A trip to London’s Olympic Park for Saturday tea-time awaits the Blues this weekend. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton trail an important London derby…
Chelsea’s trip across town to play West Ham United on Saturday evening will be our 50th game of the season across all competitions. A win for west London would extend the gap to the fifth-placed Hammers from goal difference to three points, but it will take another fine performance to achieve that.
Points dropped in successive home league games and a 4-1 win at Palace show the Blues are playing better on the road at the moment, but the Irons have been beaten only once in their past eight outings at the London Stadium.
The 5.30pm Saturday slot has been a lucky one for the Blues since the turn of the year, bringing three straight victories: Man City in the cup last weekend, Crystal Palace the week before and Fulham back in January.
Now Thomas Tuchel’s side are targeting seven top-flight games without defeat on the road for the first time since December 2015 to April 2016. The only other Blues manager to avoid defeat in six away Premier League games from the start of his tenure was Luiz Felipe Scolari in 2008/09.
Thomas Tuchel is aiming to become the only Chelsea coach to remain unbeaten in his opening 10 away matches across all competitions.
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Chelsea team news
Tuchel was disappointed his team were unable to find the win that would have claimed third place against dogged visitors Brighton on Tuesday.
Coming just three days after we reached our 15th FA Cup final, he also admitted mental and physical fatigue affected his players. He will hope they are now refreshed for Saturday’s game as the Blues have developed something of a mental block about trips to West Ham in recent years.
After four straight victories in east London, the past 10 seasons have brought four wins, two draws and four defeats, including a 2-3 last season that inspired them to survive the drop.
A few regular starters were handed rests in midweek ahead of the most meaningful thread of games so far. This is the first of three remaining league matches against sides currently in the top six, starting with the Hammers, and continuing with Manchester City and Leicester. In between come high-octane clashes with Real Madrid starting Tuesday, and player weariness has to be a factor in each selection.
Tuchel may recall some who missed out, such as Edouard Mendy, Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, N’Golo Kante and Ben Chilwell, and demand more character and aggression in the final third against the powerful Hammers. On Tuesday the Blues failed to earn a corner at home for the first time since Man United in November 2009.
The visitors were also successful in restricting supply to the attack, boxing Jorginho in and isolating his midfield partner on the night, Mason Mount. The clean sheet achieved by Kepa Arrizabalaga was the 15th for the team in 20 games under the Bavarian.
Thiago Silva’s second goal in royal blue initiated Chelsea 3-0 victory in the reverse fixture against West Ham, though it took two late strikes by Tammy Abraham to reflect the hosts’ comfort as the Hammers, lacking Antonio, failed to register a shot on target for only the second time in the campaign.
David Moyes was unsuccessful in his first 23 encounters with the Blues as a coach, but won five of his next 18, two of those with West Ham. He faces a battle to add to that this weekend, however.
The suspension of Craig Dawson has exacerbated his selection woes, the centre-back has been one of his team’s top performers in the basics of tackling, intercepting and clearing lines. Injuries have already ruled out Declan Rice’s midfield presence and all-action attacker Michail Antonio.
The Hammers are still hoping to welcome back a host of players, among them Aaron Cresswell, Arthur Masuaku and Darren Randolph. Moyes played down Jesse Lingard’s limping departure from last weekend’s defeat by Newcastle, suggesting it was not ‘anything serious’.
Mark Noble, now 33, has been partnering their most vital player, Tomas Soucek (most minutes and equal most goals), in the Hammers’ heart, and Moyes has used defence-minded wing-backs to consolidate the middle.
The Scot successfully experimented with Jarrod Bowen taking on Antonio’s lone striker role at home to Leicester, but pushed Lingard up from no.10 to second striker at St James’ Park. The Man United loanee is in exceptional form, netting nine times and assisting another four.
The additional bonus with him and Pablo Fornals is a willingness to work hard without the ball, especially with 10 men last weekend. The half-hour after the break demonstrated the quality and spirit of the current squad, which has amassed 25 points more than at the same stage in 2019/20.
Level with Chelsea on points going into this weekend, the Hammers may revert to the more secure 5-3-2 formation they used against Manchester City and Manchester United, and set themselves up for counter-attacking.
How to watch West Ham-Chelsea
This match will be covered live by Sky Sports in the UK. To find the relevant broadcaster where you are elsewhere, see the Premier League’s broadcast schedule pages.
Chelsea TV’s global available matchday shows – including early team news, exclusive interviews and analysis – are on the 5th Stand app, Facebook Live and the official YouTube channel.
Including this weekend, three of Chelsea’s remaining league fixtures are London derbies. Saturday’s clash could help determine which club finishes in the top four, and also the Pearly Kings of this season’s Premier League.
Up to now West Ham have finished as London’s highest-placed club four times, compared to Chelsea’s 23 (including 13 of the previous 16 seasons). The Blues are also currently top dogs in this season’s derbies with five victories from seven outings, most recently the 4-1 at Palace. The Hammers have managed three from nine.
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Cup foes in action
Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final hosts Real Madrid remain three points behind leaders Atletico in the Primera after an easy 3-0 win at Cadiz and are at home to Real Betis on Saturday evening. They were without midfielders Kroos, Modric and Valverde, defenders Ramos, Vazquez and Mendy. Blues legend Eden Hazard is also in a fitness race to face his former club.
Our FA Cup final opponents Leicester beat West Brom 3-0 on Thursday night with Harvey Barnes and James Justin their missing players. It has been widely reported that the 37th round of Premier League games will be moved back to 17/18 May as government Covid restrictions are planned to ease and bigger crowds could be allowed into grounds. The Chelsea match affected would be the Foxes’ trip to the Bridge, originally set for FA Cup final day, which has to move anyway.
Premier League fixtures
Arsenal v Everton 8pm (Sky Sports)
Liverpool v Newcastle 12.30pm (BT Sport)
West Ham v Chelsea 5.30pm (Sky Sports)
Sheffield Utd v Brighton 8pm (Sky Sports)
Wolves v Burnley 12pm (BBC Sport)
Leeds v Man Utd 2pm (Sky Sports)
Aston Villa v West Brom 7pm (BT Sport)
Leicester v Crystal Palace 8pm (Sky Sports)
Carabao Cup final
Manchester City v Tottenham 4.30pm (Sky Sports)