Five players to make the difference in… Chelsea v West Ham

As opening games go, a heated London derby between the 2014-15 champions and one of the surprise packages of last season is up there as one of the best. Conte faces Bilic and, oddly, these two teams will have relatively similar aims for the new season. Secure a top six finish and see where it goes from there, I would imagine is the chat around the big wigs at both clubs.

Whilst both have failed to fully complete a dream transfer window yet, there have been additions in to both camps. N’golo Kante and Michy Batshuayi have arrived for the Blues, as Slaven Bilic has reinforced throughout his squad. However, the failure of Chelsea to add a centre-back or West Ham to add a centre forward leaves doubt over their respective credentials.

One game can’t tell us too much about the new season, but it definitely can give us an indication of where needs work and which players are not yet up to pace.

Diego Costa

Diego Costa

There can’t be many forwards less pleasant to mark than Diego Costa. The controversial Spaniard is a hard-working target man at his best, but will prod and provoke each defender until he gets a reaction. It must be tiresome to work against.

At Stamford Bridge, it’ll be a case of which Costa wants to play. The goal-scoring machine of 2014/15 or the sluggish, petulant troublemaker of 2015/16?

Sofiane Feghouli

feghouli4

Having been signed by Slaven Bilic this summer, the Algerian attacking midfielder may take some time to adapt to the Premier League. He is likely to start from the right-wing and is coming off a rather uninspiring season with Valencia.

Although he will undoubtedly stretch the Chelsea left-back down the wing, the Blues will also need to be wary of his intricate passes from the wing that could catch the Chelsea defence unawares.

Angelo Ogbonna

West Ham United v Newcastle United - Barclays Premier League

As Diego Costa is such a crucial star for Chelsea, the man charged with stopping him is going to be at least as vital. Ogbonna had an excellent debut Premier League season in 2015/16 and meets one of the best forwards in the league on his first game in his second campaign.

The threat of being found wanting for pace against Costa is unlikely to be an issue, but how easy Ogbonna’s job is will depend on how well the West Ham midfield restrict the supply.

N’golo Kante

N'Golo Kante

Set to make his Premier League debut for Chelsea, Kante will almost certainly start in the heart of the Blues’ midfield. Whether he is partnered with Nemanja Matic or Cesc Fabregas, Kante is going to have the responsibility of providing the majority of the midfield running.

With Dimitri Payet unlikely to start the game for the Irons, Kante will likely be charged with keeping an eye on whoever Bilic opts to slot in to a similar role. The newly-signed Andre Ayew will be a threat wherever he starts from and his challenging runs from wide areas in to the box will need to be tracked.

Eden Hazard

Eden Hazard

Everyone, including Hazard, knows it. When Eden Hazard plays well, Chelsea play well. Almost without exception.

The superbly talented Belgian started to flicker in to life towards the end of last season and, with a relatively good European Championships behind him, could well be about to return to his best form. Whether used close to the central striker, or from his usual position on the left, Hazard is the man the Hammers will be watching.

Will Sam Byram or Michail Antonio be able to restrict his influence?