Soccer-Leaders Chelsea face tricky test at West Ham


FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Watford v Chelsea - Vicarage Road, Watford, Britain - December 1, 2021 Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - After escaping from Watford with three barely merited points on Wednesday, Premier League leaders Chelsea face another tough test on Saturday in their London derby with West Ham United.

Thomas Tuchel conceded that his side had been lucky to win at Vicarage Road but was keen to move on and focus on the task at hand against David Moyes' team at the London Stadium.

"It was a very unusual performance for us. I will not focus long on this match because we play on Saturday again," he said.

Chelsea, who have dropped points recently at home against Burnley and Manchester United lacked their usual intensity and sharpness but Tuchel sees little merit in dwelling on that dip in form.

"I see this totally as an exception from the rule. I will not insist too long on this match because it’s so unusual for us to play like this," he said.

The Premier League table suggests that fans are in for a thrilling three-horse title race with Manchester City just a point behind Chelsea and Liverpool looking strong in third place, just two points adrift of the leaders.

There is a seven-point gap between fourth-placed West Ham United and Liverpool but the Hammers have shown an impressive level of consistency this season and a victory over Liverpool in November showed they are capable of upsetting the title contenders.

City travel to Watford on the back of an impressive 2-1 win at Aston Villa, but manager Pep Guardiola has a number of injuries to deal with.

Ilkay Gundogan, John Stones, Kyle Walker and Kevin De Bruyne all missed the game at Villa Park and are in doubt for Saturday.

"If you think I complain because players are not here, it's not going to happen. They have to recover quickly and compete against these guys who were so strong today," said Guardiola who hailed the performances of Bernardo Silva and Rodri in midfield.

Liverpool were impressive in their 4-1 demolition of Everton in Wednesday's Merseyside derby and travel to the West Midlands to face Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Wolves' form has dipped of late with dull draws against bottom-three clubs Norwich and Burnley and Liverpool are the top scorers in the league, now averaging over three goals per game.

"We are 14 games in now and we have still got a long way to go but we are in the hunt, we are still pushing and it’s important that we stay where we are and keep in the hunting pack and things will start to open up," said Liverpool fullback Andy Robertson.

New Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick will make his debut on the bench at Old Trafford in Sunday's game against Crystal Palace.

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Toby Davis)

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