West Ham United prepare to play host to Chelsea in Saturday’s Premier League clash, and there is much more than just capital bragging rights on the line in this London derby.
The Blues reclaimed their place in the top four of the table with a goalless stalemate against Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday, while West Ham are now in fifth but only behind their upcoming opponents on goal difference.
Arsenal loanee Joe Willock was the thorn in Tottenham Hotspur’s side earlier this month, and the Newcastle United man once again came off the bench to sink another capital outfit as West Ham suffered a painful 3-2 defeat to the Magpies last Saturday.
The tie seemed destined to end with the spoils shared following goals from Issa Diop at both ends of the pitch, as well as a Joelinton strike and Jesse Lingard’s penalty, but Willock directed a powerful header past Lukasz Fabianski in a major blow to West Ham’s Champions League aspirations.
David Moyes’s surprise package remain firmly in contention for a top-four finish, but defeat at St James’ Park gave Chelsea the opportunity to leapfrog them in the table – a chance which they took – and the Blues’ superior goal difference means that West Ham sit fifth with six games of the season remaining.
Moyes has now seen his side ship at least two goals in their last four Premier League matches – a statistic that will become all the more worrying now that Craig Dawson is suspended for this game – but home is where the heart is for the Hammers, as they have taken 13 points from the last 15 on offer at the London Stadium.
Only Manchester City can boast a better home record than West Ham in the 2020-21 campaign, and Moyes’s side are also unbeaten in their last five London derbies at home before this pivotal showdown with Chelsea, who will be aiming to end a tumultuous week in perfect fashion.
Petr Cech becoming embroiled in fan protests outside Stamford Bridge symbolised football’s response to the proposed European Super League – which Chelsea were one of the founding members of – but during their game with Brighton on Tuesday evening, news of the Premier League’s Big Six dropping out one by one slowly filtered through to jubilant supporters.
Affairs on the pitch were much duller, however, as neither Chelsea nor Brighton – reduced to 10 men in the dying minutes after Ben White was sent off – could find a way through at Stamford Bridge, as Thomas Tuchel’s fatigued outfit were unable to build on their recent FA Cup and Champions League successes.
However, that point was enough to see the Blues break back into the top four of the table, and Leicester City – who have a game in hand – are only one point clear of Chelsea in third before they face West Bromwich Albion on Thursday, although the Foxes will certainly be expected to steer clear in that fixture.
That infamous home thrashing at the hands West Brom was an early blot on Tuchel’s notebook, but the former Borussia Dortmund manager is yet to lose away from home since succeeding Frank Lampard and will be aiming to stretch his unbeaten run on the road to 10 matches across all competitions this weekend.
Tuchel could become the first Chelsea manager in history to navigate his first 10 away games unbeaten on Saturday, and the Blues eased to a 3-0 triumph over West Ham back in December, during which the forgotten man Tammy Abraham netted twice.
As mentioned, Dawson’s two yellow cards in the Newcastle defeat means that he is suspended for this fixture, so Fabian Balbuena could deputise at the back if Aaron Cresswell fails to overcome a thigh problem in time.
Recent reports regarding Cresswell and Arthur Masuaku’s fitness have not been positive, so Ben Johnson could start on the left once again, while star man Lingard was also forced off at St James’ Park but is not thought to be carrying anything more serious than cramp.
Chelsea-linked Declan Rice will not get the opportunity to impress against his former club as he nurses a knee problem, while Michail Antonio remains on the long-term absentee list for the hosts.
As for the Blues, Mateo Kovacic’s hamstring problem is the only major concern for Tuchel, who should be able to call upon Thiago Silva after he sat out the goalless stalemate with Brighton.
Cesar Azpilicueta and Ben Chilwell also enjoyed rare rests in midweek and the duo should displace Kurt Zouma and Marcos Alonso this weekend, while N’Golo Kante is another player who is surely set to earn a recall to the first XI.
Kante’s return could push Mason Mount further forward as Hakim Ziyech makes way, while Timo Werner is aiming to displace Christian Pulisic on the left-hand side of the attack.
Kepa Arrizabalaga kept Edouard Mendy out of the team for the visit of Brighton, but the former Rennes man will likely return in between the sticks this weekend.
West Ham United possible starting lineup:
Fabianski; Ogbonna, Diop, Balbuena; Coufal, Soucek, Noble, Johnson; Fornals; Bowen, Lingard
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Mendy; Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger; James, Kovacic, Kante, Chilwell; Mount, Werner; Havertz
Match day and time
Wes Ham versus Chelsea would be played at London’s Olympic on April 24, 2021 at 5.30pm UK.
We say: West Ham United 1-1 Chelsea
West Ham have been hit with injuries and suspensions at the worst time possible, but this should still be a fascinating battle between one of the best home teams in the league and Tuchel’s away-day specialists.
The Blues have only managed to win one of their last four league games as FA Cup and Champions League fatigue catches up to them, and with West Ham boasting a respectable home record against their London rivals, we expect this clash to finish all square in a result that will not do much good for either’s side’s top-four hopes.