League leaders Chelsea host high flying West Ham United in a Boxing Day London derby with the visitors finding themselves in an astonishing 4th place after Christmas for the first time in the Premier League. The Hammers have claimed 13 points from the last 15 available and are just a point behind 3rd placed Manchester United.
Chelsea meanwhile have had their lead at the top cut to just three points after Manchester City’s run of six consecutive wins and with trips to Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur up next for Jose Mourinho’s side, they have to get the three points lest the Champions overtake them in what was just recently dubbed as a one horse race.
Sam Allardyce’s men secured a 2-0 win at home against Leicester City last time around though they looked rugged throughout; however, it’s not luck by any stretch of imagination that has led them to this position with just two games left until the midway point of the season.
Eden Hazard was forced off with an ankle injury following a rough tackle from Jonathan Walters on Monday though the Belgian allayed fears of a serious injury and is expected to return for the Boxing Day clash.
Mark Noble is a doubt after missing the match against Leicester with a calf injury. James Tomkins suffered a minor hamstring injury over the weekend and is also a doubt for Friday’s game.
Chelsea: Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Matic, Fabregas; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Costa
West Ham: Adrian; Jenkinson, Collins, Reid, Cresswell; Song, Nolan, Kouyate, Downing; Sakho, Carroll.
- Chelsea have the best home record in the Premier League with eight wins out of eight.
- Chelsea have kept 13 clean sheets in their last 16 Premier League matches at Stamford Bridge.
- Chelsea have scored the highest number of goals in the Premier League (38), while conceding the joint fewest (13).
- Chelsea have had 13 different Premier League goalscorers so far this season followed by West Ham who have had 12.
- West Ham last won at Stamford Bridge back in September 2002 when they won 3-2 courtesy a Paolo di Canio brace.
- West Ham have lost just once in their last 11 matches in the Premier League.
- West Ham have had a league highest 29 headed attempts on target this season followed by Chelsea with 18.
- West Ham have scored a league highest 9 goals from set-pieces this season followed by Chelsea who have 8.
Chelsea: Diego Costa
Costa had a poor game at the Britannia on Monday night and was guilty of missing a couple of gilt-edged chances. With 12 goals from 14 games though, he is just two behind Sergio Aguero who will miss the busy Christmas period and the Spaniard has a chance to close the gap in their battle for the Golden Boot in Friday’s London derby.
Costa had been clinical in his finishing before hitting a lean patch in which he scored just one goal from six games in all competitions, though he still has a shot accuracy of 76%. With 3.2 shots on an average per game, the Spanish international will be a stern test to what has until now been a sturdy West Ham defence. He will relish going into a tough physical battle against the duo of Reid and Collins, and one wouldn’t bet against him coming out on top.
West Ham: Stewart Downing
The 30-year-old has created the second most chances in the Premier League so far this season with 52, just one behind assist-king Cesc Fabregas. His 3.3 key passes per game have made him West Ham’s main threat in the final third, and with 2.2 shots per game, he can chip in with goals as well. Indeed, he has scored four goals whilst providing six assists and has been one of the standout players in the new look Hammers side operating at the tip of the diamond in recent weeks.
He has a passing accuracy of 84.8% so far, and will need to be on the top of his game if West Ham are to come away from Stamford Bridge with even a point because they will be looking to play on the break and Downing will be tasked with the responsibility of being their main outlet.
Sam Allardyce frustrated Chelsea on West Ham’s last visit to Stamford Bridge back in January and will be looking to do more of the same on Friday. His side though have been playing some good football this season and have it in them to come away with a point without playing ’19th century football’. Chelsea though have blown away every team that has come to play at Stamford Bridge this season, and they should win this one.