The FourFourTwo Preview: Chelsea vs West Ham
Inspired by Juan Mata’s sad departure from Chelsea, Joe Cole seeks retribution for all the defensively shy playmakers Jose Mourinho has discarded. But he fails, because he’s on the bench buried in Andy Carroll’s beard, trying to keep warm.
Ordinarily, selling a player of Mata’s quality to a rival would be considered catastrophic, but Chelsea can afford to lose him. Getting £37 million for a player Mourinho had consigned to the bench is not bad business. In fact, it marks a £13.5 million profit on their original investment.
- Chelsea 1-0 Stoke (FAC)
- Chelsea 3-1 Man Utd (Prem)
- Hull 0-2 Chelsea (Prem)
- Derby 0-2 Chelsea (FAC)
- So'ton 0-3 Chelsea (Prem)
WEST HAM FORM
- West Ham 1-3 Newcastle (Prem)
- Cardiff 0-2 West Ham (Prem)
- Man City 6-0 West Ham (LC)
- N Forest 5-0 West Ham (FAC)
- Fulham 2-1 West Ham (Prem)
Mourinho has preferred to deploy Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian in Chelsea’s advanced midfield roles, with the emphasis on pace and counter-attack. According to the Blues' manager, Mata neglected his defensive duties and therefore didn’t fit into the system. And as Mata departs for Manchester United – who trail Chelsea by 12 points in the table – and Michael Essien heads to AC Milan, the Blues welcome January transfer window reinforcements Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah. Matic will provide competition for midfield sentries Mikel and Ramires, while Salah’s pace will be deployed further up the field.
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce can only dream about having such funds and talent at his disposal. Still, he’s not as upset about it as Arsene Wenger. Until the weekend capture of Italian twosome Antonio Nocerino and Marco Borriello, the Hammers boss’s biggest signing in January had been Carlton Cole on an 18-month contract – a player he discarded in the summer but had to bring back because he had no one else to play up front. Laugh all you want, Cole has scored five goals in 16 appearances - most of which have come from the bench.
Unfortunately most of the striker’s notches have counted for nothing – three of his strikes have come in defeats. Allardyce is hoping his first-choice striker, Carroll, now back from injury, will fire the Hammers up the table. Publically he’s calling for the fans to have patience with the 6ft 3in Geordie, but you can imagine he’s promising Carroll a no-holds-barred night out with Kevin Nolan if he can start banging in the goals.
Milan loanee Nocerino is set to go straight into the squad for Wednesday's clash at Chelsea, but Borriello is not match fit having missed the last six weeks.
Chelsea striker Fernando Torres is out injured after suffering lateral ligament damage in his knee during the Blues’ 3-1 win against Man United. He’s expected to be out for a month.
West Ham’s injury problems are more extensive. Mohamed Diame (knee) and Joe Cole (groin) sustained injuries against Manchester City in the League Cup and will not be available for selection on Wednesday.
More encouragingly Guy Demel and Richard Vaz Te played in a behind-closed-doors game last Thursday as they continue their injury rehabilitation. Defensive trio Joey O’Brien, George McCartney and Winston Reid are also expected to return to first-team duties this week.
Player to watch: Willian (Chelsea)
When Chelsea hijacked Tottenham’s move to sign the Brazilian from Anzhi Makhachkala with a successful £32 million bid, sources inside White Hart Lane said it was an underhand move by the Blues to dent Spurs’ title aspirations. Then-Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas wanted to bring Willian in as a replacement for Gareth Bale. Instead they got Erik Lamela, who hasn’t made the desired impact since his £25 million move.
Cynics said Chelsea didn’t need him, with Hazard, Oscar, Andre Schurrle, Mata, Kevin De Bruyne and Victor Moses already in their ranks. But the midfield schemer beat off the competition to claim a starting berth and prove he’s more than just a pawn in the transfer market. Moses went on loan to Liverpool and De Bruyne has left for VfL Wolfsburg. Willian’s form has been so good that Mata - Chelsea’s two-time player of the year – was benched and eventually sold to United.
It was against the Spaniard’s new employers that the Brazilian really excelled. He threatened David de Gea’s goal with 2 shots and teed up 2 efforts for his team-mates. His thrilling bursts forward helped him top the dribbling charts, as he recorded 3 successful take-ons. Defensively he weighed in with 7 ball recoveries – bettered only by Hazard – and 4 tackles. It was a display that encompassed attacking dynamism and hard work – two qualities Mourinho loves.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- West Ham 0–3 Chelsea (Prem, Nov 13)
- Chelsea 2–0 West Ham (Prem, Mar 13)
- West Ham 3–1 Chelsea (Prem, Dec 12)
- Chelsea 3–0 West Ham (Prem, Apr 11)
- West Ham 1–3 Chelsea (Prem, Sep 10)
Unbeaten in seven Premier League games, recording six wins and one draw, Mourinho’s men are really starting to kick into gear. But craftily using the media to ease the pressure on his team and turn up the heat on second-placed Man City, Mourinho maintains that Manuel Pellegrini’s team are the favourites for the title. No one is buying his smoke and mirrors act. The Blues are third in the table, two points behind leaders Arsenal, and gathering momentum.
If Chelsea’s momentum is driving up the table, West Ham’s is catapulting them downwards. Worryingly, their 9-0 humiliation at the hands of City in the cup is the least of their problems. The Hammers have won just one of their last nine Premier League outings, suffering six defeats. A win against Cardiff brought some hope, but normal business was resumed at home as they lost 3-1 to Newcastle.
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- Chelsea have won 13 of their last 15 home matches against bottom-six sides.
- The Blues have won 10 of their 11 home league matches this season.
- Chelsea have won 6 of their last 7 home league games against the Hammers.
- The Hammers have lost 7 of their last 9 away matches against top-six opposition, losing 5 of those games by 2 or more goals.
- West Ham have lost the most points from winning positions this season (14).
- Mourinho’s men have won more points from losing positions (14).
Best Bet: Chelsea (-2.0) Asian Handicap @ 2.05
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Mourinho is unbeaten in 71 Premier League games at Stamford Bridge. Let’s be honest, that’s not going to change on Wednesday. Chelsea to win 3-1.