A Blue Up North previews our home match against West Ham.
This Sunday sees West Ham visit Stamford Bridge for their Premier League clash. It is a match up that is unlikely to over excite the neutrals, especially after last weekend’s results lifted any urgent pressure for vital wins for both sides.
Despite recent troubled times, West Ham were in inspired form during their comfortable 3-0 home win over lowly Southampton. The win moved The Hammers up to 14th place in the league, 5 points clear of the relegation zone. They are now surely only a couple of wins away from guaranteeing their Premier League status for next season.
Meanwhile, The Blues finally had their long unbeaten home run against Tottenham Hotspur broken. It was a loss that meant that they are destined to miss out on Champions League football next season with all the relevant financial and status implications. The 8 point gap now to the top 4 means that even if Chelsea win all their last 7 league matches, they are still unlikely to break back into qualifying for Europe’s top club competition.
So, on paper, with the visitors looking almost safe from the drop and The Blues seemingly with little but pride to play for in the league, this is a match that could well not be played at break neck speed. It is usually matches like this that depends on the determination to win from the players involved for the outcome. Who will go the extra to ensure their side will come out on top.
The East Londoners have seen major unrest and protests at recent home matches, most notably during a 3-0 defeat to Burnley on 10 March. Most fans are still extremely upset with how the club and, in particular the board, have organised the move to the new stadium and the lack of investment in the playing squad. Their away form hasn’t been great recently either, with only 1 away win for The Hammers so far in 2018.
Manager David Moyes will be without Michail Antonio and James Collins, while Manuel Lanzini is also likely to miss out. However, he may have Javier Hernandez back in his squad. This is quite a reduction on his injury list compared to a month or so ago.
Antonio Conte still has David Luiz and Ethan Ampadu out injured, but Thibaut Courtois, Pedro and Ross Barkley are all back in contention, with the latter coming through an U23s match last Saturday. Although it is unlikely that the Italian will change his formation, it is expected that he may shake the starting line up, especially after some stale and lacklustre performances recently.
Marcos Alonso and possibly Victor Moses may well be rested with Emerson Palmieri and Davide Zappacosta given an opportunity. Meanwhile, Ross Barkley or Danny Drinkwater could well line up in central midfield alongside the ever reliant N’Golo Kante. However, will he play around with either the back 3 or even the front 3. Too many changes could well disrupt any flow, but he was clearly disappointed with recent capitulations during defeats to Tottenham and both Manchester clubs in the league.
But it will be the desire for victory from the home side that should be the deciding factor. Yes, The Hammers looked devastating in their win last time out, but their league wins in 2018 have been against teams in the bottom half of the league. Surely The Blues will have far too much for them.
After what will be a deserved rousing farewell to a true gentleman of football before the kick off, let’s hope the memory of the great things Ray Wilkins did for his beloved club inspires them on to a morale boosting home win as they aim to finish the season strongly.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue