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The door swings open: Previewing West Ham

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Time to capitalize.

Manchester United's motley crew were handily defeated, 3-0, by Fulham on Saturday afternoon. The shock loss -- for some, not this guy -- jars the door open for Chelsea to go six points clear with a win Sunday against host West Ham. Make sure you all e-mail your thanks to Damien Duff, care off Fulham Football Club...

On paper, this appears a certain three points for the league leaders: first (40 points) versus joint bottom (14). However, this London Derby should prove to be far from a brush-over fixture. With the likes of Chelsea legend Gianfancola Zola (now in charge of West Ham) and his former manager at Parma, current Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti, involved, this could take an interesting turn. Ancelotti sanctioned Zola's transfer to Chelsea, a move he now describes as a mistake.

Will Upton Park represent a proving ground? Unlikely, though you can bet Zola will have his boys focused.

The two things we can be sure about? Ashley Cole will celebrate his 29th birthday with his 100th appearance for Chelsea -- happy born day Cash! And, of course, Frank Lampard will enjoy being verbally assaulted by the Hammers faithful. Ah, some things never change.

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YOU play for Everton!

Team news
Ricardo Carvalho, Didier Drogba, Joe Cole are shoe-ins for Sunday's starting XI, with Ancelotti singling them out in the pre-match press conference. One of Ballack or Mikel will be rested. Does that mean Malouda will finally get a start? Unlikely. We'll probably see Belletti come in to the anchor role. Moving forward, Joey Cole must begin to produce at the tip of the diamond or else management are going to be forced to look elsewhere. He's been a roller coaster this season. I understand injuries have played a role in his form but, with Deco becoming increasingly worthless, it's now or never for Joey Boy. 

My XI
Cech
Bane-Terry-Carvalho-Cashley
Mikel
Lampard-Malouda
Joey
Anelka-Drogba

How it will play out
"I know there's a lot riding on it, but it's all psychological!" Ace Ventura, aka Tom Ace -- apparently a Chelsea supporter -- knows his s***. United's slip represents a massive opening for the Blues, one which they must exploit to the fullest. And therein lies the problem, we are perhaps a tad frail mentally at the moment. So it is all psychological! Our defense is at its most vulnerable all term; West Ham rank seventh in the Premier League in goals scored -- it's a formula for chaos. How the back line copes with this challenge will decide the result. Petr Cech must take charge.

3-1 to Chelsea.