It’s not much fun fighting against an onrushing mathematical elimination point for the fourth and final Champions League place. Chelsea trail Tottenham by eight points and there are only 21 left on the table this season. That makes Tottenham’s magic number 13 (they’re way ahead on goal difference, so they win the tie-breaker.)
All Chelsea can do is win and hope that Spurs somehow manage to drop nine points in the next seven matches. As I said, it’s not much fun battling against mathematical elimination. But that’s what is left for Chelsea. Ahead lies a major test of leadership and the team’s will to fight. Players, coaches, and the fans, too, have to pick themselves off the canvas after being decked by Tottenham and wade back into the fray.
West Ham are at the wrong end of the table and just five points clear of the drop. Before the international break they were a team in utter disarray, with multiple pitch invasions and coins being flung at the owners (who were hustled out of the stadium for their safety), as they lost 3-0 to Burnley at home. It’s a credit to David Moyes, then, that he was able to use the international time off to take his team to Florida, get their heads straight, regroup and bounce back with a 3-0 win over struggling Southampton in that same ground last weekend.
The recent record, shockingly, favors West Ham. They’ve won four league games in the New Year, Chelsea just three. In fact, Chelsea have lost five of seven in the Premier League, and lost 1-0 to West Ham in the reverse fixture in December.
Chelsea are sorely in need of turning things around. And there’s no time like the present.
Date / Time: Sunday, April 8, 2018, 16:30 BST; 11:30am EDT; 9:00pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, London, England
Referee: Kevin Friend — if Chelsea are in need of a lucky rabbit’s foot in a difficult 2018, maybe Kevin Friend is it. While West Ham are 1-1 in his matches this season, Chelsea are 3-0 and have scored 11 goals (playing Newcastle twice and Stoke). True to his name, in 16 Premier League matches this season he’s issued no red cards (in fact, none in any of his 27 matches in all competitions this season) and he’s not to keen to flash the yellow either, just 0.42 times per league contest.
Forecast: Almost exactly the same as last Sunday, with the temperature around 11°C (52°F), winds 12 km/h (8mph). The skies should be overcast with a 40% chance of rain.
On TV: Sky Sports (UK); NBCSN, Telemundo (USA); Star Sports Select HD2 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live Extra, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India)
Chelsea team news: Last week’s absentees Thibaut Courtois, Pedro, and Davide Zappacosta are back in the mix again. The only two unavailable players are David Luiz (knee) and Ethan Ampadu (broken ankle).
West Ham United team news: Winger and former Chelsea transfer target Michail Antonio is definitely out after injuring his leg against Southampton. Sometimes talented former Chelsea transfer target Manuel Lanzini (knee) is a game-day decision. Hilarious former Chelsea transfer target Andy Carroll is edging closer to fitness but it sounds like he won’t be in the squad. Arthur Masuaku and Edimilson Fernandes are are both back. They have not been linked with Chelsea.
Last time: This seems like so long ago, it almost belongs in the Stone Age. In August of 2016, West Ham came to Stamford Bridge as Antonio Conte’s first non-friendly Chelsea opponent. This was before Ivanović lost his place. Before the three-man backline. When Diego Costa was still scoring our goals. When Conte still fist-pumped the crowd. We won 2-1, a result we would dearly love to see again.