West Ham United will be aiming to secure their fifth successive Premier League victory when they make the short journey across London to Chelsea, who appear to have little to play for after exiting two knockout competitions.
After being beaten by a superior Paris St. Germain over two legs in the second round of the Champions League, Chelsea were undone by their former striker Romelu Lukaku last weekend as they crashed out of the FA Cup at the quarter-final stage. Given their mid-table position in the Premier League and with the top four realistically out of reach, the Blues will hope that this season does not fizzle out, but it seems that preparations for 2016-17 have already begun.
The most striking aspect of that defeat at Everton was that their attacking line-up full of proven quality players badly underperformed once again, with Cesc Fabregas again having little impact on proceedings while Pedro Rodriguez continues to show form that is less than becoming of someone who has won all of club football’s biggest honours. They may be still unbeaten in the Premier League since Guus Hiddink arrived in December, but plenty has to change at Chelsea.
In the general scheme of things, this game is all about the visitors, whose sensational form has brought them right in contention to qualify for the Champions League. They seem to be scaling a new height each week, and few more memorable moments will be experienced than the comeback from two goals down with 12 minutes left to win 3-2 at Everton, which provided another example of the never-say-die attitude that manager Slaven Bilic has instilled into his squad.
And the Hammers were just seven minutes away from booking a trip to Wembley for the FA Cup semi-finals as Dimitri Payet gave another sprinkle of his magic with a stunning free-kick. He is the talismanic figure who symbolises what the current West Ham are all about, but as a whole the team is a fine unit, made even stronger by the recent return of Diafra Sakho. Whereas playing at Stamford Bridge may have fazed them in the past, it certainly will not do so here.
Diego Costa is absent for Chelsea following his sending off at Everton, while Eden Hazard begins a four-week injury lay-off.
Defenders James Collins and James Tomkins are still out for the visitors, who cannot field winger Victor Moses against his parent club.
Last Meeting: An exhibition of delightful football helped Chelsea to a 2-0 Boxing Day victory in 2014 as they looked very much like a side that was destined for the title. The West Ham goal had almost been breached on a number of occasions before John Terry opened the scoring following a corner just after the half hour mark, and the result was sealed in expert fashion in the second half by Diego Costa. The closest the visitors came was when Morgan Amalfitano saw his shot come back off a post.
Played for both – Demba Ba: The Senegalese striker arrived at West Ham in January 2011, but despite some promising performances and seven goals in 12 Premier League outings he could not prevent the club from being relegated. In January 2013 he moved to Chelsea and never established himself in the first-team, making a total of 33 league appearances and again managing seven goals, most famously at Liverpool in April 2014.