CHELSEA v West Ham: Preview

Venue: Stamford Bridge
Date: Friday, 26 December
Kick-off: 12:45 GMT

Today’s early Boxing Day kick-off sees us play host to West Ham. They frustrated us in this fixture early in 2014 when they came and parked their bus, or should that be coach and horses after Jose’s ’19th century’ comments?
This time round, West Ham come into the game fourth in the league and with four wins from their last five games. They also come with Sam Allardyce intent on showing us exactly which century they play their football in.
Chelsea and Jose Mourinho meanwhile, come into this one after a solid, if physical game against Stoke City to give us back the three point lead over City at the top.

MANAGER’S VIEWS’
Going into today’s game, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has a few thoughts on the players during the festive season, saying “I have lots of respect for the players in this country. It doesn’t matter – English or not English. The moment you are a football player in this country, I respect you a lot. At this moment the German guys are on the beach, the Spanish guys are in the Maldives getting sun – everybody else is doing that. But in this country you play on the 22nd, you play on Boxing Day, you play on the 28th, you play on New Year’s Day. There is no Christmas – just football, and I think (the players) deserve respect. The supporters all around the country give them that respect because every stadium is sold-out. And I think the way to do it is with the kind of professionalism my players have shown.”
West Ham boss Sam Allardyce meanwhile reflects on last season, saying “The turning point – why West Ham United stayed in the division eventually – was the draw at Chelsea. That’s how important it was. It gave the lads a huge confidence boost and huge belief that they could hold a team like Chelsea off. We went from there on to make ourselves safe in the league. We’ll see what century we’re in when we finish there (on Boxing Day). It’s a nice time, I think, for us to be playing Chelsea and Arsenal. We can go there and see if we can go and challenge ourselves against two of the big boys in this league. If we don’t, it’s not going to be too much of a knock back for us, because we know we can catch it up by beating teams who are below us, like Leicester.”
Whilst on Chelsea and Jose Mourinho now, Allardyce says “We have obviously improved tremendously from where we were. But that doesn;t make it any easier for us playing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge because of the force that they are, and because of the manager that he is. He is probably the best working club manager in the world at the minute on his track record. I don’t think there is any doubt about that. There is probably only Carlo Ancelotti that perhaps matches him, but certainly what he has done in his time across many different countries has been outstanding and that’s why I was glad to have him back. I want to pit my wits against the best and obviously he is proving that again here in England with Chelsea this season.”

SQUAD NEWS
For Chelsea, Eden Hazard (ankle) is doubtful after Stoke kicked him round the park, so Oscar could start.
For West Ham, James Tomkins (hamstring) is doubtful although Mark Noble (Achilles) returns.

TEAMS
CHELSEA (Possible line-up): Thibaut Courtois, Branislov Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, John Terry, Cesar Azpilicueta, Nemanja Matic, Ramires, Willian, Oscar, Andre Schurrle, Diego Costa.
WEST HAM (Possible line-up): Adrian, Carl Jenkinson, James Tomkins, Winston Reid, Aaron Cresswell, Kevin Nolan, Alexandre Song, Cheikhou Kouyate, Stuart Downing, Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho.

LAST SEASON
Chelsea 0-0 West Ham (29th January 2014)

OTHER STUFF
•West Ham havent won on any of their last eight visits to Stamford Bridge in the league
•West Ham won our last Boxing Day meeting 4-2 (1973)
•Chelsea are unbeaten in their last nine Boxing Day games (W5, D4).
•Chelsea have won all eight of their Premier League home matches this season.
•West Ham have won four of their last five Premier League matches.
•West Ham have already won nine games this season
•West Ham have scored in their last eight Premier League away games.

PREDICTION
The pressure will all be on Chelsea today with a buoyant West Ham punching above their weight. Too tight to call who’ll land the knockout blow.

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