Chelsea return to league action after Sunday’s victory in the FA cup with the visit of West Ham United on Wednesday.Our previous fixture with West Ham this season saw us put in an excellent performance away at the Boleyn ground to claim a 0-3 victory. Perennial scorer against West Ham Frank Lampard netted two and Oscar the other. That match heralded a change of shape from the outset as Mourinho went with 4-3-3 for the first time this season. It is unlikely that he will revert back to that on Wednesday, as the team are currently looking extremely well drilled in the 4-2-3-1 shape, and everyone on the field knows where they need to be to implement the pressing system which has put opponents under so much pressure lately. Our attacking play has moved on leaps and bounds since our last meeting with West Ham as well, Mourinho’s patterns of play now easier to implement with a more settled side.Sunday’s win over Stoke was another good all round performance, and our seventh win in eight matches in all competitions with only two goals conceded in that period. Those statistics reinforce the point that Mourinho has got Chelsea moving in the right direction, and the contrast to last season now seems like night and day. After a few mistakes and lack of concentration earlier in the season, the back line is looking solid, the careless goals given away against Stoke and Southampton in back to back matches at the start of December (5 conceded, 3 from set plays) seems a long time ago now.
Terry and Cahill have both been brilliant in an excellent partnership, JT at his vintage best, arguably our player of the season so far. Azpilicueta has looked assured and seemingly never caught out of position at both left and right back, Ivanovic likewise.
Oscar has worked tirelessly to press opposing midfielders and work back to win numerous tackles in midfield. His great work defensively capped of with his incisive work in the final third, his free kick against Stoke summed up how good he has been this season nicely. One new addition to the midfield is likely to be the second match since returning for Nemanja Matic. A very good performance against Stoke saw him break up the opponent’s attacks on numerous occasions, and his distribution means he now looks like a player that can slot straight in to Mourinho’s side without any problems.
I’m not sure if any rotation will take place from the expected line up, as we don’t play Manchester City until Monday night, and a few players were rested against Stoke anyway. Expect Cech to return, Azpilicueta to replace Cole, and Willian to come in for Schurlle. Matic may play next to either Lampard, Mikel or Ramires. His signing may see Luiz featuring less in midfield now. Terry is expected to replace him in the back four. Frank Lampard has a great scoring record against West Ham, so I’m sure every Chelsea supporter will be hoping Jose picks him. He is also one goal short of 250 career club goals, and one penalty conversion away from fifty strikes from the spot for Chelsea. He likes scoring landmark goals against West Ham as well, having scored his 200th Chelsea goal against them last season. Last seasons corresponding match finished 2-0 to Chelsea, with Lampard and Hazard netting.
West Ham will be a different proposition to the side we faced in November. The played Nolan up front and he was extremely isolated, and they were devoid of any creativity in the final third. They have since re-signed Carlton Cole, Andy Carroll is fit, and they have also signed another striker on loan in Marko Borriello, formally scoring freely with Genoa, and playing for AC Milan. They have also made another loan signing from Serie A in the form of Nocerino. Quite a coup, a player with Champions league experience, and no doubt a player that will improve them if he can adapt to the Premier League quickly. After they’re much maligned performances away at Nottingham Forrest and Manchester City, they took an important three points away at Cardiff, and are not to be underestimate in a London derby.
Three points here would mean that we go into Monday nights clash at the Etihad only a point behind them, and still only two off the top, so keeping this momentum going is important. Lets hope we can do that against West Ham.