and Tomas Soucek pairing up in the middle of the park. Pablo Fornals will likely reprise the no. 10 role, playing off of the two strikers, who ought to be the in-form duo of Lingard and Jarrod Bowen.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Fabianski; Balbuena, Diop, Ogbonna; Coufal, Noble, Soucek, Fredericks; Fornals; Bowen, Lingard

Chelsea

Unlike his counterpart in the West Ham United dugout, Thomas Tuchel does not have any pressing injury concern hampering his preparations ahead of the trip to the London Stadium. On Saturday, the Chelsea boss will continue to have to make do without a couple of first-team players.

While Mateo Kovacic remains a key absentee for the Blues due to a hamstring injury, Tuchel will hope that the pairing of Jorginho and N’Golo Kante is solid enough to keep a lid on Jesse Lingard and his attacking partners at West Ham. The second player missing out for Chelsea, meanwhile, is Thiago Silva.

The veteran Brazilian defender is struggling with some fatigue and in his absence, Andreas Christensen ought to start at the heart of the three-man central defensive unit. Kurt Zouma will make way in the centre, with Cesar Azpilicueta replacing the Frenchman to return to the Chelsea defence, which will be completed by Antonio Rudiger.

Meanwhile, Tuchel has confirmed that Edouard Mendy will return between the sticks after being benched in favour of Kepa Arrizabalaga last time out against Brighton & Hove Albion. Up ahead, Reece James and Ben Chilwell are likely to be the two wing-backs.

Meanwhile, Kante’s return in midfield means Mason Mount will get the chance to be one of the two attacking midfielders, starting behind Kai Havertz, who will lead the line for Chelsea against West Ham. Christian Pulisic will be the third man in attack, with the USMNT international hoping to continue his solid run of form.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kante, Chilwell; Mount, Pulisic; Havertz

Betting Odds

Favourable Tips

1. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.95

Hot Ones

1. Jesse Lingard to score anytime @ 3.20

Key Stats

  • West Ham United have equalled the club Premier League record of 16 victories in a season and need eight points to surpass their highest Premier League points total, set in 2016. The Hammers have the division’s second best home record this season, with 31 points. They need one home win to reach 10 in the top-flight for the first time since 2001/02.
  • Chelsea have kept a clean sheet in 15 of their 20 matches in all competitions under Thomas Tuchel. The Blues could equal the club top-flight record of four London derby away wins in a season.
  • West Ham United have managed to win just once in 11 Premier League fixtures this season against the ‘Big Six’ sides at home, against Tottenham Hotspur in February (D3 L7).
  • All five of David Moyes’ Premier League wins as a manager against Chelsea came in home fixtures, latterly in July last year.
  • Jesse Lingard could equal Diafra Sakho’s West Ham record of scoring in six successive Premier League appearances. Sakho did so in September and October 2014. Lingard has been involved in 12 Premier League goals in his first 10 appearances for West Ham, scoring nine and setting up three.

Player to Watch

Jesse Lingard

Embed from Getty Images

Who else but the most in-form player in the Premier League at the moment. The speculation over his future continues with every passing performance and as things stand, there seems to be very little stopping Jesse Lingard, who is just going from strength to strength for West Ham United.

Even when the Hammers were thoroughly outplayed, Lingard managed to make an impact to bring the scoreline close against Newcastle United. He will now hope to continue his fine run of form by condemning Chelsea to a crucial defeat. Will Lingard beef up his fabulous tally of 12 direct goal involvements in 10 appearances for West Ham?

Prediction

West Ham United 1-1 Chelsea

With the European Super League fiasco behind us, the top four in the Premier League suddenly means something again. West Ham United, in particular, would want to show the merits of being one of the four Premier League clubs to qualify for the UEFA Champions League, although that would entail them to beat Chelsea.

The Blues do not get overpowered that easily, though, and it will be quite difficult for West Ham to find the openings frequently. However, the game against Brighton & Hove Albion earlier this week exposed some chinks in their defence, which the Hammers would look to exploit. It all points towards a closely contested affair, one which should end in a 1-1 draw.

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