West Ham United have already ruffled a number of feathers in their first nine games of this Premier League season, and will now set their sights on overcoming defending champions Chelsea at Upton Park.
It was another fabulous result for the Hammers last time out as they enhanced their fine away record further with victory at the home of one more of their London rivals, with fellow high-flyers Crystal Palace seen off. After an opener from Carl Jenkinson was cancelled out by a penalty, the game changed on a sending off, and although they had to be patient, Slaven Bilic’s men were able to deliver the telling blow in the closing stages to remain just four points off top spot.
Home performances have not been quite as eyecatching, but they have proved that they are a side full of goals due to the array of attacking talent Bilic has at his disposal, and they will sense a vulnerability in the Chelsea backline. One man who has been key in West Ham’s rise to their lofty position is Manuel Lanzini, who has not looked back since finding the net just moments into his Premier League debut at Liverpool back in August.
Two successive clean sheets certainly represent a step in the right direction for the visitors, but there is still a way to go for maximum confidence to be renewed among the squad and they are still lacking in fluency going forward. A Champions League draw away to Dynamo Kiev was slightly unfortunate given the number of chances they created, although it leaves qualification for the knockout stage firmly in their own hands, so the Blues arrive here in good spirits.
The last Premier League match at home to Aston Villa emphasised the importance of Diego Costa to the club, as he returned by scoring the first goal and having a large hand in the second as they claimed a morale-boosting victory. Another key player, Eden Hazard, was left out of the team for that game but made some progress in the Ukrainian capital upon his restoration to the starting XI, looking a little more like the man who made the Ballon D’Or shortlist during the week.
The home side are without Victor Moses as he cannot turn out against his parent club, while Winston Reid and Alexandre Song are both absent through injury.
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and defender Branislav Ivanovic are still out for Chelsea, who hope to have Pedro Rodriguez back available.
Last Meeting: An entertaining, hard-fought encounter went the way of the eventual champions in March, with Eden Hazard settling the outcome with a diving header midway through the first half. West Ham piled on the pressure as they searched in vain for an equaliser but their finishing let them down, while Ramires came close to extending the Blues’ lead.
Played for both – Joe Cole: The tricky winger began his career at West Ham and built himself a reputation as one of English football’s most promising talents in scoring 10 goals in 126 Premier League appearances before moving across London in 2003. He won the title three times while at Stamford Bridge as well as the FA Cup and League Cup on multiple occasions, scoring 28 league goals in a seven-year stay.