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East meets West in Boxing Day Blockbuster


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West Ham make the 11 mile trip across London to face league leaders Chelsea in the early kick off this Boxing Day. Both sides will be looking to extend their recent positive runs of form as the gruelling festive fixture list begins. Kick-off is at 12:45 GMT.

Chelsea look to have turned a corner since their unbeaten start to the season came to an end on Tyneside some three and a half weeks ago, having won all of their last 5 games. Mourinho’s side currently hold a 3 point advantage over second-placed Manchester City, although difficult fixtures away to Southampton and Spurs lie not far over the horizon and will show what the Champions elect are truly made of.

Before Sunday’s trip to the South coast, Chelsea must first focus themselves on fellow Londoners West Ham, whose remarkable rise into the Premier League top 4 has provided a much welcome change for Hammers fans who are usually more accustomed to peering nervously over their shoulder in the table at this time of year. Last season’s corresponding fixture provided little to write home about, as a spirited West Ham side became the second outfit to take away a point from West London following a drab 0-0 draw. Jose Mourinho was critical of the opposition’s style of play afterwards, describing it as ‘19th Century football’.

The Opposition

West Ham sit among the league’s top 4 at Christmas for the first time since 1985 and come into Friday’s fixture off the back of a routine 2-0 win over struggling Leicester City last Saturday. Four of United’s last 5 league games have ended in victories. United’s impressive start to the season can be put mainly down to Sam Allardyce’s intelligent dealings in the summer transfer market. New signings Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia have contributed a combined 10 league goals already so far and Alex Song, who arrived on a season-long loan deal from Barcelona, has also impressed.

Tactically, West Ham are much changed from last season. Route 1, a phrase long synonymous with Sam Allardyce, has remained in part, but long passes to Sakho and Valencia are more directed and intelligent this time around. Stewart Downing, although usually found on the wings, has been given a more free role this season, which allows him to play just behind the strikers when required. Sakho and Valencia both press high up the pitch, encouraging the midfield and attacking full backs to station themselves further up also.

Team News

Chelsea: Eden Hazard is expected to be fit after being substituted late in Monday’s game at Stoke.

Expected line-up (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Matic, Fabregas; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Diego Costa

West Ham: Mark Noble is expected to return from an Achilles problem but James Tomkins is doubtful after injuring his hamstring against Leicester.

Expected line-up (4-3-1-2): Adrian; Cresswell, Collins, Reid, Jenkinson; Noble, Song, Kouyate; Downing; Valencia, Sakho

Statistics:

Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 9 Premier League games on Boxing Day (W5, D4)

Sam Allardyce has 2 wins in 21 Premier League games against Chelsea

Chelsea have won 12 and lost 1 of their last 16 Premier League games against West Ham

Our all-time record against West Ham in all competitions is P 101 W 45 D 19 L 37

West Ham have scored only 3 times in their last 8 visits to Stamford Bridge

Odds:

*Courtesy of SkyBet

Chelsea win: 1/3

West Ham win: 8/1

Draw: 4/1

TV Coverage:

UK: Sky Sports 1HD

USA: NBC Sports Live Extra, Mun2, NBCSN

Belgium: Sporting 1

Middle East: beIN Sports Arabia 11 HD

Others see here:

http://www.livesoccertv.com/match/1207170/chelsea-vs-west-ham-united/

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