By Tim Harrison
A cold, windy and potentially fractious outing awaits Chelsea fans on Monday as they travel to that lonely outpost, the grandly, blandly titled London Stadium, to face West Ham.
What can the Blues expect? The Hammers’ home form has been mixed – they drew with West Brom in mid-Feb – but Tony Conte will need no reminder of the League Cup result at the end of October when the Irons won 2-1 in a hail of broken seats, plastic bottles and insults.
Recent Premier League results may be settling into a more predictable pattern, but Leicester’s defeat of Liverpool on Monday demonstrated that upsets still happen.
Policing has improved at the old Olympic stadium thanks to better crowd management, but West Ham v Chelsea has always carried the risk of flashpoints.
The Blues remain on track for ultimate glory, but West Ham have taken 11 points from the last possible 18 (Chelsea: 14 from 18) and will – even without the suspended Michail Antonio – be determined to take at least a point.
Chelsea have just six away trips left in the league, but both Man City and Spurs are itching to take advantage of any blip and put pressure on Conte’s men.
Saturday’s 3-1 victory against Swansea was hard-earned against a well-disciplined, gritty side, although Fernando Llorente’s headed equaliser, one and a half minutes into the single minute of stoppage time, was a bolt from the blue.
‘Dave’ Azpilicueta could, and probably should, have been penalised for handball, which would have made life more interesting, but in the end the result was a fair one.
Intriguingly, Chelsea switched to a shore-things-up back four for the last 10 minutes, swapping Kurt Zouma for Victor Moses and making Zouma and David Luiz a centre pairing.
It’s impressive that such a fundamental change was made so effortlessly that many didn’t notice the formation shuffle.
Irons manager Slaven Bilic will have noted it.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.
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