Pre-Match Briefing: West Ham United vs Chelsea

Our trilogy of away games continues with a capital-city clash. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton prepare for Saturday lunchtime in the Olympic Park…

London’s two most compelling teams, Chelsea and West Ham, meet in a derby clash between first and fourth at London Stadium. It took a midweek winner from substitute Hakim Ziyech to clinch the three points that keep the Blues at the Premier League summit. The Hammers were pegged back at home by Brighton’s last-minute equaliser.

This is the Blues’ fourth 12.30pm Saturday start of the season with at least one more to come in January, when Manchester City play host. The league leaders’ have won two of the previous three lunch appointments: 7-0 at home to Norwich and 3-0 at Leicester. For the Europa League-competing hosts it is the first sleep-disrupting kick-off of the season.

The champions of Europe are targeting a third successive top-flight victory against the Hammers, last achieved in April 2011 under Carlo Ancelotti.

Chelsea are aiming for a sixth successive Premier League away win for the first time since December 2016.


Chelsea team news

‘When you can change and put on [Romelu] Lukaku, [Hakim] Ziyech and the others, what can we do?,’ was Watford boss Claudio Ranieri’s take on Thomas Tuchel’s game-changing substitutions at Vicarage Road.

Thiago Silva was also called off the bench while Trevoh Chalobah, switched to midfield, joined Chelsea’s growing injury list. Each replacement played a part in a crucial victory after an outfield error ruined Edou Mendy’s clean sheet for the second game running.

Ziyech’s signature curled finish will grab the headlines but Lukaku added a further 20 minutes to his recovery, opening up the field of play, screening the ball and feeding team-mates. The Belgian looks closer to full prowess and is about to face his favourite opponents – he has 11 goals in 15 meetings against the Irons.

Mason Mount announced his return to sharpness after wisdom tooth trouble with the opening goal and winning assist, and is the first to reach double figures for goals since Tuchel took over, and with the squad stretched Ruben Loftus-Cheek set aside his error and showed versatility in midfield. The Academy graduate ended the game as defensive anchor and completed two full Premier League games in succession for the first time since February while at Fulham.

Mason Mount's goal and assist seals all three points in tough match against Watford! | Unseen Extra

Mason Mount put on a fine display, notching a goal and setting up Hakim Ziyech for the winner against a determined Watford side.

Thomas Tuchel had to change his system and match the Hornets’ three in midfield before the winner would come, and there were still several uncharacteristically nervy moments. Nevertheless, this was the Blues’ first away league win in December for two years, when Arsenal were beaten 2-1 on 29 December to complete a back-to-back north London ‘double’.

The Bavarian knows his depleted team are facing similar physically imposing and aggressive opponents in West Ham, who require special defensive measures at set-plays.

Goals scored under Thomas Tuchel
Mason Mount10
Kai Havertz8
Hakim Ziyech7
Timo Werner6
Christian Pulisic6
Reece James5
Ben Chilwell5
Romelu Lukaku4
Trevoh Chalobah3
Antonio Rudiger3
Marcos Alonso3
Callum Hudson-Odoi2
Olivier Giroud2
N'Golo Kante2
Tammy Abraham1
Mateo Kovacic1
Cesar Azpilicueta1
Andreas Christensen1
Kurt Zouma1
Thiago Silva1

Bubbles blowing

West Ham host the champions of Europe knowing that despite recent mis-steps, they are better off at this stage of a league campaign than in any season since 2014/15 under Sam Allardyce, when they also pocketed 24 points.

David Moyes has proved himself a shrewd steward of available resources. Earlier in the campaign, before injuries and fatigue took their toll, the Hammers were sixth highest for distance covered.

That effort has been key to their rise to fourth, along a strong midfield screen, solid defending, and ingenuity and efficiency on the counter-attack. Only Burnley and Wolves have called upon a smaller number of players than the 19 who have figured for the Hammers, who have the third oldest average age.

They have been less potent for the loss of Angelo Ogbonna, whose defensive prowess and aerial threat come with an ability to initiate attacks from the back.

Experienced Craig Dawson has stepped in alongside popular former Blue Kurt Zouma, but without the Italian centre-back the Irons have filed two defeats and let slip a one-goal lead at home to Brighton.

A familiar figure is now at the back for West Ham - Kurt Zouma

Another sorely missed mainstay is raiding full-back Aaron Cresswell, who is expected to return this weekend. If not, right-back Ben Johnson could continue on the left.

The opener on Wednesday was the sixth headed league goal for Tomas Soucek since going to the Hammers, and only Villa have scored more from set-plays than the Irons. Most teams achieve more success taking short corners but Cresswell and Pablo Fornals are inswinger specialists whose delivery had already bamboozled Liverpool and Manchester City before Brighton became the latest victims.

