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EPL: Chelsea v West Ham Preview


Our football writer takes an in-depth look at the encounter between Chelsea and West Ham taking place on Monday evening.

Chelsea will be desperate to banish the memory of last season under new manager Antonio Conte, but the Blues will face a stern test against Slaven Bilic’s spirited West Ham in their season opener. Chelsea failed to beat their London rivals last season with the Hammers 2-1 winners at the Boleyn Ground, while the Blues needed a stoppage-time penalty from Cesc Fabregas to earn a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge.

There’s no doubt West Ham can expect a much tougher test this time and their record at the Bridge does not bode well for their chances. Chelsea haven’t lost a home game to West Ham since 2002, winning eight from their previous 11 encounters.

Chelsea v West Ham | Monday 15 August | Stamford Bridge | 21:00

To Win (90 Mins)
Chelsea 6/10 | Draw 28/10 | West Ham 9/2


Chelsea fans had to endure a nightmare 2015/16 campaign as their title defence collapsed as Jose Mourinho’s ill-fated reign spiralled downwards. But they can look forward with optimism now as Antonio Conte’s reign begins. The Italian believes he can relight the fire of Chelsea’s 2014/15 Premier League title success and bury the memory of last season’s disastrous campaign in which the club finished 10th in the table.

Two causes for optimism arrived in the shape of Chelsea’s two major player recruits, Michy Batshuayi and N’Golo Kante, both of whom look well suited to Conte’s forceful style. Kante will provide much-needed energy in Chelsea’s midfield, while Batshuayi, who scored 17 league goals for Marseille last season, will add a predatory instinct and reduce the goalscoring burden on Diego Costa. At least one more striker is expected to join Conte’s side with the club working to bring Romelu Lukaku back to the club.

It seems as though Conte will implement a swashbuckling, attack-minded 4-2-4 formation this season, a system he used at Italian clubs Bari and Sienna, he guided both clubs to promotion from Serie B.

Belgian shot-stopper Thibaut Courtois will start in goal with the centre-back pairing of captain John Terry and Gary Cahill alongside the ever-reliable Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic at right-back.

In a two-man midfield, Kante will be expected to enforce in front of Chelsea’s back line, and that could open things up for Fabregas to be more involved with the attack. Conte has an abundance of world-class wingers to choose from with the likes of Eden Hazard, Willian, Pedro and Juan Cuadrado. Up front, Batshuayi and Costa could potentially form a deadly partnership together and will be a handful to West Ham’s defence.

West Ham
West Ham will be hoping to build on an impressive 2015/16 campaign that saw the club secure a top-eight finish in Slaven Bilic’s first year in charge. The Hammers actually finished 7th (four points behind the Manchester clubs) and achieved their highest point tally ever in the Premier League era and had their highest seeding in the table since finishing 7th in 2001-02.

They even snuck their way into Champions League conversations but had to instead settle for qualification into the Europa League. Bilic deserves a lot of credit and will be hoping to go one step further and break into the top four, even if that looks nigh-on impossible with the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea resurgent beneath them.

Pre-season has seen some terrible results for West Ham – though the results of pre-season friendlies are probably the most irrelevant part of football – there are injury worries over key players like Aaron Cresswell and Manuel Lanzini. Cresswell has been ruled out for up to four months with a knee injury, while Lanzini will miss up to four weeks, also carrying a knee injury.

Davide Santon was set to join on a season-long loan move from Inter Milan but the Italian failed a medical therefore Sam Byram should take Cresswell’s place.

Bilic should be able to cope without Lanzini thanks to the arrivals of Gokhan Tore, Sofiane Feghouli and Andre Ayew. Dimitri Payet was the star performer last season and Bilic will be hoping the Frenchman will be at his best against the Blues. Payet could torment Conte’s side with his creativity and ingenuity – not to mention deadly set pieces. 

The Hammers will be hopeful of ending their Stamford Bridge hoodoo, especially after coming so close last season and winning at Liverpool, Everton, Arsenal and Manchester City.

Verdict: Chelsea (6/10)
This game will be very tight but Chelsea should have too much quality for West Ham. The Blues will be desperate to start the new season well and with home advantage, are tipped to secure maximum points.

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Written by Chadley Nagel 

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