As the number of matches remaining in the season continue to dwindle, Chelsea head to the London Stadium looking to extend their lead at the top of the table to 10 points.
Heading into matchday 27, the Blues held a 10-point lead over Tottenham and an 11-point gap over Manchester City with City having a game in hand, which is against Manchester United. With both sides winning on Sunday, Chelsea must win on Monday night to continue to hold their title rivals at bay.
But the London Stadium wasn’t such a happy place for Chelsea on their first visit this season. Back in October, West Ham handed Chelsea a 2-1 defeat in the EFL Cup fourth round, which would be the only blemish on the Blues record until January.
Manager Antonio Conte is well-aware of this, and with a full squad at his disposal once again made the comment that he was looking at various solutions against the Hammers.
Conte was coy about what scenarios he might be evaluating, but you can be sure that one of them focused on dealing with Andy Carroll.
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic acknowledged that his striker trained this week after missing time with a groin injury and confirmed that he should be fit to play against Chelsea. But with so much time out and with Carroll’s injury record, how much the Hammers’ target man will be involved is left up to debate. But there’s no doubt that stylistically West Ham play different with Carroll involved.
Conte will be acutely aware of Carroll’s aerial prowess, particularly since the one possible area of weakness in the Chelsea defence is to isolate Cesar Azpilicueta against a strong aerial threat at the far post and aim crosses into that area.
It could be that Conte is considering a switch the back three, possibly using Kurt Zouma in that position to combat Carroll. If Carroll doesn’t start, West Ham are in a bit of a conundrum at striker, as Carroll’s understudy, Michail Antonio, was sent off against Watford and is suspended, while summer signing Jonathan Calleri has failed to make a significant impact.
Aside from striker issues, Bilic also will need to make a decision at right back, especially considering the threat of Eden Hazard. Sam Byram has been absent lately with a hamstring injury but is fit and is a natural right back, as opposed to his deputy Cheikhou Kouyate.
That’s not the best situation for the Hammers to be in when coming up against Chelsea’s attack force at the front, and if Carroll plays, the match very well may come down to which side comes up with the correct solution to negate their opponents’ attack.