West Ham United's Andy Carroll in action with Chelsea's N'Golo Kante and Cesc Fabregas

A welcome mat for Jose



West Ham United's Andy Carroll in action with Chelsea's N'Golo Kante and Cesc Fabregas. PICTURE: ACTION IMAGES

Tim Harrison

By Tim Harrison

Tony Conte has been busy damping down the excitement and trying to keep his players focused and grounded as the FA Cup clash with Manchester United looms on Monday.

The Blues were on a high after defeating West Ham to cement their position at the top of the table… but it’s the return of the Once-Special One to Stamford Bridge which is now the source of all the buzz.

Without Zlatan Ibrahimovic up front (it being inconceivable that the 35-year-old marksman won’t be banned by the FA for his clash last weekend with Bournemouth defender Tyrone Mings), United will be slightly weaker… but arguably more determined.

It has all the makings of a cruncher, which probably means it will disappoint, the way these things do.

The Blues weathered a late – too late – surge by the Irons at the London Stadium last Monday to edge even closer to the Premier League finishing line.

West Ham were oddly subdued, even overawed, on the night. There’s something not right about the atmosphere and the set-up at Stratford.

When the visiting Chelsea fans began chanting ‘You’re not West Ham any more’, it briefly led to a round of grudgingly appreciative applause from the nearest Hammers supporters.

It was a direct hit; a spot-on taunt that struck right at the heart of how many lifelong Irons feel about their new home.

But it was another goal from that mesmeric sprite Eden Hazard that really set the match alight. With the exception of a jinking little one-two with Pedro, it was from exactly the same mould that produced February’s goal of the month, the Belgian’s solo act of genius against Arsenal at the Bridge.

When Diego Costa was left unmarked to prod home the eventual winner with his kneecap, the game was up. A stoppage-time consolation from Manuel Lanzini was cheered by just a handful of Hammers fans. Most had left. 

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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