Two of the Premier League’s top four meet when league leaders Chelsea host West Ham at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day (12:45 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
Chelsea have responded well after suffering their first league defeat of the season to Newcastle at the start of the month, winning both of their subsequent fixtures. They top the Premier League table, with 42 points from 13 wins, three draws and one defeat.
The Blues’ latest victory came away to Stoke on Monday. Jose Mourinho fielded John Obi Mikel (pictured) and Nemanja Matic together at the base of midfield and the additional physicality helped his side neuter their hosts and take the three points in relatively comfortable fashion. John Terry and Cesc Fabregas scored the goals at either end of the 90 minutes.
Chelsea had the best defensive record in the league last season but began the current campaign in a more open manner, scoring 15 goals and conceding six in their first four fixtures. They have, however, tightened up more recently, keeping clean sheets in five of their last six matches while conceding a total of just five shots on target from inside the area.
Mourinho’s side look very well-rounded. The summer signings of Fabregas and Diego Costa have added greater ingenuity and power to their attacking play, while January signing Matic has established himself as a first-rate defensive midfielder. Chelsea have both the best scoring record and the joint-best defensive record in the Premier League.
Eden Hazard (ankle) is Mourinho’s only doubt for the Boxing Day fixture, but he is expected to be available.
West Ham make the short trip to Stamford Bridge on the back of four wins in their last five Premier League matches. They have enjoyed an excellent season to date and are fourth in the table, with 31 points from nine wins, four draws and four defeats.
Sam Allardyce’s side recorded a comfortable 2-0 win over Leicester City on Saturday. Andy Carroll profited from an errant back pass to give them a first half lead, before Stewart Downing scored the second with a nice curling effort just after the interval. Leicester rarely threatened Adrian’s goal in what was a fully deserved victory for the Hammers.
It has been quite the turnaround for West Ham this season. They flirted with the relegation places for parts of last season before recovering to finish 13th, with Allardyce only keeping his job after pledging to make his side’s football more attractive. While the long balls forward have become more frequent since Carroll’s return to the side, he has largely delivered.
The club did a very good job of improving Allardyce’s squad over the course of the summer. Aaron Cresswell, Alex Song and Diafra Sakho have been particularly impressive, while Chiekhou Kouyate, Enner Valencia, Mauro Zarate and Morgan Amalfitano have all made good contributions. The result is a side that is performing better at both ends of the pitch.
Allardyce has no confirmed injury absentees for the Boxing Day fixture but James Tomkins (thigh) and Mark Noble (calf) are both doubtful.
Chelsea v West Ham Betting Tips Verdict
West Ham held Chelsea to a 0-0 draw in last season’s equivalent fixture but were comfortably beaten 3-0 at the Boleyn Ground. Chelsea have won eight of the last 10 meetings at Stamford Bridge, with their last home defeat to the Hammers coming back in 2002. West Ham have won just three of the last 20 meetings at all venues.
Chelsea have an excellent home record so far this season, having won all eight of their league fixtures at Stamford Bridge. They have scored 20 times, while conceding just three.
Mourinho may start to rotate more regularly over the Christmas period but his side and squad have few very chinks in their armour and should be capable of maintaining their form.
West Ham are a very decent side and will certainly not make things easy for Mourinho’s men. They have, however, lost four of their six matches against last season’s top eight so far this season, with their two victories both coming at the Boleyn Ground. With Arsenal at home to come in a couple of days time, Allardyce may be tempted to rest a couple of players.
It will be a tightly contested match but Chelsea are more than capable of blunting the West Ham attack and taking all three points.
- Back ‘Chelsea to win to nil’ @ 23/20 with Betfair Sportsbook.
- Chelsea have opened the scoring in the opening half hour of nine of their 12 home matches in all competitions so far this season and will seek to make a similarly quick start on Boxing Day. Back the time of the first Chelsea goal to be under 32 minutes @ 5/6 with Bet365.