West Ham vs Chelsea | Saturday 24th April 2021, 17:30 | Sky Sports
Chelsea make the short trip east across London to take on West Ham at the London Stadium, in what is a huge game in the race for the top four.
The Blues might have a Champions League semi-final to think about next week but that doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed a place in the competition next season, this isn’t the European Super League.
Instead, they’ll have to slug it out with six other clubs for one of two qualification places.
With Leicester in 3rd on 59 points there are five sides, led by Chelsea on 55, separated by just three points.
Alongside them are today’s opponent West Ham United, followed by Tottenham Hotspur (who’ve played an extra game) and then Merseyside duo Liverpool and Everton.
It means this game is potentially huge for both sides, and means it will have ramifications for several other teams too.
By the time kick-off comes around both sides could also be behind Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side, who welcome Newcastle to Anfield in the early kick-off.
The Magpies actually beat West Ham last weekend in an enthralling end-to-end clash, which saw Hammers defender Craig Dawson sent off in the first half.
His suspension means he’ll miss this game, with Fabian Balbuena likely to deputise to maintain their 3-at-the-back shape. David Moyes will also be without key players Declan Rice and Michail Antonio, who are nursing long term injuries.
On the other side, there are no new injury concerns for Thomas Tuchel. Matteo Kovacic isn’t likely to play again this month, whilst Thiago Silva remains a doubt with muscle fatigue.
It means the away side are likely to deploy personnel similar to that which knocked Manchester City out of the FA Cup a week ago, though goalkeeper Edouard Mendy returns at the expense of Kepa Arrizabalaga – who now hasn’t conceded in five consecutive games.
As far as this game’s concerned, I don’t think these sides could be any further apart in the way their recent games have played out.
The Hammers have seen an unbelievable 21 goals in their last four league games, whilst the visitors have only seen three or more goals in two of their last 16 games.
Those two games were a 4-1 win over Crystal Palace and a shocking 5-2 defeat to West Brom, which they sandwiched with goalless draws against Leicester and Brighton.
It makes it hard to predict which Chelsea team will show up and, given its Tuchel’s first experience of this London derby, it’s probably best to avoid taking on goals in this one.
Instead I’ll be focusing on individuals, and taking Jesse Lingard and Mason Mount 2+ Shots Each at 23/20 with Paddy Power.
The England duo have been in sensational form in 2021 and no-one has had a greater rebirth than JLingz.
He spoke openly about his mental health earlier this week and how he just didn’t want to play football but it’s clear now that he’s enjoying himself again and it’s great to see.
He’s had 28 shots in his 10 Premier League starts since joining The Hammers and, with Antonio still on the sidelines and Seb Haller enjoying himself in the Netherlands, he’s the focal point of their attack.
On the other side, I’m hoping Mount gets the nod ahead of Kai Havertz based on recent performances and if he does, I’d expect him to be heavily involved in the action.
He’s played a somewhat defensive role in his last couple of games, dropping back to help Ben Chilwell against Manchester City in particular, but he should fancy himself going forward against a West Ham side that has conceded two or more goals in four consecutive games.
The England international has taken 18 shots in his last seven Premier League appearances, averaging an attempt at goal once every 27.7 minutes.
This game has the potential to be a really exciting contest between two sides with everything to play for, and I’m backing those two to spark it into life.
West Ham vs Chelsea – Jesse Lingard and Mason Mount 2+ Shots Each (23/20 Paddy Power)