Chelsea’s third competitive match of 2022 is a matchup against a West Ham side we defeated in the League Cup quarterfinal just seven days ago. This fixture is under the umbrella of the league however, and was meant to be the Blues’ final WSL fixture of 2021, but which was postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests within the Chelsea camp.
Instead, our last match of 2021 turned out to be a 1-0 loss to Reading, and our first WSL match of 2022 was a 0-0 draw with Brighton. More than a month separates those two results, but it remains painfully true that Chelsea have failed to score in back-to-back WSL matches for the first time since dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
Despite this, Chelsea are still well in the title race but must pick up maximum points from our two games-in-hand over would-be challengers, and the one in hand over table toppers Arsenal. To do that though, Chelsea are going to have to score a goal. Preferably a few. If we manage to claim all three points, we’ll be level on games played with Arsenal and just one point behind.
With Manchester City and Arsenal coming up back-to-back in early February, these points are needed to have a shot at snatching the top spot from the Gunners face-to-face.
Date / Time: Wednesday, January 26, 2022, 19.00 GMT; 2:00pm EST; 12:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Kingsmeadow, Kingston Upon Thames, UK
Forecast: Cloudy; 41°F/5°C
How to watch: BBC iPlayer or BBC Red Button (UK), NBCsports.com (US), The FA Player (elsewhere; free to signup and watch)
Chelsea team news: Chelsea played Brighton only three days ago so you don’t imagine matchday squad will be much different. If so, we’ll still be missing our captain Magdalena Eriksson as well as midfielder Melanie Leupolz (who is reportedly struggling with long COVID). And of course forward Sam Kerr and midfielder Ji So-yun are still with their national teams for the Asian Cup.
As far as personnel who remain, one curious case is that of Bethany England, who has only played 26 minutes despite Kerr’s absence. Against Brighton, Chelsea seemed to be missing a target to aim for. England was eventually subbed on in the 82nd minute and would’ve grabbed the winner were it not for an unreal reaction save on the line from Megan Walsh. I’m not quite sure what’s going on but I hope we see more of England in this match.
One slight boost came via social media video snippet revealing that Lauren James has returned to training but is unlikely to feature in this match.
West Ham team news: West Ham had their own postponements due to a COVID-19 outbreak among players and staff. While they’ve recovered enough to field teams, they still aren’t at full strength.
Hammers boss Ollie Harder has drawn praise from Emma Hayes, particularly after the Conti Cup quarterfinal, in which the teams went into half-time level at 1-1. Harder will likely have his squad match Chelsea’s three at the back and look to frustrate the Blues while being discerning about when to spring forward. The latter part they nailed (6 shots, 4 on target, 2 goals), but not being able to contain (Pernille) Harder led to a sizable scoreline and a Chelsea win.
Previously: As mentioned above, a 4-2 win seven days ago. It featured a Pernille Harder hat trick, an Erin Cuthbert goal, Alsu Abdullina’s Chelsea debut, and this Jessie Fleming pass that sparked a Kirby-Harder counter.