Chelsea welcome rivals West Ham to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday for their first London derby of 2014. The Blues remain two points behind league leaders Arsenal and will want to continue their five-game winning streak in the league.
Sam Allaradyce’s men have been hit hard by injuries so far this season, but Jose Mourinho thinks that they still pose a threat to his Chelsea side, per chelseafc.com:
West Ham are in trouble in the table but I look at them and I feel a difficult match. They have new players, and they have had time to work and rest from the difficult Christmas period they had, especially because they had so many injured players.
We are playing well. The last game against Stoke was a 1-0 but a good 1-0. There was quality individually and collectively, and we defended and pressed well also. You never know what is going to happen in the next match but the results are arriving as a consequence of the team playing very good football.
Ashley Cole’s tweet after the victory on Sunday indicates that he does not expect to start the match against West Ham. Instead, Cesar Azpilicueta should be selected at left-back, with Branislav Ivanovic taking up his position on the right. John Terry was rested on Sunday but should return to partner Gary Cahill in the back four, keeping up his run of starting every Premier League game this season.
Nemanja Matic’s second full debut for Chelsea was an excellent one. He provided near-perfect positioning with precise passing and was rewarded with praise from the manager, per chelseafc.com:
He played very well, very comfortable, with a big stability with Lampard by his side. He was very comfortable on the pitch; for sure he stole lots of balls and his passes were always quality. He used his physicality not to dominate Peter Crouch because that is impossible but to make it difficult for him.
I think he is comfortable in any game because he is good defensively against this kind of team but he is very comfortable with the ball. His left foot is soft, the ball always comes sweet and the decision is always an easy, simple one. The team flies when somebody makes it so simple.
Ramires is the most likely partner for Matic in the holding role, although Frank Lampard could get a run out against his boyhood club.
The attacking trio behind the striker pretty much choose themselves these days. Oscar’s stunning free-kick that sealed the victory against Stoke City makes him a strong contender to pick up his second consecutive goal-of-the-season award, while Willian should return to the starting XI on Wednesday.
Eden Hazard has come into his own this season after a quieter-than-expected debut year. He’ll be looking to take his tally of goals for the season into double figures as he strives to become the best player in the world, per Sky Sports.
Fernando Torres’ injury makes Samuel Eto’o the natural choice up front, although Demba Ba could make an appearance from the bench.
Mourinho has spent this season playing down his side’s title chances. However, a win against West Ham would put the Blues in a strong position ahead of their visit to Manchester City, keeping their chances of silverware alive.
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