Chelsea-West Ham United Preview
Their Champions League endeavours done for the time being, Chelsea can turn their attention to making up ground on frontrunners Manchester City starting with Saturday's derby at London Stadium versus relegation-threatened West Ham United.
The reigning title-holders finished second in Group C of the Champions League behind Italian side AS Roma on the head-to-head tiebreaker after being held to a 1-1 draw by Spanish side Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.
An own goal by Atletico's Stefan Savic off a deflected shot by Eden Hazard secured a result, but Willian's late miss with the goal begging after a pinpoint cross by Hazard left the Blues (10-2-3) behind the Giallorossi as runners-up. That miss came after Chelsea were thwarted repeatedly by Atli goalkeeper Jan Oblak in the second half.
"We had enough chances but the only problem was their goalkeeper was on fire," Gary Cahil told Chelsea's official website. "We should have scored more goals, won the game and finished first in the group but we drew."
Chelsea will learn their knockout round fate Monday, with French powerhouse Paris-St. Germain, always-dangerous Barcelona or Turkish side Besiktas their potential opponents since the other four Premier League sides won their respective groups. The Blues will play the first leg at Stamford Bridge before traveling for the second.
"When you play this competition and go through to the next round, you must be ready to face the best teams," manager Antonio Conte said. "This is a fantastic competition. If you want to go through and be a protagonist in this tournament, you must be ready to face every team.
"At the same time our opponent won't be happy to play against us. We will see what happens."
Back in England, third-place Chelsea must begin clawing away at the 11-point chasm which separates them from Manchester City. The Pensioners - who will be away to Championship side Norwich City in the third round of the FA Cup next month - are in a current soft patch of scheduling which makes every match a must-win as they seek a third victory on the trot and extend their unbeaten run to eight with a seventh win in that stretch.
Hazard has been particularly menacing during this stretch with a goal or an assist on seven of Chelsea's 15 goals over their unbeaten league run. The Belgium international has four goals and three assists in 10 lifetime matches against West Ham, including the match-winner in last season's corresponding fixture.
Fourteen kilometers across London to the east, things are nowhere near as rosy for West Ham United (2-4-9), who are second-from-the-bottom in the table and trailing Crystal Palace on goal difference while shipping a league-worst 32 goals.
New manager David Moyes has claimed just one point from his first four matches in charge (0-1-3) after a gritty 2-1 defeat at Manchester City on Sunday. West Ham became just the second league team to hold a lead at the Etihad when Angelo Ogbonna finished a set piece that started with a corner kick just before halftime, but City eventually wore down the Hammers' dogged defence as Nicolas Otamendi leveled before the hour and David Silva produced the winner on 83 minutes.
"I think we played a really good game and maybe deserved to take a point home," Ogbanna told West Ham's official website. "I think it was a positive performance for us, because after we lost in midweek to Everton (4-0) we've come back and responded. Mentally, I think it's good for us, the way we approached the game."
Yet the approach has produced neither enough goals nor points, and Moyes is contemplating a switch between the sticks as well. Adrian, who started versus City since Joe Hart was ineligible to play per loan rules, turned in a strong performance in goal and successfully marshaled his five-man back line which likely will be used again in a bid to stifle Chelsea.
While Hart has been hung out to dry by his defence on certain occasions, he also has let in some howlers as 30 goals over 14 league matches would attest. Such a move would put further pressure on him retaining the No. 1 jersey for England, with Everton's Jordan Pickford quickly making up ground.
"Let's be honest, he knows he is going to get plenty of work here at the moment with the way we're defending," Moyes told Sky Sports TV regarding Hart. "He's getting that just now, which means he will be under more pressure than perhaps he has been used to.
"He's done really well in some of the games so far. We've needed him for his leadership, his organisation. He's a man for us in the dressing room. These things are also important."
The Hammers were given a somewhat favourable FA Cup draw for the third round and will travel to face League One side Shrewsbury Town.
Chelsea did the double over West Ham last season and have taken points in eight of the last nine (6-2-1) league meetings. They are also 8-1-2 in their last 11 trips to east London, outscoring the Irons 24-10 in those matches.
Chelsea have 49 wins to West Ham's 39 in the 94-year-old rivalry, and the teams have split the points on 20 occasions.
Updated December 7, 2017