Chelsea v West Ham 26/12
Chelsea enter the Christmas period three points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Barclays Premier League, but that lead will be put to the test when they welcome London rivals West Ham United to Stamford Bridge for Boxing Day’s lunchtime kickoff.
With their Manchester rivals putting in a charge over the last two months, the pressure was on Jose Mourinho and his players on Monday night when they faced a tricky visit to the Britannia Stadium, but an early John Terry header set them on their way nicely, with Cesc Fabregas sealing a clinical 2-0 win late on. Their 2-1 loss at St James’s Park three weeks ago remains their only defeat in 26 competitive games this season, and the Stoke win means they come into this game off the back of four straight wins. Fabregas might have only netted twice in the league, but he has provided no less than eleven assists in his seventeen games, but sadly his fellow midfield architect, Eden Hazard, who has bagged six league goals so far, is unlike to be fit for the Boxing Day fixture after injuring his ankle in the last minute at Stoke. Brazilian midfielder, Oscar, will probably fill that gap in midfielder, after he was rested as an unused substitute on Monday, while Diego Costa will be hoping to add to his dozen goals in fourteen league appearances this term.
West Ham has been a team transformed this season, with the return of a fully fit Andy Carroll complementing recent arrivals, Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia, while the resurgence of Stewart Downing has been an added bonus for Sam Allardyce. Only one defeat in eleven games since the defeat at Old Trafford in September has seen the Hammers consolidate their spot in the top four, and their pre-Christmas tally of 31 points is a total they have been accustomed to reaching sometime in April. Four wins and a draw since they lost at Goodison Park last month sets Big Sam’s side up well for a difficult Christmas period that sees them in two London derbies against Chelsea and Arsenal. Allardyce will be hoping that midfielder Mark Noble will be able to return after an Achilles problem, although defender James Tomkins’ hamstring will need to be assessed after the defender was taken off as a precaution in the 2-0 win over Leicester on Saturday.
West Ham’s more attacking style has been a breath of fresh air so far this season, but they might have more chance of getting something from this game by parking the bus like they did to earn a boring draw in the corresponding fixture last season. They will be up against a Chelsea side full of pace and imagination, and although it could be a thrilling game for the fans.