In turning around their Europa League tie with Steaua Bucharest on Thursday you could say Chelsea have done the same for their season. Albeit they’ve fallen well short of expectation in the Premier League they’re into the last eight in both Europe and the FA Cup. Their fightback from two goals down in the latter against Manchester United last week was followed by a counteroffensive against Steaua four days later. Cause for optimism? Rafael Benitez deserves a hefty amount of credit for guiding the Blues into the quarter finals of two major competitions. The Blues should be confident of ending a positive week on a high note when they host West Ham on Sunday. Its just over a decade since their London neighbours won at Stamford Bridge and with Fernando Torres now back amongst the goals anything is possible.
The Hammers have improved in recent weeks and two wins in their last four games has put considerable distance between them and the relegation zone. They even recorded a rare win on their travels against Stoke last time out but have generally struggled on the road all season. Nine of their 14 matches away from Upton Park have ended in defeat and a trip to resurgent Chelsea isn’t exactly ideal for Sam Allardyce and his players. A repeat performance of their home victory against the Blues in December’s reverse fixture is unlikely but stranger things have happened. When they want to be the Hammers can be difficult to breakdown and if they’re feeling particularly stubborn theres no reason why they can’t leave Kings Road with a point.
Demba Ba could return in place of Fernando Torres after the Spaniard suffered a bloody nose in the Europa League on Thursday.
West Ham could welcome back Mark Noble and James Tomkins but captain Kevin Nolan is a doubt and Joe Cole (hamstring) won’t make the visit to his former club.
What the managers said…
It (the goal) was important for him. It was important – the main thing – for the team. We knew he was working really hard, he was training really well. Two days ago he was scoring a lot of goals in training. We knew he was close. Hopefully it will be the first of a lot. He has confidence now and he can take the responsibility,” said Benitez, who revealed Torres was one of three possible penalty takers. We are quite pleased because he was taking the responsibility. It’s good. He scored and after he had more confidence and that is positive for the team and positive for him for the future.” Rafael Benitez has backed Fernando Torres to hit the goal trail for Chelsea (Independent)
“Every club is difficult in its own situation. If you have got the millions and millions that Chelsea have got then you aren’t allowed to lose a game of football and if you haven’t quite got those millions then you are allowed to lose against the big-boys when those games come around. Expectation is great in this game and the greater the expectation the bigger the disappointment. I think what has happened today is the level of improvement in a team is much smaller than the need to spend. If you spend £30million you only get two per cent better and that is what people don’t realise, they want you to get 20 per cent better.” Sam Allardyce admits the pressure at West Ham isn’t as heavy as it will be at Chelsea (London24)
Pre-Match Statistic: Since a 3-2 victory in September 2002 West Ham have taken just a solitary point from six trips to Stamford Bridge.
Prediction: Chelsea 3-0 West Ham United