Another tough test for the Hammers

Can Soucek lead West Ham to an unlikely victory over league leaders Chelsea today? — Reuters

WEST Ham will be desperate to win when they take on leaders Chelsea in the English Premier League’s early kick-off at London Stadium today.

In their last three league games, the Hammers crashed to two defeats and drew the other, yet they remained fourth in the standings.

That is because of an impressive run of football borne out of a great desire to triumph while playing with sheer grit and adventure.

But that was prior to the dip in form that saw them lose ground on the top three as they slipped seven points behind.

Against Thomas Tuchel’s Blues, West Ham face a tough task. Yet it is one that they can overcome. Indeed, if David Moyes can somehow get his charges to at least hold the title contenders to a draw, they will do well.

Moyes, who has been widely applauded for West Ham’s rise to the top four, may again bank on their threat from set pieces to outdo Chelsea.

This was evident once more in midweek when Tomas Soucek put them in front with a header from a corner, only for Brighton to pinch a point with two minutes to go.

Notwithstanding this, Chelsea will be wary of their aerial strength and put in place their own mechanism to thwart the home side. Perhaps more importantly, the Blues will be driven by the thought of allowing Manchester City — whom they lead by one point on the table — and Liverpool (by two), the chance to sweep past them.

Their 2-1 midweek win over Watford was a workman-like performance and it will certainly prompt Tuchel to call on his side for a repeat when they do battle in the London derby today.

The Chelsea side that saw off the Hornets had six changes made to the team that was held by Man United last weekend. And it is quite likely that Tuchel will recall the likes of Jorginho, Thiago Silva, Trevoh Chalobah and Reece James, assuming all are fit.

Elsewhere, Man United face Crystal Palace in a game that they should win. It will be the first game under the stewardship of interim manager Ralf Rangnick — the 63-year-old German taking over at Old Trafford after having the papers for his work permit sorted out a couple of days ago.

He will have not have been able to instil much of his own approach for this match, given the time frame, but a good talking-to may help this team of underachieveing star players.

It will be interesting to see how he handles the Cristiano Ronaldo saga.

The Portuguese striker has been the subject of much discussion regarding Rangnick’s approach to adopting a high-pressing game.

From a neutral’s point of view, Rangnick will probably give Ronaldo the chance to prove himself worthy of his place in the new set-up. Failure to do so and he will be sidelined, one suspects.

Steven Gerrard, who suffered his first defeat as Aston Villa manager when they lost to Man City at Villa Park in midweek, can expect another difficult outing on their visit to Leicester City.

But it may not be as demanding as West Ham’s coming together with Chelsea.

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