West Ham will have the chance to break into the Premier League’s top four as they travel across London to face Chelsea.
Yet before discussing the upcoming London Derby, let’s first look at the glaring omissions from the England national team which leaves West Ham fans scratching their heads. Two points off of fourth, how can a team and its players be so underrated?
For Mark Noble, another snub during a top season for the 28-year-old must leave him frustrated. Noble’s 2015-16 Premier League stats outperform England’s central midfielders by far. With 453 successful passes, 86% pass completion, 15 tackles won, and 15 chances created, Mr. West Ham deserves an England friendly match, if not an invitation to Euro 2016.
Aaron Cresswell must feel injustice as well after a very solid year so far for West Ham. The durable left back has shown his attacking prowess as Slaven Bilic’s side has utilized him in a wing role of late.
Dimitri Payet earned a France call-up, as well as securing the PFA Fans’ Player of the Month award. Both honors are much deserved for the attacking midfielder, who showed off that skill last week with his 30-yard free kick past David De Gea and Manchester United in the 1-1 FA Cup Sixth Round match last weekend.
“It’s a logical sporting decision, a decision based on his performances with his club side,” said French manager Didier Deschamps. “Payet will get a run out and it’s good he’s with us for the two matches.” Hodgson should take note of Deschamps’ decision based on club form when viewing Noble and Cresswell.
West Ham must hope Noble and Cresswell prove a point to Roy Hodgson in Noble’s 251st Premier League appearance. The Hammers have a massive chance to climb into the top four of the Premier League, and Noble will be at the centre of it.
Payet will of course deserve attention at Stamford Bridge and add onto his current form. He has five goals and five assists in his last seven competitive appearances for West Ham.
Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 13 matches under Guus Hiddink, and despite the fact Chelsea are out of Europe and the FA Cup, Bilic knows it will be no cake walk.
“Chelsea are thinking there’s nine games to go and if they click they can finish very, very high also. In that sense it’s not a great time [to play them] because now they have only Premier League,” Bilic said. “Make no mistake – I’m expecting them to be really hungry and totally focused on the Premier League.”
West Ham will be boosted by the return of Sam Byram, but the Hammers are still without defenders James Collins and James Tomkins, as well as Chelsea-loanee Victor Moses. Chelsea must deal with the absence of Diego Costa and Eden Hazard. Costa received a red card in Chelsea’s FA Cup defeat to Everton last weekend, and Hazard will be out for up to four weeks with a hip injury.
The last time West Ham have won four straight Premier League matches was February 2014, and with a fit forward squad, the time is ripe for another shot at four-in-a-row. Chelsea are unbeaten in their last nine home matches against the Hammers, but West Ham’s current form seemingly rules out the possibility of a loss.
Solid defensive play by the sturdy Angelo Ogbonna will be bolstered by a fit Winston Reid, who made his return from injury in the FA Cup last week. West Ham have scored more away goals than home goals so far this season, with four of five three-goal performances happening on the road.
Despite Chelsea only managing one clean sheet in their last six games, the Blues have scored the third-most home goals in the Premier League, and can contest even without Costa and Hazard.
Score Prediction: 2-1 West Ham over Chelsea. A fit striking force and a motivated group of West Ham players will deliver Hiddink his first loss as Chelsea manager. Watch for Payet to display why Didier Deschamps was right to choose him for France’s upcoming friendlies.