Time: 3:00 PM BST (7:00 AM PST), Saturday September 11th.
Location: Upton Park, London
Preamble: It's good to have club football back isn't it? I have to admit, I'm typically a country over club sort of guy, but unless it's a major tournament, international play is boring. This is possibly because Chelsea are significantly better than England, but whatever the cause, I've missed watching the Blues. We're still on the 'cake' part of the schedule, and although we've had some issues with West Ham away over the years, I can't imagine that we're anything but strong favourites to take the game. We're already two points ahead of the pack, so let's grab a bag of goals, keep the Hammers away from Cech's goal, and generally give them a right seeing to.
Opposition: For two years, West Ham held a special place in my heart. Why? Because Gianfranco Zola was there as a manager, and I love me some Franco. Then new owners moved in and let him go in a frankly dispicable manner, first assuring Zola that his job was safe should the Hammers avoid relegation, then sacking him anyway and bringing in Avram Grant. That's hardly all that Messrs. Sullivan and Gold have been doing though - their most recent transgression has been to strip the season ticket privileges from the families of the most decorated managers in club history without even informing said families beforehand. This, apparently, is the way business is conducted at Upton Park these days.
The players are nothing special, but there are a few gems in the mix. The key to the team is ex-Chelsea midfield Scott Parker, a box to box midfielder in the finest English traditions. He's the closest equivalent that the Hammers have to Michael Essien, and he'll be looking to dictate the tempo of attacks from midfield while breaking up our play and taking an long range pot-shot or two. Robert Green, the most obvious villain of England's world cup, should feature in nets for West Ham, so Chelsea will be looking to send as many daisycutters his way as possible. Up front, Carlton Cole is the new Emily Heskey, which means that he's very good at being a support striker. It's too bad West Ham don't actually have any real finishers to convert the chances Cole creates with his clever use of space.
Injury Report: Chelsea will be without Frank Lampard, Branislav Ivanovic, and Jose Bosingwa. I haven't heard any news on Jeffrey Bruma, but it's probably safe to say that he'll be missing the game as well. With nobody else available, Paulo Ferreira will cover right-back, but if he can't handle his side of the pitch, Ancelotti may well slide Essien down later in the game. Lampard's absence means that new signing Ramires looks set to make his first Chelsea start. John Terry, who missed both England matches during the international break, has recovered from his hamstring trouble and will start tomorrow.
Stat Report: Chelsea have one of the strongest attacks in world football, while West Ham have a habit of leaking goals to even mediocre sides. The result? Despite the Hammers having home field advantage, Chelsea are expected to score a little over 3.1 goals tomorrow, with the home team offering 0.9 goals in reply. In other words, expect a decisive victory for the Blues, with the standard caveats that weird things happen.
Win expectancy sits at 80.6%, and point expectancy is about 2.5. Not too bad.