Chelsea have been widely praised for their approach and performances under Frank Lampard, but the past week shows the work they still need to do to reach the highest level. They will have a great opportunity to return to winning ways this weekend as they welcome out of form West Ham United to Stamford Bridge. Although London derbies can be unpredictable, the Blues will be confident of getting the three points in front of their own fans. Neither team has looked secure at the back over the past week, which suggests there could be goals in this one.
There had been some speculation about the aims of Chelsea this season, but a top four finish would represent a solid start for Lampard. They showed positive signs against Manchester City last weekend, but they need to improve their game management skills to emerge as a top side in the division. During the week, they earned a credible away draw to Valencia, but Lampard will look back with regret as his side sat back late in the second half to concede an equaliser. They were somewhat fortunate that the La Liga side didn’t go on to win the game. The defence remains a huge concern and the balance of the team needs to be corrected to ensure a top four finish.
West Ham are facing another huge period in their recent history with Manuel Pellegrini under pressure from the stands. The Chilean was seen as an ambitious appointment at the time, but the side have failed to kick on and a recent poor run of results have left them languishing above the relegation zone. Last weekend’s 3-2 defeat to Tottenham doesn’t look bad on paper, but it was a damaging result due to the rivalry between the two clubs. Further to this, the performance was very poor and the scoreline flattered the Hammers.
N’Golo Kante has scored with all three of his shots on target this season, underlining his threat from midfield.
West Ham have only picked up two points from the last 21 available in the Premier League.
Christian Pulisic was slow to adapt to the Premier League, but he is now emerging as a key player for Chelsea following a consistent goal-scoring run. His emergence has been a negative for Callum Hudson-Odoi, who will struggle to get back into the starting eleven. The strength in depth will please Lampard, after the club sold their best player last summer. Pulisic has shown an impressive finishing ability in front of goal with six goals in all competitions. Further to this, he has shown his creativity with three assists. According to understat, the 21-year-old is averaging 0.51 expected goals (xG) and 0.27 expected assists (xA) per ninety minutes. His underlying performance indicators suggest that the USA international offers a huge threat and could be the player best suited to fill the Hazard hole, as expected. Although he has a long way to go to be as influential as the Belgian, he is looking to be a good replacement, in terms of current ability and potential. West Ham have big defensive problems and the Blues’ attacker is well placed to add to his goals tally.
Unlike Pulisic, Sebastian Haller will be underwhelmed by his early impact at West Ham United. The Frenchman arrived to great fanfare following an excellent season in the Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt and it was a surprise that he didn’t join a bigger club. However, he will have seen this as an opportunity to prove himself under less pressure. His current return is four goals and one assist from 12 Premier League matches. It isn’t bad, but he will want to push on and score at a higher rate over the coming weeks. Considering his perceived struggles, the 25-year-old is currently averaging 0.42 xG per ninety minutes and continues to offer a threat. He is in a run of five matches without a goal. This weekend will offer an opportunity to return to scoring ways against a porous Chelsea defence. There will be chances for the Frenchman this weekend and he will need to take them if his team are to run out winners.
Tammy Abraham is a major doubt for the game following a knock picked up in the Champions League. It looks better than first feared, but he may not be risked on Saturday. Callum Hudson-Odoi could be back in the match day squad, but the game will come too soon for Antonio Rudiger and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Issa Diop is suspended for the visitors, which is a major blow. Pellegrini may drop Roberto in favour of David Martin in goal. Manuel Lanzini and Lukasz Fabianski are out.
This could be the end of Pellegrini’s time in charge of West Ham, as there is every chance that Chelsea run out comfortable winners. They have been performing very well in attack, which should see them create plenty of chances against a struggling visiting team. The indications from last weekend were that the team were no longer playing for the Chilean coach and that could lead to an embarrassing result on Saturday.
Chelsea 3-1 West Ham