Chelsea's Ashley Cole and Petr Cech react to a goal-bound ball against West Ham in the Hammers 3-1 win over the Blues at Upton Park on Dec. 1.
Who: Chelsea FC vs. West Ham United FC
What: English Premier League Matchweek 30
Where: Stamford Bridge, London, England
When: Sunday, March 17, 2013
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast
Time: 16:00 GMT/12:00 p.m. ET/9:00 a.m. PT
Television: Fox Soccer Channel, FOX Deportes (USA)
Worldwide Live Streams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Radio: SiriusXM channel 94 (Internet 94), TalkSport Radio
Referee: Michael Oliver
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -303, West Ham +550, Draw +350
Total: Over 2½ -200, Under 2½ +150
Decimal Odds: Chelsea 1.33, West Ham 6.50, Draw 4.50
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 1.50, Under 2½ 2.50
Fractional Odds: Chelsea 33/10, West Ham 11/2, Draw 7/2
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 1/2, Under 2½ 3/2
Odds English Premier League: Chelsea 250/1
(Manchester United -6,600, Manchester City 20/1, Tottenham 250/1)
Source: sportsbook.com (Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles)
Alternate Point Spreads:
Chelsea -1 -180, West Ham +1 +140
Chelsea -1½ +105, West Ham -135
Chelsea -2 +185, West Ham +2 -250
Over 3 -120, Under 3 -110
Over 3½ +140, Under 3½ -180
Source: Bovada (Kahnawake, Canada)
St. Patrick's Day is famous for its bowls of shamrock and green beers, but on Sunday, Chelsea will be more interested in getting three valuable points against West Ham United at Stamford Bridge than leprechauns and four-leaf clovers.
After Thursday's thrilling 3-1 win over Steaua Bucharest in West London in the second leg of its Europa League series with the Romanians and their subsequent advancement to the quarterfinals of the tournament, the Blues have to be feeling pretty good about themselves, especially considering how snakebitten Fernando Torres contributed to the second-half comeback.
And after traveling almost as many miles as the astronauts on Apollo 11 did to get to the Moon back in 1969 with this possible record number of games the club will play this season—this will be its' 53rd and counting—Chelsea's players must be absolutely thrilled to death that they don't have to go anywhere but to their home sweet homes in preparation for this London derby.
What will happen Sunday at Stamford Bridge?
So with a healthy dose of much-needed confidence, no travel, a healthy roster, a banged up opponent and the site all on their side, the Blues should head into this match against Sam Allardyce's Hammers on a high with that valuable Champions League spot on its mind.
Heading into the weekend, Chelsea (15-7-6, 52 points) sits in fourth place in the English Premier League table just two points behind Tottenham Hotspurs (54) and five points ahead of fifth-place Arsenal in (47).
And whereas Chelsea will be enjoying the friendly confines of The Bridge on this last weekend of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the Gunners will be headed to Wales on Saturday to dance with Michu and Cup champions Swansea City (Fox Soccer Channel, 11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT) while the Spurs will be participating in their own London derby at Fulham on Sunday.
So with an opportunity to possibly gain a little ground in the table as the top flight season begins to wind down, the Blues should be pretty motivated here. But toss in the fact the Hammers upset Chelsea 3-1 on Dec. 1 at Upton Park and drumming up the motivation shouldn't really be a big issue for the homeboys.
For 12th-place West Ham (9-6-13), this match does provide an opportunity to sweep the season series against the European champions and former Blues player and Hammers striker Carlton Cole (2 EPL goals) knows how important a win would be for the visitors.
"Hopefully we'll have the same opportunity to do that again and it would be a good thing to have on your c.v. to do the double over Chelsea," Cole said in the Daily Mail on Thursday.
One big problem for West Ham—which has cooled off considerably since its hot start in the league—is its poor away form (3-2-9) and the Hammers nine road goals are tied for last in the Premiership with Stoke City.
Kevin Nolan (6 goals), Mark Noble (4) and Andy Carroll (3) are the Hammers leading scorers in the league but Nolan (broken toe), Noble (arm), Joe Cole (hamstring), Matt Taylor (concussion) and George McCartney (knee) may all miss the game according to Soccerway.
And when your leading scorer on the pitch (Carroll) has scored less goals (3) than one of the opposition's defenders (Branislav Ivanović, 4), you know you may be in for a really long afternoon.
Even with the December loss, the Blues have dominated the series recently, going 7-2-1 over the last 10 and outscoring West Ham by a robust 23-8 margin. The last four fixtures have all gone over the posted total (2½ goals) with an average of 4.0 goals being scored per game.
Despite the seemingly constant flow of fear and loathing coming out of Stamford Bridge, Chelsea still finds itself in the thick of the race for a Champions League spot, has advanced to the quarterfinals of the Europa League (where it will play Rubin Kazan) and still has a chance to make the quarterfinals of the FA Cup pending its fifth-round April 1 replay with league leaders Manchester United in West London.
The Blues are also 3-1-1 in their last five in all competitions (8-4 goals) and after four months of navigating over choppy waters, it now finds itself in a fairly decent position with a healthy and deep roster as well as a nice little chip on their shoulders headed down the homestretch.
Chelsea is 8-4-2 at Stamford Bridge and its 12 goals allowed is the second-lowest in the Premier League behind defending champions Manchester City (11). So in all this drama, goalkeeper Petr Čech has again proven to be the unheralded rock of the team and a big reason many Blues fans haven't gone crazy.
With so many positives going for the Blues here, backing the home team is simple prescription in this one and with Frank Lampard, Gary Cahill and Demba Ba all having sat out against Steaua and being fully rested and ready to go, interim manager Rafael Benítez will have a full deck with which to work.
Right-back César Azpilicueta also sat out on Thursday and may get the start against West Ham in the back four along with Cahill, captain John Terry and Ashley Cole but Ivanović, David Luiz, Ryan Bertrand and Paulo Ferreira should all also be at Benítez's disposal.
In the central midfield, Lampard should be in the starting XI next to John Obi Mikel while in the advanced midfield Juan Mata, Eden Hazard—who had a sensational game against Steaua and who now has 20 assists in his first year with Chelsea—and Victor Moses could start although Mata did receive a couple of knocks on Thursday and may be rested in favor of Oscar or Ramires or possibly Yossi Benayoun.
At striker, Ba—who was cup-tied and couldn't play against Steaua—should get the nod over Torres who has played an enormous amount of minutes this season and took a cheap shot which bloodied his nose against the Liga 1 leaders mid-week but no matter who ends up starting, Steaua goalkeeper Jussi Jääskeläinen will have his work cut out for him.
With West Ham having gone winless at Chelsea since 2002—it's lost six of its last seven visits to The Bridge—the Blues should easily roll here and head into the international break (March 18-27) feeling pretty good about themselves.
And God knows road-weary Chelsea could really use a couple of weeks off right about now and that some of the Blues certainly deserve a couple of green beers.
The next game on the Blues' schedule is at Sunderland on March 30 and is one of six they will play in a grueling 16-day stretch so Chelsea better get some real serious rest over those coming 12 days off.
PREDICTION: Chelsea 4 West Ham 0
BETS: Chelsea -275, Over 2½ -185 (Bovada)
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