Of the eight (8!) games coming up this month, on paper this is easily the hardest. For West Ham, this is always one of the events of the season, and their own ambitions are not nearly as delusional as they may have been not that long ago.
Just as they sit right now, the Hammers have a very real chance of being the best of the rest of the chasing pack at the end of the season, behind the top-three teams of Chelsea, Manchester City, and Liverpool. We may have a nine-point lead over them in fourth, which is exactly as many as they have over the relegation battle right now, but that just means that there’s a ton of parity (and quality) in mid-table, ready to do damage to any title chances.
Add in the early kick-off at a stadium where we’ve won just twice in our previous seven visits in all competitions, and there’s plenty of be worried about.
Date / Time: Saturday, December 4, 2021, 12.30 GMT; 7:30am EST; 6pm IST
Venue: Olympic Stadium, London, England
Referee: Andre Marriner (on pitch); Andy Madley (VAR)
Forecast: Light rain
On TV: BT Sport 1 (UK); NBCSN, Universo (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); SuperSport MaXimo 1 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BT Sport Live (UK); NBC Sports Live, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
West Ham team news: West Ham were not only a top half team last season, but their sixth place finish was the best in over two decades, since finishing fifth in 1999. And they’ve only improved from there, despite having to deal with Europa League football as well.
Summer arrivals Craig Dawson (who’s somehow still just 31) and of course our very own Kurt Zouma have formed a solid partnership in defense after Angelo Ogbonna was lost for the season with a knee injury, while the Lollichon-approved goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, on loan from PSG, has also played a key role in forming the sixth meanest defense in the league. Only the top three, plus Brighton and Wolves have conceded fewer goals than West Ham’s 17 in 14 games.
West Ham are also the only other team outside of the top three with a positive goal difference in the league, with Michail Antonio leading the way, and with the team leading the league in set piece goals as well. How very Moyesian.
West Ham have hit a bit of a blip lately, with just one point from their last three games, but that just means they’re due for a reversion to form.
Chelsea team news: Speaking of blips, after back-to-back home draws and a terrible performance away to Watford on Wednesday sandwiching most impressive back-to-back wins against Leicester City and Juventus by a combined 7-0 scoreline, it’s a bit of a mystery which Chelsea we will see this weekend. Tuchel obviously will rotate back to the strongest possible lineup, but fatigue and injuries have been adding up and we’re only just getting started with the festive fixtures madness.
On the plus side, we should be getting Reece James back from an ankle knock, and Romelu Lukaku might be ready to start for the first time in a month and a half. Jorginho and Callum Hudson-Odoi were both able to rest midweek as well, so hopefully they’re raring to go (and be mistake-free).
On the not so positive side, Trevoh Chalobah’s now out as well, joining Ben Chilwell, N’Golo Kanté, and Mateo Kovacic, who’s threatening to become a long-lost memory at this point with his seemingly never-ending hamstring injury.
Liverpool and Manchester City are both away this weekend as well, to Wolves and Watford, respectively, but there’s little margin for error. This result could set the momentum for the next few, making it all the more important.
Previously: One of our two aforementioned wins at the Olympic Stadium came last season in late April, during the brief time of The Super League, thanks to a solitary strike from Timo Werner.