Boxing day fixtures are a welcomed tradition for the premier league fan. In North America games begin in the early morning, providing the feelings of a second Christmas, though the results may not be as joyous for many supporters.
Chelsea welcome West Ham to Stamford Bridge this Boxing Day in the early kick-off slot (7:45 AM EST). In four league fixtures since the Hammers returned to the Premier League, they’ve won and drawn once against Chelsea. The draw was a dull affair in this fixture last year, in which Chelsea boss, Jose Mourinho, accused West Ham of playing ‘19th century football’.
West Ham, however, have added a number of attackers to their squad, playing a more expansive style that has put them into the top four in the Premier League. Chelsea, though, is one of the top teams in Europe and will provide West Ham with their most difficult test to date.
The Blues have scored the most goals of any team in the Premier League, while also conceding the least. Furthermore, they have yet to drop points at home this year. In eight games at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea have only conceded three goals.
Chelsea have responded well in the weeks since suffering their first defeat of the season. In four games (in all competitions), Chelsea is undefeated with a combined scoreline of 10-2. In the Premier League, Chelsea maintain their position atop the table, holding a three point lead over title rivals Manchester City.
Midfielder, Eden Hazard, is a doubt for the game on Friday after suffering an ankle injury against Stoke last Monday. There are a number of options for Mourinho in the absence of Hazard. Look for Chelsea to attack early and kill the game off before the latter stages.
Thibault Courtois returned from injury against Stoke, recording his sixth clean sheet of the season. Look for him in goal on Friday.
Chelsea’s defensive record in unmatched at home this season. The defense is led by an aging John Terry, who is enjoying a resurgence in form over the last two seasons under Mourinho. This season he is winning over 70 percent of his duels and has completed over 90 percent of his passes.
Look for Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic to lineup alongside him. The height of Cahill and Ivanovic will be needed if Chelsea is to keep Andy Carroll off the score sheet. Carroll has scored three times with his head in his last two games.
With Hazard likely out, Mourinho has a number of options in midfield. One of those is to field John Obi Mikel alongside Matic in a defensive role, pushing Cesc Fabregas forward and Oscar out wide.
Fabregas flourished in the more advanced role against Stoke, assisting on the first goal and scoring the second. That assist was his 12 of the season in 16 appearances.
Another option is to replace Hazard with Andre Schurrle, leaving Fabregas to play in the deep lying role with Matic. Schurrle, who was a substitute against Stoke, has scored twice in his last two starts.
Regardless, Matic is the key to Chelsea’s success. Since returning to the club last January, The Blues have won 73 percent of their games with him in the lineup. Compared to just 40 percent with him out. In fact, their only loss this season was the only game the Serbian missed.
If possible, follow Matic throughout the course of the game. The 6 foot 4 inch Serbian, closes down space in the midfield, dominates in the air, intercepts key passes around the Chelsea box and will join the attack on a handful of occasions.
His defensive abilities allow the likes of Oscar, Hazard and Fabregas to push forward and are key to Chelsea’s offensive success.
Further supporting the League’s best attack is Diego Costa. The summer signing from Atletico Madrid has 12 goals in 14 appearances and will be looking to add to his total on Boxing Day.
Didier Drogba has offered support off the bench, showing why Chelsea were so keen to bring him back. The Club Legend gives the team exactly what they need late in games. His hold up play and strength on the ball is key when The Blues are killing off games. The Ivorian has also added key goals, including one against Manchester United earlier this season.
Look for Costa to get the start with Drogba making a second half appearance.
Via – Lineup Builder