West Ham play host to Chelsea this weekend in a game that sees the Hammers’ searching for their first victory over their London rivals since 2003. The two teams go into the game with different agendas, one looking to solidify their bid for European football next season the other looking to make ground on second placed Liverpool.
The meeting will reunite the man voted Chelsea’s greatest ever player with his former employer, Gianfranco Zola has managed an impressive transformation in West Ham since taking over and will be eagerly awaiting the arrival of his former club.
Chelsea had won the last six meetings between the two sides until a resilient Hammers travelled to Stamford Bridge earlier in the season. They left with a well deserved point and felt that they could have got more from the game. Zola will however be without another former Chelsea player Scott Parker who remains sidelined with a groin injury meaning the Italian will have to look elsewhere for midfield security. He may turn to on loan holding player Radoslav Kovac who has recovered from a thigh strain but the Czech is unlikely to start having made only three appearances all season.
Guus Hiddink may look to rotate some of his team ahead of the crucial trip to the Nou Camp in the Champions League Semi Final next week. Salomon Kalou, Jon Obi Mikel and Franco Di Santo could all start as could Michael Mancienne due to the defensive problems that the club are going through at the moment. Both Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka are likely to be rested with next week’s game looming large in the Dutchman’s mind.
Although mathematically not out of the title race yet Chelsea will be looking more at consolidating their current position and possibly pushing on for second; Zola will be optimistic about his side’s chances of causing an upset, hopeful of a new contract offer he will be pushing his players to go out and make a name for themselves.
Although Chelsea have an impressive form on the road this season (they have claimed 11 victories from a possible 16) West Ham have been very hard to beat at home. They have only lost one of their last six at Upton Park and that was against league leaders Man Utd. All in all the home side will be looking to seize this opportunity to cause an upset and continue chasing a spot in next year’s Europa League.