‘Outstanding’ star vs £30m ace: Three matchups Chelsea can exploit vs West Ham
Boss Thomas Tuchel has three key matchups to exploit on Sunday involving Timo Werner, Romelu Lukaku and N’Golo Kante for Chelsea to beat David Moyes’ West Ham United.
The Irons won the last meeting between the two London clubs with a 3-2 win in December after twice coming from behind. Thiago Silva gave the Blues a first-half lead at the London Stadium, while Mason Mount restored the advantage following Manuel Lanzini’s penalty.
But the Stamford Bridge natives were unable to remain in front, as Jarrod Bowen hit home before Arthur Masuaku’s winner. Neither Werner, Lukaku or Kante featured in the defeat, with the two strikers left on the bench and French anchor unavailable after a knee injury.
Kante, Lukaku and Werner could all have key roles to play when West Ham visit Chelsea on Sunday, though. Their individual matchups with Moyes’ men can present Tuchel with clear avenues to exploit as the Blues look to bounce back from Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to Arsenal.
Romelu Lukaku vs Aaron Cresswell as West Ham deal with Issa Diop injury
West Ham have suffered a huge blow ahead of their trip to Chelsea with Issa Diop possibly out for the rest of the season. The centre-half sustained an ankle injury against Burnley last Sunday, and initial scans indicate he could have to miss eight weeks with ligament damage.
Moyes now only has one natural centre-back available to call on in Craig Dawson. He was already without Angelo Ogbonna following his season-ending ACL injury in November, plus former Blues enforcer Kurt Zouma after he suffered a possibly season-ending ankle injury.
Declan Rice could move into the Hammers’ backline to partner Dawson at Stamford Bridge but Moyes will likely be reluctant. The England international is instrumental to how West Ham operate from midfield. So, Moyes may try to utilise left-back Aaron Cresswell instead.
Cresswell featured centrally against Tottenham Hotspur in March and Wolves in February in a three-man backline. He also played 15 Premier League matches as a centre-back last term. But him doing so on Sunday with one other centre-half offers Tuchel an opportunity.
The Chelsea boss can strive to utilise Lukaku’s physicality and eight-inch height advantage to bully Cresswell and West Ham’s defence. A productive afternoon against the Hammers could be the catalyst for the Belgian finding form ahead of the run-in to the FA Cup final.
Reece James or Timo Werner have chance to run rings around Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson could offer Tuchel two exciting outcomes on Sunday depending on what side of West Ham’s defence he features. The England U21 talent has made each of his last six outings from right-back, but previously stood in at left-back whilst Cresswell was injured.
Should the 22-year-old feature in his natural right-back slot, Werner could have a field day running rings around Johnson. Reece James would also lap up a chance to challenge the West Ham product if Moyes elects to move Cresswell centrally and switch Johnson over.
The mood in west London may be low after losing at home to Arsenal, but Werner still impressed on Wednesday. The German was decisive with his movement in front of goal and – thanks to a slice of fortune – hit his third goal in his last two league appearances.
Werner had not scored in the Premier League since October before netting a brace away to Southampton. He also laid on an assist in the FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace, and scored and assisted in the 3-2 on-the-night Champions League win at Real Madrid.
But if West Ham move Cresswell centrally to keep Rice in midfield, Johnson moving to left-back should delight James. He did not have the best night at centre-back against Arsenal, but has shown he can be a dynamic threat from right-back with his bombarding advances.
James can bamboozle his opposite number when give the space to run and put the ball on a plate. Potentially the perfect tonic after losing one London derby and entering another.
N’Golo Kante can dominate midfield for Chelsea vs West Ham’s attacking options
The central-third will be a key battle zone on Sunday as Tuchel and Moyes look to lay claim to control. Kante can have a huge say in who dominates the engine room, regardless of the attacking option the Irons field from Nikola Vlasic, Manuel Lanzini or £30m Said Benrahma.
Vlasic, Lanzini and Benrahma have rotated in the central role behind Michail Antonio over the Hammers’ recent league fixtures. Lanzini took the position in their draw with Burnley last Sunday and defeat to Brentford, while Benrahma had started there against Everton.
Lanzini offered an occasional threat against the Clarets, but his influence was all too often missing. Particularly in the first-half, the Argentine went missing and lacked a penetrating presence. Ideal for Kante to cover after regularly repelling Arsenal on Wednesday night.
The French anchor repeatedly stepped in to interrupt the Gunners’ flow, and Tuchel will hope for a repeat on Sunday. Joe Cole also hailed Kante for an ‘outstanding’ performance after his Man of the Match display in the Champions League at home to Lille in February.