As the games are approaching thick and fast, Chelsea are challenged with a London derby that could affect their entire season. The Blues are hunting down Leicester City for that lucrative 3rd place spot, and with just seven games to go, every game is a final for Lampard and his men. Chelsea are currently on a five-game winning streak and will aim to continue this scintillating form moving forward. Their next challenge, West Ham United.
The Irons have severely struggled to gain any momentum heading into this derby, procuring just 3 points out of their last five league games. David Moyes’ side are in serious jeopardy heading into the business end of the season. The Hammers have also failed to find the net in their last 3 outings, which doesn’t assist their chances for a victory this evening.
As mentioned previously, Chelsea are chasing Leicester down with a vengeance, with their eyes on 3rd place and guaranteed Champions League football next season. The Blues are just one point behind Leicester and with the Foxes facing a significantly stronger opponent in Everton this week, Chelsea will not want to waste this opportunity to steal the coveted 3rd place spot. West Ham, on the other hand, are fighting for their lives, and sit just above the relegation zone, level on points with Bournemouth and Aston Villa.
Around the grounds:
Only four games have been played thus far in Matchweek 32, however, two of the results may very well affect Chelsea’s top-four hopes if they fail to capitalise on the dip in Leicester’s form. Both Manchester United and Wolves picked up maximum points this week, tightening the gap between those and Chelsea to just two points. Chelsea do, however, have this game in hand at the London Stadium to extend it back to 5. West Ham have been handed a lifeline with Aston Villa dropping points yet again when they lost to Wolves, but the side would benefit largely from a result against Chelsea.
With the fixture congestion required to finish the season, Lampard will have to ensure he rotates his players to maintain the highest level of fitness possible. That being said, every game is of paramount importance to our season and Chelsea will aim to win each one. Following the FA Cup quarter-final victory over Leicester, it will be interesting to see who keeps their place, and who is drafted out for the West Ham challenge. Nonetheless, this is how Chelsea line-up this evening:
Kepa, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger, Alonso, Kovacic, Kante, Barkley, Willian, Abraham, Pulisic.
We are yet to see a game since the restart that Mason Mount and N’Golo Kante have not started, and following his build-up of fatigue on Sunday, it is likely Mount has been rested, purely out of precaution. The same can’t be said for Kante, as the Frenchman is arguably the most important player in the squad, and will provide some serious cover for the defence. Christian Pulisic also looked unlikely to start, after he felt a tightness in his calf on Sunday, which hopefully is as minor as possible, but the American makes the 11 once again.
Despite the current run of form, Lampard stated in his recent press conference “We have to focus on what’s ahead rather than what’s gone before. We’ve had a good week but we’ve got a lot of work to do.” Frank was also asked about his favoured positioning of N’Golo Kante, in which he responded “It is a different position to what I’m asking of Kante to what Makelele played. With eras and the players around you that changes. With N’Golo I have a way I want us to work in midfield to have some fluidity to us, which allows N’Golo to bring his best attributes to the game.”
Players to watch:
Mateo Kovacic: The Croatian changed the game instantly on Sunday when he replaced Mason Mount at half time. As he has all season, Kovacic picked up the ball in areas which our other players were struggling to do and added a surge of energy that we were certainly missing. Mateo dictates the play so well, whilst getting himself stuck into anything he deems possible, which is a pleasure to watch. All we can do is hope we see more of the Croatian magician today.
Declan Rice: The rumours are back, as they always are, that Chelsea are interested in bringing Chelsea academy star Declan Rice back to the Bridge, and with this game later today, it will be interesting to see how Rice performs under the spotlight. Rice will most likely be observed a lot more by Chelsea fans than by West Ham fans, and Moyes will hope Rice can prevent Chelsea from breaking the deadlock, whether it’s as a 6, or as a centre half.
Andreas Christensen vs Michail Antonio:
Christensen impressed strongly in the victory over Man City last week and proved many doubters wrong after his shaky performance at Villa Park. The Dane will aim to keep West Ham’s Antonio at bay and will have an important job to do so, given Antonio’s sheer power and pace, a deadly mix and a worrying sign for any defender. The game has all the ingredients to be a classic, as both sides are desperate for the victory, and Chelsea will hope to wipe the slate clean after their loss earlier in the season, courtesy of Aaron Cresswell.
Written by Mash Greaves.