Chelsea vs West Ham predictions: Hammers can make their point at the Bridge
Chelsea and West Ham could each do with a spark to ignite sluggish starts to 2022-23 and what better catalyst than a thumping victory over an old London rival?
Previous performances this season suggest neither side will cut loose and show their best form in what has been an evenly contested fixture in recent years, but any kind of win would provide a confidence boost for the hectic schedule to come.
Blues boss Thomas Tuchel has no shortage of talent to tinker with after new owner Todd Boehly went on a £250m spending spree, but midfield injuries and the integration of those summer signings has led to a chop-and-change campaign of disjointed performances.
Embarrassing defeats away at Leeds and Southampton have had Chelsea supporters grumbling so Tuchel will hope that home advantage and some sparkling displays from his new signings can help the Blues get over the line against a Hammers side who lack rhythm but never give less than 100%.
Tuchel still has issues in central midfield, with N’Golo Kante and Ruben Loftus-Cheek both expected to be out for several weeks with hamstring injuries.
Mateo Kovacic has recovered from the knee issue that kept him out for the start of the season but the Croatia midfielder may not yet be ready for a full 90 minutes.
Defensive midfielder Denis Zakaria signed on loan from Juventus on deadline day but is unlikely to be thrown straight into a London derby.
However, Conor Gallagher returns from a one-match suspension and could again line up next to Jorginho in midfield, while wing-back Reece James is expected to return after illness kept him out of the midweek trip to Southampton.
Defender Trevoh Chalobah is touch and go after picking up a knock against Leicester last weekend but new centre-back signing Wesley Fofana will be available.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joined Chelsea on deadline day but will be out until after the international break with a broken jaw.
West Ham manager David Moyes will be tempted to give record signing Lucas Paqueta his full debut after the Brazilian came on against Tottenham.
Hammers defender Ben Johnson is out until the end of September with a hamstring injury and joins Nayef Aguerd on the sidelines.
However, fellow centre-back Craig Dawson is close to a return and will join left-back Aaron Cresswell and striker Gianluca Scamacca in taking a late fitness test before this weekend’s match.
While Chelsea were by far the more dominant club during the Roman Abramovich era – finishing above West Ham in 22 of the last 23 completed Premier League seasons – derby meetings between the pair remained stubbornly close-fought throughout.
In 106 league meetings in the history of this fixture, Chelsea only just shade it by 45 wins to West Ham’s 40 and both teams have won six of the most recent 15 meetings, with three draws.
Last season, the pair had a win apiece with both teams victorious in their home fixture, and while Chelsea did the double over the Hammers in 2020-21, in 2019-20 West Ham achieved the same feat over the Blues.
However, there is a clear home bias in Chelsea’s favour, with the Blues winning 11 and drawing four of the last 16 Stamford Bridge encounters.
West Ham’s 2019 win in west London was their first at the Bridge since 2002.
With so much squad churn at Chelsea and the likely need for rotation at West Ham, it will be tricky enough predicting the line-ups at Stamford Bridge, let alone the result.
However, we have already seen enough to think it is unlikely this will be a free-flowing classic of a derby.
West Ham put in a spirited display against Tottenham in midweek to earn a draw and beat a dismal Aston Villa side 1-0 in the match beforehand.
Prior to that, however, Moyes’ men had lost to Brighton, Nottingham Forest and Manchester City and have rarely looked like clicking.
Similar can be said of Chelsea, who also produced their best display of the season to earn a home draw against Spurs.
But unconvincing single-goal wins over ailing pair Everton and Leicester City hardly hinted at a title challenge and those defeats at Southampton and Leeds suggest the Blues have plenty to do just to retain their place in the top four.
Kante’s absence is once again seriously undermining Chelsea, who are nothing like the same team without the Frenchman and a fully-fit Kovacic patrolling the midfield.
None of Chelsea’s back-up options come close to offering the same level of control and if Tuchel must again field a makeshift midfield then hard-working West Ham pair Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek could ensure this is a scrappy encounter in which the visitors earn a point.