Time to step away from the delightful way things are going suddenly in the Premier League — Chelsea in fourth, just one point off the top! — and take care of some business in the League Cup. Sure, go ahead, call it EFL Cup, if you want. Hipster.
Yes, that's right, it's a midweek diversion in a season of very little midweek action. And it's over on the other side of London, in some silly stadium, fraught with all sorts of issues, including one of ticket allocation and one of policing, which may or may not have been exaggerated in the build-up to it. "Robust policing plan," it's been announced in grave tones (or at least I read it in grave tones), while Chelsea have asked supporters without tickets to refrain from traveling to the game. Supporters looking to cause trouble will surely take heed after such a stern warning on the official website.
I don't mean to make light of any real issues of course, but if there's one thing I know, it's that people who are looking to cause trouble won't be deterred by half- or quarter-measures, or even full-on measures at times. The banning orders threatened by Chelsea, and rightly so, might have a stronger effect.
In any case, hopefully there won't be any trouble on the night, either outside the stadium or inside, or, for that matter, on the pitch for the boys in Blue taking on our London rivals.
Date / Time: Wednesday, October 26, 19:45 BST; 2:45pm EDT; 12:15am IST (next day)
Venue: London Stadium, Stratford, London, England
Robert Madley Craig Pawson
Forecast: Dry. Cool.
On TV: none (UK); none (USA); TEN 1 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: beIN Sports Connect (ch.3) — this should also be available via fuboTV (cut the cord!) though the process is a bit complicated and I recommend watching this tutorial first (USA); TEN Sports Live (India); BBC 5 Live, Chelsea TV (radio only; UK)
West Ham United team news: After winning just 2 of the first 9 games in all competitions to start the season (including the 2-1 loss at Stamford Bridge on opening day), West Ham have won 3 of their last 5, including two in a row, all by a 1-0 scoreline. Then again, two of those wins were against Accrington Stanley (who play in god knows what lower division) and Sunderland (who should be playing in probably the same division as Accrington Stanley). Incidentally, the Hammers have yet to win a game this season in which they've given up a goal.
West Ham have a veritable caravan-load of injuries, including Andy Carroll (duh), summer signing Andre Ayew (who got hurt in the Chelsea game to start the season), ex-Chelsea boy Gokhan Tore, and the dangerous Diafra Sakho. Not helping matters is the fact that so far this season, they have zero goals from their forwards — who include former Chelsea transfer target Jonathan Calleri and Simone Zaza, who helped screw Conte out of progressing further at Euro 2016 with his comedy penalty kick routine.
Zaza may not even play of course, while West Ham's actual threats like Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini, and Michail Antonio may be rested as well as Slaven Bilic tries to avoid getting dragged back down into the relegation zone in the league.
It's unclear whether the team have gotten any better since our first meeting, so if you need a refresher with Rob's funny and scathing opposition analysis, you should read it again.
View from the enemy: Brace The Hammer (they're a week old, give them a click!)
Chelsea team news: Like the proverbial blue flags, the Blues are flying high after back-to-back-to-back victories of ever increasing impressiveness — 2-0, 3-0, 4-0 ... so, 5-0? Whether Conte keeps the 3-4-3 for this game or switches to something more mundane remains to be seen of course.
Cesc Fàbregas and Vice-captain Branislav Ivanović remain out (though the latter's back in training), but Captain John Terry should be back in the starting lineup. Hopefully there's also some minutes to be had for youngsters Chalobah, Aina, and Batshuayi.
Previously: Conte begins.