West Ham, Chelsea lock in Champions League war
Chelsea and West Ham United will face each other in an extremely important London derby at the Olympic Stadium tonight.
With Liverpool sitting just two points behind the top two London teams in the league, so no doubt the Reds will be hoping this match ends in a draw.
One thing is for sure, after Chelsea’s players were given the day off on Wednesday for recovery after the 0-0 draw with Brighton on a tumultuous Tuesday in west London, Thomas Tuchel will be forensically analysing what went wrong against the Seagulls.
It was the fourth 0-0 draw of Tuchel’s reign since he replaced Frank Lampard in late January. Defending the goal has not been too much of an issue since the German was parachuted in, but scoring at the other end has not been quite so successful.
And it is that area of the pitch that Tuchel is looking to address in a big way ahead of the pivotal clash with the Hammers, with the top four race firmly back on.
Not just because of Chelsea’s sensational European Super League U-turn midweek when they announced their withdrawal from the controversial competition, but because of the league position of the two sides.
Both are locked on 55 points heading into the game, with the Blues sitting in fourth spot on goal difference ahead of the Hammers. West Ham United’s chase for a top-four finish was halted last week when they fell to a disappointing defeat to struggling Newcastle United.
David Moyes’ side slipped up at the weekend as they lost 3-2 to Newcastle, having seen centre half Craig Dawson sent off and he will miss the visit of Chelsea this weekend through suspension. The Hammers fought back from two goals down to draw level in the 80th minute, but Joseph Willock scored two minutes later to give the Magpies a 3-2 win.
The Hammers boss was in the stands at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday and probably won’t have been too fazed by what he witnessed from the hosts.
Chelsea failed to take advantage as they were held by an impressive Brighton side, with the home side arguably lucky to escape from the game with a point at Stamford Bridge.
Tuchel cut a frustrated figure post-match on Tuesday, admitting it was the first time his Blues team haven’t deserved anything from a game since he took charge 20 matches ago in a span that has seen him take the club on a massive upturn.
The German head coach also revealed after the game where his side were lacking and, reading between the lines, what he will be working on with his players in training for the rest of this week.
“We were not good enough in counter movements, we were not decisive enough in one-touch football,” he said.
“We were not precise enough after ball losses and we know that we did not create many moments in counter-pressing and that is why it was a tough match.
“We seemed a bit tired mentally and physically, we could not find the rhythm that we normally play and it was also credit to Brighton for a very strong defensive performance. At the end we had two or three big mistakes in the build-up and could even lose the game, so we have to accept it and keep on going.”
Tuchel made changes as he rested players, with Cesar Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kante, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva all given the night off. Mason Mount played in a midfield pivot that didn’t suit him at all however and that experiment won’t be seen again.
West Ham United head into tonight’s tie without a few key player; Arthur Masuaku (knee), Aaron Cresswell (hamstring), Michail Antonio (hamstring) and Declan Rice (knee) are all injured while Craig Dawson will also sit out this clash as he is suspended after picking up a red card last time out against Newcastle United.
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