West Ham vs. Chelsea: Complete Preview, Team News and Projected Starting Lineups
West Ham and Chelsea will both try to rebound from tough results and stop terrible runs of form when they face each other on Saturday.
This iteration of the London derby will be even more important than usual, as both sides are feeling the heat after their hot starts cooled.
West Ham has won only one game since October 20th and is coming off a very tough and hard-fought loss to Manchester United on Wednesday.
The Hammers only had 34 percent of possession but managed to get off 11 shots over the course of the match. Their hard work was enough to keep United out of the goal after Robin van Persie scored 33 seconds into the contest.
It is the tough, bruising attitude that West Ham bring to every match that will be most difficult for Chelsea to deal with. And new Blues manager Rafael Benitez has a lot more than that on his plate as he breaks in his new blue tie.
Chelsea fans vociferously booed Benitez during his first match, forcing him to go on the defensive during the majority of his first press conference.
Chelsea's form before and after the managerial change has left much to be desired.
The Blues have not won a single Premier League game since October 20th when they dispatched of Tottenham Hotspur 4-2. They have not won a game in any competition since they beat Shakhtar Donetsk on November 7th.
What is supposedly one of the strongest attacking sides in Europe has not scored a single goal in its last three matches and only one in its last four.
And as if the team's insipid on-pitch performances are not enough for Chelsea to deal with, the club must now reconcile with referee Mark Clattenburg (via The Telegraph), whom they falsely accused of uttering racist slurs to John Obi Mikel.
So there is clearly a lot for both clubs to gain by getting a good result on Saturday. But Chelsea has considerably more to lose.
Sam Allardyce's selection choices are relatively clear. Kevin Nolan will once again captain West Ham and anchor the midfield, Jussi Jaaskelainen will remain in goal and Andy Carroll will start at striker.
Thus, I see the Hammers lining up like this: Jussi Jaaskelainen; Winston Reid, James Tomkins, James Collins, Guy Demel; Kevin Nolan, Matthew Taylor, Matthew Jarvis, Mohamed Diame, Joey O'Brien; Andy Carroll.
Allardyce's adversary has a lot more to think about.
Chelsea were toothless and played well below their normal level against Manchester City and in Benitez's debut against Fulham,.
It is difficult to say what combination of players will turn things around for the Blues.
Benitez certainly erred on the side of caution during his first game back on the touchline, starting the defensively minded Ryan Bertrand on the left wing and keeping Juan Mata on the bench.
The new manager will need to get his first win as quickly as possible in such a pressure-filled environment, so expect a change in tactics.
Certain ever-presents will return to the starting XI without question. There is little doubt that Petr Cech, Ashley Cole and Fernando Torres will start, but it will be interesting to see who fills out the edges.
To propose a possible and plausible lineup: Petr Cech; Cesar Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole; Ramires, John Obi Mikel, Oscar; Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Fernando Torres.
This will no doubt be an interesting and exciting match to watch.
Whenever two massively struggling teams face each other there is a heightened degree of motivation from both sides.
Thus, we should expect an eventful affair at Upton Park. With two starkly contrasting teams in similar situations and a new manager already on the hot seat there is no telling who will come out on top.
But those 90 minutes will be some of the most dramatic of the season.
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