The Chelsea fans are feeling apprehensive in the Transfer Tavern ahead of their clash with West Ham at Stamford Bridge later today.
Our resident Blues faithful have been drowning their sorrows this week after watching their side suffer a crushing 3-1 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge last Sunday. The defeat has left Chelsea cut well adrift of the top-four, and barring a major collapse from Liverpool or Tottenham in the final few weeks of the season, it seems they will be forced to play Europa League football next season.
However, Chelsea have an opportunity to salvage some form of redemption when they face West Ham this afternoon. It’s a game they simply have to win to apply pressure on the teams above them in the Premier League, and if nothing else, restore some pride back into a club which has slowly been on the decline since the turn of the year.
Buoyed by their massive win over Southampton last weekend, West Ham are likely to be well up for the fight this afternoon, so Antonio Conte will need his side to be firing on all cylinders to ensure they do not suffer a second Premier League defeat against the Hammers this season. The last time these two sides clashed ended in a 1-0 win for West Ham at the London Stadium, so Chelsea will be fully aware that a difficult task lies ahead.
As always, Chelsea will need Eden Hazard to strut his stuff in the final-third and create space for himself and his teammates with combination of incisive passing, dazzling dribbling and intelligent movement, but there is reason to suggest that the performance of Marcos Alonso (valued at £31.5 million by Transfermarkt) could be the most crucial in Chelsea blue.
Although Pablo Zabaleta was once regarded as one of, if not the best right-backs in the Premier League, it’s fair to say the Argentine is not the player he once was, and his lack of pace is a weakness that Alonso could easily exploit down the left-wing today.
Playing in a left-wing back role, Alonso will be expected to get at Zabaleta and provide an out ball on that side of the pitch, and if he manages to get the beating of his opposite number it should be plain sailing for Conte’s side this afternoon.
Alonso has the pace, skill, and end product to make Zabaleta’s afternoon a thoroughly miserable one, so Chelsea must exploit that and do everything they can to penetrate the right-side of West Ham’s defence to ensure they create plenty of goal-scoring opportunities today.
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