Champions League duty over, it’s back to the Premier League for the Blues and not just any old game for us to look forward to on Saturday afternoon. It’s a visit from our not-so neighbourly London counterparts West Ham United, and sparks usually fly when we meet. Chelsea go into the game looking to extend a seven game unbeaten run in the league and reach 70 games unbeaten at home at the same time. Alan Curbishley’s side stands in the way, and they will not stand aside easily.
Avram Grant knows for sure that he will not be able to call upon Michael Essien for the game. Our friends at the FA yet again helped us out by rejecting Essien’s claim for wrongful dismissal as well as charging Chelsea with failing to ensure that their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion after the heated end to the Derby game last weekend. Ricardo Carvalho and Michael Ballack are still out injured while Petr Cech, Paulo Ferreira and Florent Malouda are all rated ‘very doubtful’ for a place in the squad on Saturday.
West Ham meanwhile, should be set to continue with Hayden Mullins in midfield after he returned to fitness and played in the 1-1 draw with Tottenham last weekend. However, they have a lengthy injury list with Anton Ferdinand, Lee Bowyer and Bobby Zamora the closest to a return. Calum Davenport, Craig Bellamy, Kieron Dyer and Julien Faubert are all definitely out.
The Hammers are on an impressive run of six games without defeat in all competitions. Since losing 1-0 away to Aston Villa back on the 6th October, West Ham have picked up points against Sunderland, Portsmouth, Bolton, Derby and Tottenham as well as seeing off Coventry 2-1 in the League Cup.
But we have a very strong record in London derbies recently, particularly if they are played at Stamford Bridge. It’s ten without defeat since we lost to Graham Poll…sorry, Tottenham back in November 2006, and the last time we played West Ham on our own turf, a Geremi free-kick was enough for Chelsea to grab all three points.
We are, of course, on the back of a dazzling 4-0 win over Rosenborg in mid-week and if we recreate anything like we did in the freezing conditions of Norway this Saturday in the tempestuous atmosphere of SW6, West Ham will find themselves just another team beaten at Stamford Bridge. Expect some action, some Frank Lampard-bating, a whole lot of booing, a Frank Lampard goal to ram the boos back down the throats of those who continue to boo him, and hopefully a Chelsea win at the end of it all.
Prediction: I have outlined my blueprint for the game above! It has to be a win as we enter into a typically frantic December. This is our time to show we can keep up with the pace and prove a few points. A 2-0 win over West Ham will be just the beginning, and of course, Lampard will hammer one home to really put the icing on the cake.