A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s away trip this Sunday to The London Stadium.
This Sunday Chelsea travel to East London for their away Premier League match against West Ham United. It is a fixture that if it had been played a couple of weeks ago would have been a very different prospect to the one now facing Maurizio Sarri’s team. Prior to the Hammers win away Everton last Sunday, they had looked a team in disarray including losing both of their home matches so far.
Add to that the fact that this fixture follows on from the first set of midweek European matches and the added distraction to preparations for Premier League matches that gives and suddenly there is a swing in momentum towards the home side.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini will be hoping the main inspiration to last week’s win, striker Marko Arnautovic will have fully recovered from injuring his knee at Everton, especially as replacement Javier Hernandez is already out with a virus. While last weekend’s 3 points was a welcome birthday present for Pellegrini, it had come about after a run of 4 consecutive defeats and after the manager made wholesale changes to his starting line up. Fans and players alike won’t be getting overly carried away as yet.
However there aren’t many more motivational dates in their calendar than the visit of The Blues from West London. As Pellegrini spends all week trying to plot back to back wins with his squad, they will have no concerns over lack focus on trying to defeat a main rival who currently lie top of the league. After all, West Ham have won 3 out of their last 4 meetings at home to Chelsea in all competitions so are fully aware of how to subdue the challenge ahead of them.
This will be Maurizio Sarri’s first experience of the extra quick turnaround of matches in this country. After his Napoli side were able to play regularly on a Monday evening after traveling away for a Thursday Europa League tie. To make matters worse for the manager, Chelsea’s return flight was delayed and so his preparation time diminished even further.
However, the possession focused passing style of football the new manager is instilling on his squad is a great foundation for the team with little preparation time. Surely Sarri will only need to make a few minor tweaks to be ready for a heated London derby.
With Eden Hazard, Mateo Kovacic and David Luiz not featuring at all in Greece, while Marcos Alonso, Cesar Azpilicueta, Jorginho and Olivier Giroud were not required to play a full 90 minutes, only 4 of the expected line up against West Ham were fully utilised on Thursday evening. The only new injury concern was Pedro who hurt his shoulder late on in the match but Sarri has indicated that it was not serious.
However, this has all the pointers of being a hard fought local derby. The Hammers will be buoyed by their victory and they do always pick up there tempo and focus for the arrival of The Blues. Sarri will need to send his side out ready to do battle as they try to take control of the match before looking towards winning the match.
With back to back cup and league matches against Liverpool within the following 7 days, Chelsea will certainly be aiming for another 3 points and to keep their winning run continue.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlur