WEST HAM UNITED
Stamford Bridge, London
April 23, 2011, 10:00 PM IST
Chelsea will look to extend their fortuitous run of form, when they host ex-manager Avram Grant’s current charges at Stamford Bridge. Carlo Ancelotti and his men have enjoyed the unlikeliest of resurrections in recent weeks after being bundled out of the Champions League by perennial Premier League favourites Manchester United. West Ham were overrun by the Blues, the last time these sides met in September of 2010 – when the Blues were still sweeping past everything the league could throw at them. Of course, it all went downhill for the defending champions shortly soon after, when they went on that now infamous run of just one victory from 9 games. Avram Grant will feel he’s been hard done by the gods of fate, considering his team didn’t have the luxury of facing a comparatively weaker Chelsea outfit this season. He brings the Hammers to a confident, if not all-conquering, Chelsea side that has garnered a massive 19 points from their last 7 games in the league. West Ham, who seemed to be reviving their own fortunes in February and March, have relapsed to their nightmare form and are just one spot away from the relegation zone. They’ve now lost 3 games on the trot in the past few weeks, and their away record (again among the bottom quarter of the league) is no great shakes either.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Roman’s army may be short on numbers, having just 23 players to draw from, but are nevertheless fortunate to call upon an entire roster featuring some incredible talent on the bench. The Blues, who are currently missing Alex and Ramires due to injury, will nevertheless be expected to field a full-strength side even if Drogba comes on only as an impact sub. Carlo Ancelotti has been dropping hints that Torres, still goalless, will start the game. Since the Spaniard has not forged a formidable partnership with Chelsea’s striker of choice, a Torres presence as central striker would have to be aided by Nicolas Anelka, who wouldn’t mind drifting out wide in support of the 50 million pound target-man.
Should Chelsea fail to find the target an hour into the game, expect Didier Drogba to make an entry. Chelsea can be expected to line-up in the familiar 4-3-3, with Florent Malouda up front on the left and Anelka featuring on the right, with Torres sandwiched in the centre. Frank Lampard will operate on the left of midfield, partnering Michael Essien, while Obi Mikel will hold fort in the defensive midfielder’s position. Ivanovic may be rested on the bench, with Bosingwa or Ferreira deputing at Right-Back. The rest of the defense will feature no surprises.
Probable Starting Eleven: Cech, Cole, Terry, Luiz, Ferreira, Lampard, Mikel, Essien, Malouda, Torres, Anelka.
West Ham United
The Hammers have been dealt a hammer blow with the news that their midfield general, and Football Writers Association’s player of the year, Scott Parker has been ruled out of the game with an Achilles problem. Scott Parker scored the consolation goal against Chelsea, the last time these two sides met, with a long-range stunner.Also adding to their worries, will be the absence of Gary O’Neil and the dependable Kieron Dyer, and it remains to be seen if Collison, who will feature on the bench, will play any part in the game. Expect West Ham to ditch the lone-striker formation that failed to deliver the goods in the reverse fixture, for hopefully a more potent combination of Cole and Keane upfront.
Probable Starting Eleven: Green, Jacobsen, Da Costa, Upson, Bridge, O’Neil, Noble, Parker, Hitzlsperger, Cole, Keane.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Fernando Torres (Chelsea FC): He may not score, but all indications point to him being fielded in the Starting XI. With the burden of that price-tag on him, that has now begun to resemble a bounty on his head, Torres is running out of time to prove to Roman Abramovich his faith had not gone in vain. Ancelotti certainly believes the Spaniard is merely suffering a temporary loss of confidence and it will take only a solitary goal to set him on his way. The Stamford Bridge crowd will certainly be egging on their latest icon to get on the scoresheet, and Torres would do well to score before he crosses the 1000 minute mark without having a goal to his name. For starters, he could start stepping up in the central positions where he’s expected to take charge, as opposed to sulking away in the wide areas.
Chelsea 4-1 West Ham United
The hosts want to remain in the title race, albeit perhaps only mathematically, and the visitors desperately need some points to escape relegation. Chelsea will prove to be too much for West Ham to handle on the night, especially considering the game is at Stamford Bridge.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST