This year, Chelsea’s Christmas interspersed two fixtures that would cause even the most potent teams to shudder; a Monday trip to the cold and windy Stoke City and a home fixture to supremely pragmatic West Ham. The former has duly been taken care of, thanks to what Mourinho described as a “good team performance”.
Sam Allardyce has been bullish in the build up to the show down at Stamford Bridge, saying “we have earned the right to have a go at both of them [including Arsenal]”. He also credits the Hammers turnaround in fortune to the scrappy draw against Chelsea back in January, which led to Mourinho making arguably the most noticed jibe of last season when he said West Ham played “football from the 19th century”, a comment that perhaps wasn’t meant to be taken at face value but nonetheless was.
West Ham has lost just once this season and are deservedly sitting in fourth position, they have scalps of victories against last season’s best two teams already and are in rich vein of form. Diafra Sakho, who might not start the game leads the scoring charts with 7 goals and the rejuvenated Stewart Downing has 6 assists.
They have a decent attacking force that also includes Andy Carroll, Enner Valencia and Mauro Zarate and are capable of playing direct football or using wide players. Mark Noble is the only injury doubt.
Chelsea has fielded a near identical side all season but Hazard limping off the pitch against Stoke means he might be rested for this one, to usher in Oscar who sat out the entire game. However, if he does make it, Mikel Obi will likely make way for a more attack minded player as the Hammers are expected to sit deep and counter.
Summer signing Felipe Luis (who has the highest tackle rate at 3.47) might come in for the slightly more conservative Azpilicueta while Schurrle and Drogba are expected to feature at some point in the game.
Expected Chelsea line up:
Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Luis, Fàbregas, Matic, Oscar, Hazard, Willian, Costa.
Expected West Ham line up:
Adrian, Jenkinson, Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell, Song, Kouyate, Nolan, Downing, Valencia, Carroll.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-0 West Ham