Premier League Preview: Chelsea v West Ham
By Football News
The Premier League's top three have been unstoppable of late and third-placed Chelsea will want to maintain that form against West Ham.
Jose Mourinho's men currently share a run of five consecutive league victories with leaders Arsenal, while second-placed Manchester City have won seven in a row, meaning just two points separate the sides in the race for the title.
Chelsea should be full of confidence ahead of Wednesday's meeting with a West Ham outfit who have just one win from their last nine fixtures in all competitions.
The men from east London have not won at Stamford Bridge since 2002, losing seven of the subsequent eight encounters, and suffered a 3-0 reverse when the sides met at Upton Park in November.
Former West Ham favourite Frank Lampard scored a double against his old club on that occasion, breaking the deadlock with a 21st-minute spot-kick before finding the net again late on after Oscar had doubled the advantage.
Chelsea marked Mourinho's 51st birthday with progression to the fifth round of the FA Cup on Sunday, while West Ham should be fresh having had a weekend off thanks to being eliminated by Nottingham Forest in the third round.
And West Ham manager Sam Allardyce knows the magnitude of the task that lies ahead of his side, who are third bottom in the Premier League.
"Stopping Oscar, (Eden) Hazard, (Samuel) Eto'o is one of the elements for us which we have to be very careful of," he said. "When those players get the ball we have to make sure we're very sharp and that we close them down, otherwise their skills and abilities will make life difficult for us."
Fernando Torres (knee) remains sidelined for Chelsea, who could hand a first league start to Nemanja Matic since he returned to the club from Benfica and a debut to Mohamed Salah, signed from Basel on Sunday.
Allardyce, meanwhile, has a near fully-fit squad to choose from, with former Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole and Winston Reid the only players guaranteed to miss out.
As well as his returning players, Allardyce's ranks will be boosted by the arrivals of new signings Marco Borriello and Antonio Nocerino, who could go straight into the squad for Wednesday's match.