WILLIE DUNCAN (@Willie_Duncan) tackles the Monday night showdown between London rivals Chelsea and West Ham.
Chelsea v West Ham | Monday 20.00 | Sky Sports 1
The opening round of fixtures of the new Premier League season concludes with a cracker when Chelsea play host to West Ham.
Chelsea offered up a dreadful defence of their title last term, finishing the season down in 10th place – 12 points adrift of Monday’s visitors to west London.
But better things will be expected of the Blues during the forthcoming campaign with Italian Antonio Conte, who guided his country to the last eight of this summer’s European Championships, taking up the reins at Stamford Bridge.
Conte, who won three successive Serie A titles at Juventus before being appointed as the Azzurri’s manager in 2014, has lost just one of his last 30 matches as a club manager and, remarkably, the 46-year-old Italian comes into this match desperate to preserve a 28-game unbeaten home stretch as a club boss – a tremendous record that stretches back to January 2013.
Slaven Bilic’s side, though, will not travel in trepidation, for West Ham picked up four points from the two Premier League meetings between these two teams last season and the Hammers, who face a testing trip to take on Astra Giurgiu in the first-leg of their Europa League play-off tie against the Romanians on Thursday night, would love to heap yet more misery upon Conte’s charges.
Belgian duo Michy Batshuayi – who joined the Blues from Olympique Marseille, having scored 32 goals in 36 matches in Ligue 1 last term – and Eden Hazard, who seems to be coming back to his best form for the Blues under Conte’s tutelage after scoring three goals in three games for Chelsea in pre-season, will be looking to get amongst the goals in the capital.
West Ham, too, have augmented their attacking options this summer, with Andre Ayew signing from Swansea and Sofiane Feghouli joining the club from Valencia, while the permanent capture of Manuel Lanzini will be welcomed by fans of the Hammers.
The last meeting between these two teams ended in a thrilling 2-2 draw and, with that in mind, punters might be lining up to back goals ahead of this game, with the odds compilers offering 11/12 (marathonbet) that more than two goals are scored, while the 10/11 (marathonbet) quote for goals at both ends could well prove to be popular.
However, Conte will be keen to instil some defensive discipline – a cornerstone of the Italian’s success at both Juventus and with the national team – in his debut season at Stamford Bridge.
All eyes will be on Dimitri Payet, but the mercurial midfielder, who was pivotal to West Ham’s progress last season, may be suffering from some fatigue having helped France to the final of the European Championships earlier and this curtain-raising clash may go with more of a whimper than a bang.
Therefore, punters are advised to snap up the generous 42/41 (marathonbet) quote from the odds compilers for fewer than three goals to be scored when these two teams lock horns.
The selection would have paid dividends in no fewer than four of the last six meetings between the Blues and the Hammers and the 42/41 odds, therefore, is the recommended play for punters ahead of Monday’s match.
Chelsea v West Ham – Under 2.5 Goals (42/41 marathonbet)
That’s right. We’re giving away £10 instant cash if Mesut Ozil touches the ball in Sunday’s game against Liverpool at the Emirates.