The first game of the Premier League weekend will have major ramifications on both ends of the table. West Ham United host Chelsea in a London derby. The Hammers will be looking to push on after a period of decent form, while the visitors will be desperate to breathe life into their top four hopes. Neither club will be pleased with their seasons to date and a strong end to the campaign is vital in ensuring the long term future of each manager. A win for either club this weekend would be huge.
After two seasons competing for a top four finish, it has been quite some drop off for West Ham. David Moyes has managed to keep his position to date. Recent performances and results have helped him re-establish some authority, but he will know that his own job security isn’t what it was in previous campaigns. Since returning to the club, he has done well against the ‘traditional top six’, especially at the London Stadium. It will be hoped that his team can record another victory on Saturday.
Chelsea have ‘won’ the last two transfer windows, with Todd Boehly committing huge funds to re-shaping the squad. However, the team have continued to struggle on the pitch. Their top four hopes are hanging by a thread and rely on other teams dropping off over the rest of the season. Graham Potter is running out of time to get the Chelsea fans on board, as the form since his appointment has been poor. After the investment in January, he will know that he needs a run of strong results.
Jarrod Bowen has scored all four of his Premier League goals at the London Stadium.
Chelsea have won four of their last five Premier League matches against West Ham.
Declan Rice continues to get praise, despite the low position of his team. West Ham have competed in Europe for the last two seasons, but even the most ardent supporters will accept that the midfielder is destined to leave this summer. He has emerged as one of the best midfielders in the Premier League, while his performances for England show that he can perform on a bigger stage. There won’t be a shortage of suitors in the summer, with several Premier League clubs being credited with an interest. Last weekend, he was the standout player in the draw with Newcastle United. The England international won three tackles, completed three interceptions and made 12 recoveries in the game. His set piece delivery caused issues, as shown by his assist for the goal at St James’ Park. If West Ham are to win this weekend, they will need a similarly complete display.
The Portuguese international is back for his second game for Chelsea. His debut was a rollercoaster. He offered a huge threat in the final third, but he didn’t manage to get on the scoresheet, despite three shots on target. Instead, he influenced the game by getting a red card and handing the upper hand to Fulham. It was a silly mistake and one that showed the frustration that he built. There is no doubt that he caused problems for the opposition defence when he was on the pitch. Chelsea have been one-paced at times during recent weeks, as the new signings adjust to their new surroundings. There isn’t a defined pattern of play and those on the pitch sometimes look reluctant to be aggressive with the ball. Felix won’t have that issue. He looks motivated to be a success in the Premier League and his dynamism makes him difficult to defend against. Chelsea need to add a goal threat to their team and Potter will be hoping that the on-loan Atletico Madrid forward can be that.
Gianluca Scamacca could be back this weekend, but Maxwel Cornet and Kurt Zouma will not be available. Thilo Kehrer is a doubt with a hamstring issue.
Joao Felix will be back this weekend from suspension. Denis Zakaria and Mateo Kovacic are closing in on a return. N’Golo Kante and Wesley Fofana are both ruled out.
West Ham were very impressive last weekend as they caused real problems for an excellent Newcastle team at St James’ Park. No team has taken maximum points from the North East this season, but the Hammers came closer than any side. That will give them great belief that they can record a victory on Saturday. Chelsea lack fluency at the moment, as the players continue to learn what is expected from them. Potter will need his side to be much better this weekend if they are to get back to winning ways. A draw is the most likely result.
West Ham 1-1 Chelsea