Chelsea are in need of a momentum-building victory this Saturday, but after a long trip to Ukraine in midweek the task facing them at Upton Park is a daunting one. Slaven Bilic’s feisty West Ham team have thrived with an underdog mentality this season and will fancy their chances of stamping out any tentative signs of confidence in the Chelsea camp.
Fourteen of West Ham’s 17 points have been collected away from Upton Park this season. This is largely because Bilic’s key attacking players – Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini – flourish in the wide open spaces that develop for them on the counter-attack, with both scoring at Crystal Palace last time out.
Furthermore, Bilic’s aggressive, plucky mentality is better suited to matches in which West Ham aren't favourites. The Hammers struggle when the attacking impetus is on them to break down opponents, but they thrive when allowed to tackle and pounce. It speaks volumes that they've collected just one yellow card at home and 14 on the road, while completing 8 dribbles per match at Upton Park and 12 when away.
The visit of Chelsea, who average 56% possession in away matches, is the first match this season in which the West Ham fans will allow their team to take the patient, underdog approach. It's easy to see how the Hammers – like Crystal Palace, Everton, and Southampton – could sit in deep defensive lines (nullifying the tame Chelsea attacks) and then pour forward into the gaps left by an uncomfortable midfield and defence.
Branislav Ivanovic’s injury means that either Kurt Zouma or Baba Rahman will deputise at full-back. Both players looked uncomfortable against Dynamo Kiev and Aston Villa respectively, and West Ham’s powerful, explosive wingers could certainly capitalise when Chelsea’s defenders are left one-on-one. Unfortunately for Bilic this weekend, he'll be without ineligible Blues loanee Victor Moses.
It's easy to imagine the roar of the crowd and passion of the West Ham players on Saturday afternoon. In an intimidating arena, the Hammers are the kind of highly organised counter-attacking opponent that have caused Chelsea so many problems this season. Jose Mourinho’s woes are far from over.
West Ham vs Chelsea LIVE ANALYSIS with Stats Zone
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