Chelsea will have designs on continuing their perfect start to the new Premier League season when they travel across London to take on West Ham at the London Stadium (1.30pm Sunday, live on Sky Sports).
It has been a dream commencement to the campaign for new Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri, who has overseen a run of five consecutive victories that make his side the early pacesetters alongside Liverpool. It is the club’s best start since the 2010-11 season.
It is a very encouraging beginning to the relationship, regardless of whether or not Chelsea are able to keep pace with the likes of Liverpool and reigning champions Manchester City over the full length of the campaign. Sarri has admitted that he currently views those two teams as being superior to his side, but he hopes to close the gap over the next year or so.
It is early days, but elements of Sarri’s attacking, possession-based approach are already evident. Chelsea are enjoying a much larger share of the ball, taking more shots and pressing higher up the pitch than they did under his predecessor and compatriot Antonio Conte. The signing of his former Napoli charge Jorginho, the team’s deep-lying playmaker, has helped to ease the transition.
Further forward, Eden Hazard seems to be enjoying the opportunity to play under a more offensively-minded coach. The Belgian has already provided five goals and two assists in three starts and two substitute appearances, and scored a hat-trick to Chelsea’s 4-1 win at home to Cardiff last weekend. Sarri has told Hazard that he believes him capable of scoring 40 goals this season, despite him having never previously broken the 20 mark.
All is good at Stamford Bridge right now, but with Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City all to come before mid-December, it will be interesting to see to what degree their early momentum can be maintained.
West Ham had only losing momentum during the opening weeks of the season. They were thrashed 4-0 by Liverpool on the first day of the campaign. That was followed by home defeats to Bournemouth and Wolverhampton Wanderers and an away loss at Arsenal. Pressure was quickly building on new head coach Manuel Pellegrini.
It was therefore a major relief to him and his players that they were able to break their run with an impressive 3-1 win away to Everton last weekend. Andriy Yarmolenko scored twice on his first start following his summer move from Borussia Dortmund and Marco Arnautovic restored a comfortable advantage on the hour mark after their hosts had pulled one back.
Afterwards, Pellegrini, who won the Premier League with Manchester City just five seasons ago, suggested it was a result he was always confident would come. It was a vital one in the context of the fixtures his side face over the next couple of months, with four of last season’s top six coming up over the course of their next eight matches.
Pellegrini looks to have a good cast of forwards to work with, including big summer purchase Felipe Anderson, and some acceptable midfield options, but the defence is a real cause for concern. West Ham had the joint-worst defensive record in the league last season, and they are yet to look much better this time around. They need to improve both individually and collectively if the Hammers are to meet pre-season expectations of a top-half finish.
Recent meetings between Chelsea and West Ham have generally been pretty even, with two wins apiece and two draws over the course of the last three seasons.
Our Preview’s West Ham vs. Chelsea Betting Tips Verdict
Chelsea have won three of their last five visits to the Hammers and are understandably general 4/7 favourites with the best British bookies to win this Premier League match. Consistently backing odds-on shots in football will accumulate profits, but only for the bookmakers. In a three-horse race, the 5/1 about West Ham, a home team who will have derived a measure of confidence from their latest impressive result against Everton is too big to resist and rates as the value bet.