As ever, Soucek and Michail Antonio used their considerable presence to box in the goalkeeper and the Czech simply glanced home the cross, typically arrowed in under the bar. Other aerial targets in a team bristling with six-foot-plus players are Zouma and Declan Rice.

The Hammers also create chances by sitting deep then exploding into life in possession, taking out two or three opponents either through strong running or channelled passes to the pace and trickery upfront.

Jamaica international Antonio, though, has not found the net since his winner against Spurs in October and Jarrod Bowen, usually an all-action winger, fulfilled the role last week in the Europa League. Manuel Lanzini has weighed in with stingers like the one that pegged back Man City.

Michail Antonio shooting down Spurs

The Irons are generally comfortable with and without the ball and well organised, with Soucek and Rice shielding the box well. Chelsea will hope to get in behind those two, though, and expose an uneasy rearguard.

East meets west

Chelsea have a perfect record in all-London games this season going into our fourth away trip in the capital. This will be West Ham’s fourth consecutive derby on home soil.

Premier League London derby table
3Crystal Palace5131061.2
4West Ham3111041.33

Looking ahead

The gap between third and fourth places in the Premier League extended to seven points in midweek. Of the top three, Chelsea have averaged 2.50 points over the past eight matches, compared to 2.38 for Manchester City and Liverpool’s 2.13. The Blues’ next four top-flight opponents have so far collected 1.14 points per game. Liverpool’s have amassed 1.18 and those to play City 1.00.

Next few fixtures
ChelseaMan CityLiverpool
04 DecWest Ham a4 Dec Watford a4 Dec Wolves
08 DecZenit a CL7 Dec Leipzig a CL7 Dec AC Milan a CL
11 DecLeeds h11 Dec Wolves h11 Dec Aston Villa h
16 DecEverton h14 Dec Leeds h16 Dec Newcastle h
19 DecWolves a19 Dec Newcastle a19 Dec Tottenham a
22 DecBrentford a LC22 Dec Leicester h LC
26 DecAston Villa a26 Dec Leicester h26 Dec Leeds h
29 DecBrighton h29 Dec Brentford a28 Dec Leicester a
02 JanLiverpool h1 Jan Arsenal a2 Jan Chelsea a
 FA Cup round 3FA Cup round 3FA Cup round 3
15 JanMan City a15 Jan Chelsea h15 Jan Brentford h

Hail, Cesar

Recently rated equal 29th-best footballer on the planet in the 2021 Ballon d’Or rankings, el capitano Cesar Azpilicueta is now just one appearance shy of the 445 achieved by 1990s skipper Dennis Wise, with the same goals tally as all-time stalwart Ron Harris.

1 Ron Harris795 appearances14 goals/clean sheets
2 Peter Bonetti729208
3 John Terry71767
4 Frank Lampard648211
5 John Hollins59264
6 Petr Cech494227
7 Dennis Wise44576
8 Cesar Azpilicueta44414

Azpilicueta tells you his karaoke song and chosen superpower! | Assumptions

We put a number of questions to Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta, and got you to guess his answers! Find out from the man himself what his pre-game rituals are, his favourite karaoke song and his chosen superpower. Did you get them right?

Champions League round-up

Russian Premier League table-toppers Zenit, hosts for the Blues’ final game that could determine the winners of Group H, have been allowed to play their game against Rostov on Friday. It is their penultimate game before the league enters winter hibernation.

Juventus followed up their momentous loss to the Blues by stumbling at home to Atalanta but won 2-0 at Salernitana on Tuesday. Interestingly, Genoa visit Turin on Sunday night, leaving the Old Lady minimal recovery time for Wednesday’s clash with in-form Malmo.

Women in the final

This is another potentially historic weekend for Chelsea Women, who return from their international exertions to contest the 2020/21 FA Cup final at Wembley on Sunday from 2pm, with keenly priced tickets still available here

Chelsea Women beat Arsenal in the final in 2018

Matchweek 15 Premier League fixtures

West Ham v Chelsea 12.30pm (BT Sport)
Newcastle v Burnley 3pm
Southampton v Brighton 3pm
Wolves v Liverpool 3pm
Watford v Man City 5.30pm (Sky Sports)

Leeds v Brentford 2pm
Man Utd v Crystal Palace 2pm
Tottenham v Norwich 2pm
Aston Villa v Leicester 4.30pm (Sky Sports)

Everton v Arsenal 8pm (Sky Sports)

Premier League 2021/2022
2Manchester City139222772029
4West Ham United137242416823
6Wolverhampton Wanderers136251212020
7Tottenham Hotspur126151117-619
8Manchester United135352122-118
10Leicester City135352023-318

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