It’s our first Monday league fixture of the season. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look to start the week well…
Chelsea will be aiming for an improvement on the 1-1 draw in this fixture played out a year ago to the day. The Blues will hope the 50th win against West Ham in all competitions finally arrives in our 112th ever meeting – no.49 came two years ago. Maurizio Sarri’s side could also record three league wins on the spin for the first time since the opening weeks of the season.
Mondays are good. The west Londoners have not lost a league match at the Bridge on this day of the week for over 14 years, and have won nine of the past 13 games against our rivals from the other end of the District Line.
The Hammers have not travelled well so far. They have managed one point from a possible 18 on the road this calendar year, and only relegated Fulham have achieved fewer clean sheets than their five this season.
Yet the Irons have conceded one fewer goal away from home than Sarri’s men, and Manuel Pellegrini has steered his sides to three straight shut-outs against Chelsea. Only five other coaches (George Graham, Arsene Wenger, Harry Redknapp, Alan Curbishley and Rafael Benitez) have earned that distinction in the Premier League era; none has held the Blues over four matches.
The Hammers have gained eight points from nine league games against ‘big six’ opposition this season, and generally raise their levels against the west Londoners whatever their form. A year ago on Monday, for example, they fought hard for the 1-1 at the Bridge in the midst of a run-in in which they shipped four to Liverpool, Swansea, Arsenal and Man City. They may be in mid-table, but are unlikely to meander at the Bridge.
Chelsea have won nine of our past 11 home matches in all competitions, with our only defeat in that time coming against Manchester United in the FA Cup fifth round.
— Key stat
The midweek results placed the Blues fifth, a point behind Tottenham, and below Arsenal (who now face five away games in seven) only on goal difference although the Gunners have a game in hand. We are two points clear of Man United and this match could be well-timed.
The points advantage over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side would extend to five with a win on Monday night as they are involved in an FA Cup semi-final. Spurs’ next opportunity to earn points is also a week away, and the Gunners are at Everton, so a win on Monday might even push the Blues up to third.
After defeat at Wolves in midweek – the Red Devils’ second successive away league defeat – Solskjaer noted 15 points from their six games remaining should secure a top-four finish, and that they cannot afford many more slip-ups.
Maurizio Sarri’s assessment ahead of this weekend was that his team will try to win every game but may not need to do so to secure a Champions League berth. ‘It will be difficult for every team. We have to fight to the last minute of every match and not look at the other results,’ the Italian noted.
Were the top four places to go to teams in the best form over the past six matches home and away, that would mean Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea.
Form is the last six matches home and away.
*Can also qualify for 2019/20 Champions League by winning 2018/19 Europa League.
Europa League catch-up
Former Chelsea man Miroslav Stoch, the leading goalscorer for Europa League opponents Slavia Prague, has just won the 2018 Czech Goal for the Year competition for a top-corner strike against Dukla Prague in October.
Two English players, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, set up goals in the Blues’ 3-0 victory over Brighton. That has not happened in a league match for the club since a 2-1 January 2012 win at Wolves, when John Terry and Ashley Cole were the providers for Ramires and Frank Lampard.
Moreover, three graduates of the Chelsea Academy – those two plus Andreas Christensen – started a Premier League for the first time since the 4-3 win against Watford at the Bridge on 15 May 2017. John Terry, Nathan Ake, and Nathaniel Chalobah started that game and Ola Aina came on off the bench to make it briefly four homegrowns on the field.
Loftus-Cheek and Christensen, who won the UEFA Youth League in 2014/15, and Hudson-Odoi, a beaten finalist last season, would have been interested to see their successors at Cobham progress in that elite competition this week.
At one stage in their quarter-final against Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday, Chelsea’s Under-19s were trailing 0-2. Yet thanks to skipper Luke McCormick’s two late goals to make it 2-2, pristine spot-kicks in the penalty shoot-out (including a stunningly cool one from Mark Guehi), and two big saves by goalie Karlo Ziger, they are off to the finals weekend in Switzerland yet again.
There the two-time champions will play a semi-final against Barcelona (who edged past Lyon) in a repeat of last year’s final. The other teams in the last four are Hoffenheim, who thrashed Real Madrid 4-2 in torrential rain and Porto, who eased past Midtjylland 3-0.
This is Chelsea’s final London derby of the league season (we may yet meet Arsenal in Europe) and the return from such games has been good so far. It has meant capital punishment to our neighbours Fulham, however.
The Whites finished bottom of the London league table with seven defeats in 10 games on the way to relegation in 2013/14, but surpassed themselves this campaign by losing every derby, home and away.
Chelsea have won all four derbies at the Bridge so far this season. After Monday, West Ham can do the Blues a favour in their last all-capital clash of the campaign on 27 April… at Tottenham.
THE BEST THAT CAN HAPPEN THIS WEEKEND (AND MONDAY)…
Into the top three for the first time since early December.
Premier League results and fixtures
Southampton 1 Liverpool 3
Bournemouth v Burnley 3pm
Huddersfield v Leicester 3pm
Newcastle v Crystal Palace 3pm
Everton v Arsenal 2.05 - Sky Sports
Chelsea v West Ham 8pm - Sky Sports