West Ham v Chelsea – Match Preview

Can Benitez return Torres to his form of their Liverpool days?Chelsea need to pick up three points in Saturday’s lunch-time kick-off against West Ham to keep in touch with the league’s pacesetters.

Rafa Benitez’s side travel to Upton Park on the back of two consecutive draws and now find themselves seven points behind league leaders Manchester United and six behind second-placed Manchester City.

Chelsea’s poor form of late – they haven’t won in the league since beating Tottenham 4 – 2 on October 20 – has coincided with a distinct lack of goals, with the Blues firing blanks in their two most recent fixtures against Manchester City and Fulham. It is somewhat disturbing that Fernando Torres remains Chelsea’s joint top-scorer in the league this season, given it seems the Spaniard has been lacking touch in front of goal ever since his arrival at Stamford Bridge in January 2011.

Benitez’s return to the Premier League as a manager was seen as a ploy to reinvigorate Torres, but we are yet to see any of the flair that made him such an explosive player under his current boss at Liverpool. Torres’ last league goal came way back on October 6 at home against Norwich, but don’t expect the underrated West Ham defence to hand the 28-year-old any gifts in this fierce London derby.

West Ham have been one of the surprise packets this season and enter this clash in 10th place on the table with five victories – Chelsea have only two more – and a total of 19 points. The Hammers went down 1-0 to Manchester United during the week, but can take some confidence from that effort on the road. Robin van Persie gave United the lead after just 33 seconds and West Ham were more than just resilient for the remainder of the encounter and could have easily come away with a point.

Only four teams – Chelsea being one of them – have conceded less goals than West Ham in the league this season, but scoring them has also been a problem for Sam Allardyce’s side. West Ham have found the back of the net just 16 times this campaign, with five of those coming from the evergreen Kevin Nolan and Mark Noble the next best with two.

While all the stats point to a tight and low-scoring encounter, it is worth noting Chelsea’s recent good record at the ground. Chelsea were 3-1 winners in their most recent visit to Upton Park in September 2011, while West Ham can’t boast a home league victory over their London rivals since the 2002-2003 season.

West Ham’s form under Allardyce has seen them lose just once at home this season and that was way back on October 6 when they were beaten 3-1 by Arsenal.

Chelsea will be determined to put in a good performance in East London, but a draw seems the most likely result.

Prediction: West Ham 1 – 1 Chelsea

[youtube h4cCGnT1_Nk]