Antonio Conte is rapidly losing his battle to prove that Chelsea are not the only team that can win the title this season. In early February he had said that six teams could still win the title. Very gracious of him but even Liverpool and Manchester United fans are not so naïve to believe that. Indeed, since he made that statement, the chasm between the Blues and the chasing pack has widened. Chelsea sit 10 points ahead of Tottenham who are second and 11 ahead of Manchester City. In fact, Jose Mourinho already crowned them Champions before the last set of FA Cup fixtures.
While being gracious in public about their title chances – he must have learnt that at practically unchallenged Juventus – Antonio Conte must be quietly confident of his team’s chances in the league and especially on Monday night at London Stadium against Slaven Bilic’s West Ham, one of the very few teams at whose hands Chelsea have faced defeat this season. While nitpickers can try and pick an issue with Chelsea’s recent away form in the league, Conte’s team has the necessary talent and confidence to overcome a few away draws. In a team where players of Willian and Pedro’s quality have to fight for a place should not have to worry a lot about their opponents who are missing their primary goal scorer.
While the West Ham team is not as gifted, they have their own reasons for a bit of confidence. They have won two, drawn two and lost only to Manchester City in their last five league games. They have also won the last two home games against Chelsea. Perhaps more importantly, now the feeling of diffidence and gloom that had surrounded the team early on in the season has dissipated a bit and they are sitting ninth on 33 points, which can be considered par for this team, despite a slightly over achieving last season. But to beat Chelsea, some of their stars will really have to perform outstandingly. If they try and emulate Burnley, they will need to attack Chelsea’s left flank, which according to some experts is a minor chink in the Blues’ armour.
- Chelsea have lost only two of their last 21 Premier League games against West Ham United (W15 D4).
- Diego Costa has scored 48 goals in 78 Premier League appearances. If he manages at least a brace at the London Stadium, he will be the 5th quickest player to reach 50 goals in Premier League.
- West Ham’s goal scorers like scoring in London derbies. Andy Carroll, who is one shy of his own half century of Premier League goals, has scored five in last three home derbies and Manuel Lanzini has scored in seven of his 11 derby appearances.
- The Hammers will be hoping for some luck from their new stadium against the title contenders. At Upton Park, they had won only two of their last 10 Premier League games against the Blues. But at the London Stadium, they have already beaten Conte’s team this season in the League Cup.
Andy Carroll set out the last two games for West Ham due to a groin injury but Slaven Bilic must be happy to welcome him. The target man loves to score in London derbies and can be a threat if West Ham can put in enough crosses from the flanks. Carroll has also scored in two of his last three games against the Blues indicating that he does trouble their defense a bit. In the absence of Antonio, Carroll will have to be the main goal threat and Bilic must be hoping that he can be a good one on Monday.
Of the 55 league goals scored by Antonio Conte’s side this season, Costa has scored 16 and assisted 5, playing a part in 38% of his side’s goals. As he nears a major milestone – 50 Premier League goals, he is likely to be chasing it aggressively on Monday. If he manages at least a brace, he will have leapt up to the top of the goal scorers table in the league this season. Costa has managed to score or assist a goal every 101 minutes this season and that looks ominous for West Ham.
West Ham will miss Michail Antonio who is suspended after being sent off against Watford last week. Andy Carroll is likely to be back after his groin injury while Diafra Sakho and Ogbonna continue to remain sidelined with their respective injuries.
All the other teams in the league will be a bit envious of how injury-free Chelsea’s season has been. Lack of European football and relatively early exit in the League Cup have only aided in keeping the squad injury-free. Eden Hazard did suffer a minor injury in training during the week, but should be starting at the London Stadium. Conte has a problem of plenty, especially on the right wing, where Pedro and Willian are fiercely competing for one spot. Pedro might make it against West Ham however, due to his recent goal scoring form.
Despite the slight confidence, Hammers should have going into this fixture, I feel that Chelsea will be too much to handle for them. The only way teams have troubled Chelsea this season is by attacking rapidly on the counter, especially from the flanks. I feel that West Ham will find it tough to adopt this tactic, especially as they are handicapped by Antonio’s absence. Chelsea should not have any problem in getting three points at the London Stadium on Monday.
West Ham 1 – 3 Chelsea