Chelsea have the chance to take another step closer to the Premier League title when they contest a London derby with West Ham United on Monday night (8pm, Sky Sports 1).
Antonio Conte’s side extended their lead at the summit of the standings to 10 points last weekend, when they ran out 3-1 winners against Swansea City in front of their own supporters at Stamford Bridge. The Blues were not at their best on Saturday afternoon yet still found a way to emerge victorious, with their reliability and consistency having set them apart from the chasing pack in the race for this year’s championship crown.
Chelsea continue to display the correct balance between attack and defence that has been lacking in many of their title rivals in 2016/17, and the intensity of manager Antonio Conte means it is difficult to envisage them falling apart as the finish line comes into sight. They will certainly not have everything their own way in east London on Monday, but Chelsea are clearly the best team in the division and will fancy their chances of recording their 21st triumph in the Premier League this season.
West Ham were held to a 1-1 draw by Watford last time out, a result that extended their unbeaten run to three matches in the top flight, with Slaven Bilic’s side having been defeated only once in their last six outings.
A top-half finish now looks like a very real possibility for the Hammers after a rather underwhelming first few months of the campaign. The departure of Dimitri Payet in the January transfer window may have seen West Ham lose their best player, but the club have reacted well since the France international re-joined Marseille and are no longer looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone. There have also been issues with their new stadium at times this term, yet the overall mood among supporters has definitely lifted in recent weeks, and everyone associated with West Ham would enjoy nothing more than a memorable victory over the league leaders in gameweek 27.
Chelsea have no injury worries heading into this derby at the London Stadium, which could see Conte name an unchanged starting XI following the defeat of Swansea. The former Juventus and Italy head coach will probably make at least one alteration, however, with Nemanja Matic tending to be preferred to Cesc Fabregas in the centre of midfield away from home. Willian and Pedro (pictured) will be competing for the one available slot on the right-hand side of the front three, with the latter likely to get the nod, but the rest of the team has pretty much picked itself all season long.
West Ham can’t field the injured quartet of Andy Carroll (groin), Angelo Ogbonna (knee), Gokhan Tore (knee) and Diafra Sakho (back), while Michail Antonio misses out through suspension. Bilic has employed a number of different formations this year, including three-man and four-man backlines, but seems to have settled on a 4-2-3-1 setup for the time being. Andre Ayew could lead the line in Antonio’s absence, although Jonathan Calleri and Ashley Fletcher represent more conventional – if relatively untested – options.
Our Preview’s West Ham v Chelsea Betting Tips
Chelsea have an excellent record against sides outside the top six this term, having only dropped points on two occasions (a 2-2 draw with Swansea back in September and a 1-1 draw with Burnley last month). West Ham may have picked up in the last few weeks but they will find it difficult to halt the table-toppers on Monday, which is why an away win looks to be the best betting option in this one. The Hammers should at least get on the scoresheet, though, as may Pedro for the 12th time in all competitions this season. This preview’s betting tips are:
- Chelsea to beat West Ham with both teams to score @ 5/2 with Betfred or William Hill.
- Pedro to score anytime @ 15/8 with Bet365, Betfred or Paddy Power.
Greg Lea is a freelance sports writer. Read the articles that he has written at Just Bookies.