Shed Loads Of Problems For Rafa To Iron Out
Back-to-back defeats at Old Trafford and White Hart Lane may have brought the bubbles a bit closer to the ground, but they are still flying highly and proudly over the East end of London after West Ham's excellent return to the Premier League.
Just three games ago the Hammers were within touching distance of a Champions League position, but a draw at home to Stoke City and defeats on the road against Manchester United and Spurs have seen them nestle nicely within mid-table, somewhere I'm sure the majority of West Hams would have been delighted with if you had offered it to them at the start of the season.
If you had said to Chelsea fans in August that Roberto Di Matteo, their Munich hero, the only manager in their history to win the European Cup, would have been sacked before December with the club sitting in third place in the Premier League, I think you'd have been laughed off the King's Road. But that is exactly what happened a fortnight ago. Roman Abramovich executed his right as Chelsea owner to dismiss another manager and in his place arrived possibly the unlikeliest of all replacements, Rafael Benitez.
The Spaniard, who once labelled the Stamford Bridge faithful as ‘plastic fans waving their plastic flags' , is now in the hotseat and the heat is certainly on after two goalless draws against Man City and Fulham, hardly winning over the plastic fans, who are still seething his appointment. Many supporters are already baying for Benitez's blood, unfurling banners and posters protesting their anger at his appointment.
Wins are what he needs and it could come at Upton Park this Saturday. The Blues are unbeaten against their London rivals in their last 13 league and cup ties going back to 2003. You'll find odds of EVENS for an away victory while Chelsea-1 goal in the Match handicap market is priced at 5/2.
Despite their impressive league position and points tally at this stage of the season, the Hammers are currently experiencing their worst run of the season, only managing one win and five points from their last six matches. The Hammers are 14/5 to crank up the pressure on Benitez by seeing off his team and a sneaky 1-0 home victory can be backed at 10/1.
With Chelsea struggling to create in their last two matches, another draw here is something to consider. The 23/10 offered for the stalemate is bettered by the 9/1 available for the 0-0 draw, the scoreline of the visitors previous two matches.
On the injury front, West Ham will have midfielder Mark noble back from suspension. The academy product Noble missed the midweek defeat to Manchester United after picking up five bookings this season. Striker Andy Carroll has a slight knee problem and will be assessed before manager Sam Allardyce names his team.
Chelsea remain without John Terry, Frank Lampard and Daniel Sturridge. Terry (knee) and Lampard (calf) are back in training but interim manager Rafael Benitez is refusing to rush either back with the Club World Cup on the horizon. The game also comes too soon for Daniel Sturridge (hamstring), meaning Fernando Torres will once again lead the line.
While many fans are disillusioned with the appointment of Benitez, some will quietly hope that the former Liverpool man can coax the best out of Fernando Torres, the striker he brought to England from Atletico Madrid. The misfiring Spaniard has continually misfired for several managers and with his huge transfer tag looming over him, he must deliver soon. Torres can be backed at 5/1 to open the scoring, 5/4 to notch anytime and as part of our William Hill Headline offer, at 3/1 to score as part of a Chelsea win.
West Ham's funky chicken loving captain Kevin Nolan is the focus of the William Hill Headline offer for the hosts. The former Bolton and Newcastle man was on target the last time the Hammers won a match, against Newcastle, and you'll get 6/1 on him finding the back of the net in a home victory here.