Chelsea welcome West Ham United to Stamford Bridge as the two clubs complete the opening round of fixtures of the 2016/17 Premier League season (8pm Monday, Sky Sports 1).
Chelsea have replaced interim boss Guus Hiddink with former Juventus manager Antonio Conte (pictured), who led his native Italy to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 in France this summer. The three-time Serie A title winner will have his eyes on the Premier League crown this term, although most of the club’s supporters would probably settle for a return to the Champions League as they look to move on from last year’s 10th-place finish as quickly as possible.
Michy Batshuayi and N’Golo Kante have been signed with that objective in mind, and Everton striker Romelu Lukaku could re-join the club he left permanently two years ago before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.
As well as getting the best out of the newcomers, Conte will be keen to restore the likes of Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas, Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa to their maximum level after each went through a prolonged and protracted period of underachievement in 2015/16, just a season after they all played key roles in Chelsea’s most recent title triumph.
West Ham will have far fonder memories of last term, which was their final one at iconic former home Upton Park. London Stadium is where the club are now based, and the Hammers will be desperate to make their first year at the former Olympic park a successful one. Gokhan Tore, Sofiane Feghouli, Ashley Fletcher and Havard Nordtveit have been acquired to bolster the east Londoners’ ranks, with the retention of Dimitri Payet, Winston Reid and Manuel Lanzini meaning West Ham could once again finish in the Europa League qualification spots.
Slaven Bilic’s charges showed last season – when they beat Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, Liverpool at Anfield and Manchester City at the Etihad – that they can cause problems for even the biggest teams in the division. The former Croatia boss will be quietly confident of causing more upsets and making another positive impact on the Premier League this year.
Chelsea will have to make do without centre-half Kurt Zouma (knee), who is aiming to return to action by October. John Terry and Gary Cahill will therefore partner one another in the heart of the Blues’ backline for this London derby, with Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic set to be given the nod at full-back.
It will be interesting to see which formation Conte opts for. A 4-4-2 was used for much of pre-season, but the Italian could settle on a 4-3-3 for the time being. That is a configuration that seems like a better fit with the current crop of players.
West Ham will be unable to call upon the services of Lanzini, Tore, Diafra Sakho – whose proposed switch to West Bromwich Albion collapsed last week – and Aaron Cresswell (all knee). Andy Carroll should start up front, with Payet and Feghouli likely to be relied upon to supply the ammunition.
Our Preview’s Chelsea v West Ham Betting Tips
These two teams played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at the same venue last term, and this preview reckons that a share of the spoils could be on the cards once more. It may take a few more weeks for Conte to fully get his ideas across at Stamford Bridge, but Chelsea still have more than enough quality to beat anyone in the Premier League on their day. West Ham should not be taken lightly, however, and should prove dangerous on the counter-attack and when possession changes hands.
As for our preview’s betting tips, a 1-1 draw looks to be the best option in terms of the correct score market. Hazard to be the first goalscorer is another wager worth considering.
- Betting Tip: The draw is best priced at 16/5 with Unibet, but those who want a more speculative bet should go with Chelsea and West Ham to draw by the correct score of 1-1 @ best betting odds of 7/1 with Bet365, William Hill or Unibet.
- Betting Tip: Eden Hazard to score the first goal of the game is at biggest odds of 6/1 with Coral Bookmaker. But if you prefer a safer spin on that bet, then consider Hazard to score at any time @ biggest odds of 19/10 with Ladbrokes.
Greg Lea is a freelance sports writer. Read the articles that he has written at Just Bookies.