A week which we all want to forget could end on a memorable note at Upton Park this Saturday, as an under-pressure Avram Grant leads his troops to the East side of the city for what could be the start of a belated renaissance. Just one win in our last five games, including that black Sunday, has raised eyebrows and increased murmurs of discontent into full blown screams amongst fans, so a win against our London rivals would be the perfect antidote to the recent period of ill health. Let the backlash commence.A full squad is available to Grant, with Andriy Shevchenko returning to the squad, however, young winger Scott Sinclair has left the club to join up with Championship side Charlton Athletic on loan. Blame for poor performances in the last few weeks cannot rest fully at the manager’s feet, and both the boss and the squad have points to prove, starting with the West Ham game. Joe Cole will feel hard done by if he is left on the bench again, while two of last season’s scorers in the corresponding fixture, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Salomon Kalou, could also feature from the start. With Olympiakos looming on Wednesday, Grant must use his squad options wisely.
West Ham boss Alan Curbishley always attempts to stifle Chelsea rather than attack them, and Saturday’s game should be no different. Typically playing 4-5-1 this season with ex-Blue Carlton Cole leading the attack, the midfield will be packed. The Hammers have a lengthy injury list, with high-profile names including Craig Bellamy, James Collins, Kieron Dyer and former Chelsea boy Scott Parker currently occupying the physio. John Terry’s mate Bobby Zamora has retuned from injury however, and could feature in the match-day squad, along with midfielder Julien Faubert, who has been out since the start of the season, only recently making his comeback.
As I mentioned before, last season’s game saw plenty of goals. A Wright-Phillips opener was cancelled out by Carlos Tevez, before the diminutive winger bagged another to put Chelsea back in front just a minute later. Kalou made it three early on in the second-half before Didier Drogba made sure of the points in the 62nd minute.
Earlier in the season we beat West Ham again, this time at Stamford Bridge. A tight game was decided by a Joe Cole strike, which was unfortunately the only moment of real quality in an ill-tempered game, more memorable for a wild John Mikel Obi challenge on Scott Parker and a shoving match between John Terry and Luis Boa Morte which ended up with the latter’s thumb in the former’s mouth.
With this being a London derby there should be more of the same on Saturday, although we can hope that there is a bit more football to compete with the handbags this time around. West Ham are sitting mid-table in 10th place but will be looking to start a late push for a European place while we are almost caught in limbo after Sunday’s events. We need to prove our quality and show what we can do, and Upton Park is the ideal place to begin our own late charge. Hopefully this will be a game to remember and look back upon at the end of the season. It better be for all the right reasons.
Prediction: Two defeats to two rivals on two consecutive weekends? Not worth thinking about really. So I won’t. A 2-1 win with plenty of passion, fight, and the odd bit of world-class skill please. Oh, and if those goals come from Joe Cole and Frank Lampard, it’ll make the win all the more sweeter.