A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s home match against London rivals West Ham United.
Chelsea will host West Ham United on Monday evening at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League. And back to back home wins would propel The Blues up in to 3rd place after Arsenal were beaten away at Everton on Sunday.
After enduring some tough spells and too many embarrassing results earlier in 2019, this should be seen as quite an achievement for Maurizio Sarri’s team. After all, Chelsea are currently on a run of only 1 defeat in their last 10 matches.
It is a run which includes the loss away to an in form Everton, but victories over Tottenham Hotspur, Fulham, Cardiff and FA Cup semi finalists Brighton. The Blues are currently 6 points better off than after the same number of matches to last season, so there must have been some improvement. However, there is still plenty of criticism and negativity regarding the Italian’s stewardship.
Meanwhile, The Hammers have only won 3 out of their last 11 matches. It is a run in which some of their performances have frustrated their supporters and manager Manuel Pellegrini. They did register home wins of Huddersfield Town and Newcastle United in March, but also lost to relegation threatened Cardiff City.
Pellegrini has a few injury concerns with Andriy Yarmolenko, Andy Carroll, Jack Wilshere and Carlos Sanchez all long term absentees. However Felipe Anderson, Samir Nasri and Ryan Fredericks are all recovering from their injuries and could feature. But it is the loss of form of striker Marko Arnautovic, who has struggled since receiving a lucrative offer from China.
West Ham are definitely a side who raise their game whenever they face The Blues. However they haven’t won any of their last 6 away league matches and haven’t won at Stamford Bridge since September 2002. Meanwhile, Chelsea have only lost 1 home Premier League match all season and boast the fewest goals conceded at home in the league.
Marco Alonso and Pedro are unlikely to be ready for Monday’s match, but otherwise, Maurizio Sarri has a fully fit squad to choose from. Gonzalo Higuain, Willian, Ross Barkley and Antonio Rudiger are all available to return but the manager will need to be wary of changing the team that played so well last time out.
Olivier Giroud, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Andres Christensen were all key to Chelsea’s best performance and result in the last few weeks. They may have had 5 days to recover since the 3-0 win over Brighton, but The Blues are back in Europa League action just 3 days after this match with their away leg at Slavia Prague. As a result, the manager will probably make a few changes as he preselects 2 quite different line ups for the 2 matches.
Loftus-Cheek, along with Eden Hazard and Cesar Azpilicueta, were substituted against Brighton and could well all retain their places. After all the calls for Hudson-Odoi to make his first Premier League start and then his performance, it will be very harsh on the 18 year old to not start again against West Ham.
But it is more likely that the manager will keep him back for the trip to the Czech Republic. Higuain and Rudiger are likely to be recalled, again leaving Giroud and Christensen ready to face Slavia Prague.
After all, this is now getting to the crucial stages of the end of the season. Victory over West Ham puts The Blues right in the mix for the battle for the top 4 and the following match is the key first leg in the quarter finals of the Europa League.
And Sarri will need his side to keep battling on both fronts as one poor performance could end their run towards Champions League qualification along either route. If only he could keep his team selections more exciting, then this could be an exciting run in for us supporters.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue