Chelsea looks to continue its perfect ‘Project Restart’ at the home of West Ham on Wednesday. Here are the key clashes to keep an eye out for.
Look around the landscape of football at the moment and you would be hard pressed to find a more in-form side than Chelsea or a more formidable manager than Frank Lampard. It would also be a difficult task to locate a team in a worse predicament than West Ham, so what better time to pit the London rivals against one another in a Premier League clash of some magnitude.
Capital city bragging rights aside, the Blues have momentum and a favourable fixture list on their side as they edge ever closer to securing a Champions League spot next campaign. The Hammers can only dream of such fortunes as their harsh reality remains the threat of relegation to the Championship with David Moyes’ short tenure having taken a turn for the worse.
As an ex-graduate of the claret and blues, Lampard will need to put aside any sentiment that may resonant and focus on maintaining his clubs current hot streak, as well as keeping on eye on these key clashes:
1. Chelsea vs. learning from past misgivings
This phrase is banded around very often in the industry, usually relating to a new coach who is still learning the trade at the top level. Cue Lampard and Chelsea’s previous encounter with West Ham at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season.
Despite early control and a handful of clear-cut chances, it was the away side that came out victorious, an Aaron Cresswell strike shortly after the interval the decisive moment in a match of great poignancy. Third choice goalkeeper David Martin was handed his debut by Moyes after the Hammers had conceded nine goals in their previous three games. Lampard must have been licking his lips at the thought of facing the 33-year-old, especially as the Blues had won six of their last seven games prior to welcoming West Ham.
Unfortunately, it seemed written in the script that Martin, son of former Hammers defender and boyhood fan, would earn his sides first victory away to Chelsea for 17 years, simultaneously ending a run of seven without victory. He did so with a string of fine saves, aided by wasteful finishing by his opposing forwards, in particular Christian Pulisic, who had previously netted five goals in four Premier League games.
Fast forward to present day and Chelsea enters this encounter again on the back of a strong string of results, undefeated in six matches stretching back to pre-lockdown. They also have peak-of-his powers Pulisic once more, with the American netting in the latest wins over Aston Villa and Manchester City.
West Ham has returned to its own pattern of play, winning one game since January and now above the drop zone on goal difference alone. Chelsea appears to be a different beast, but the Blues cannot let past failings come back to the haunt them. Instead, they need to wipe out West Ham with a dominating display. Missed opportunities and failure to disrupt counter attacks were the downfalls for Chelsea that day, two traits Lampard has still yet to eradicate from the Blues’ blueprint.