West Ham host Chelsea this weekend, with a chance to put some space between themselves and their major competition for a Champions League spot if they can prosper in the east-west London derby.
However, absent Declan Rice, Michail Antonio and the suspended Craig Dawson, the Hammers are without some of their key performers going into Saturday evening’s game at the London Stadium.
Justin: West Ham 1-1 Chelsea
Chelsea won the reverse fixture 3-0, but the scoreline flattered the west London outfit. West Ham played better than the Blues for large chunks of the game and gave up two goals towards the end of the match, when the game was already over.
Two of those three goals were scored by Tammy Abraham, who is tied for the team lead of six goals even though he has fallen out of favor with Thomas Tuchel, having played only two of the last five league games. In fact, Chelsea have only scored 17 goals in the 13 Premier League games Tuchel has managed (1.3 goals/match), a significantly lower rate than under Lampard (1.7).
West Ham host Chelsea in the biggest match of the season. Both teams aim for a top four finish with a loss for either side detrimental to those dreams.
But where Chelsea may not be scoring as much, they certainly have improved defensively. The club’s expected goals allowed per match has decreased from 1.09 under Lampard to 0.51 under Tuchel. West Ham will have a difficult time breaking down the Chelsea defense and must take their chances when they have them.
Overall, this will be a battle. West Ham haven’t lost two matches in a row in all competitions all season and I expect that trend to continue. It may not be pretty but I think the defense, with Ogbonna getting his second match after injury, will improve upon the performances over the last month, where multiple goals have been given up every match.
Alex: West Ham 1-2 Chelsea
Defensively, we were a disaster last week. It’s an area in which Moyes prides himself, so to see us concede so many in recent matches causes some worry.
Chelsea have been the opposite since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival, vastly improving the club’s defense. We may finally have a low scoring game.
Chelsea also have Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final on Tuesday and hopefully will have one eye on that. I’d take a draw but worry their quality will be too much for our injury depleted squad.
Lou: West Ham 1-2 Chelsea
This is the biggest game of our entire season so far. Win, and our chances of Champions League qualification begin to look realistic. Lose, and it would take a monumental effort to re-overtake Chelsea.
Our loss last weekend against Newcastle was disappointing as it was a fine chance to break away from the chasing pack and open up a clear gap. Luckily, neither Chelsea or Liverpool managed to take full advantage with draws in both of their respective fixtures.
A lot of this match depends on who we have back, as our squad is looking rather depleted. Chelsea, on the other hand, have a massive squad and can rotate without barely damaging their first team.
I’m feeling pessimistic and predicting a narrow loss in this one, but I am more than happy for the boys to prove me wrong, just as they have so often this season.