Relegation-threatened West Ham host Europe-bound Chelsea on Wednesday night and it's very hard for Steve Rawlings to make a case for the underdogs here...
“Cup ties and relegation battles are occasions when the home crowd can really make a difference and without one again on Wednesday, I fear for the Hammers. Odds of [1.65] about Chelsea winning their fifth game in-a-row and their fifth in six in the Premier League are more than fair.”
West Ham v Wolves
Wednesday July 1, 20:15
Live on Sky Sports
Hopeless Hammers are far from safe
West Ham began the season with a 5-0 drubbing at home to Manchester City, but they improved considerably after that, bagging 11 of the next 15 points available but Manuel Pellegrini's reign fell apart after that and the Hammers won just two of their next 12 matches.
The Chilean's 18-month tenure came to end on December 28, following a 2-1 defeat at home to Leicester that saw the Hammers slip to 17th place in the table. David Moyes was handed the reigns the very next day.
West Ham captain, Mark Noble, urged the fans to get behind Moyes, who, beginning his second spell in charge at the club, had sounded confident with his new 18-month contract.
"I think there's only two or three managers with a better Premier League win record. That's what I do, I win. I'm here to get West Ham wins and get them away from the bottom three."
The new manager bounce saw the Hammers batter Bournemouth 4-0 on New Year's Day but they've won just once since - picking up only five of a possible 33 points. They've lost both of their games since the restart, 2-0, at home to Wolves and then away to Spurs, who were winning their first Premier League game in eight, and although they're out of the bottom three, it's only on account of goal difference and Bournemouth are the only team in the division to have performed worse than West Ham since Moyes took charge for a second time.
Norwich look dead and buried at the bottom of the table and following their 1-0 defeat at home to Wolves on Saturday, Aston Villa are now long odds-on to return to the Championship too. Watford's 3-1 home loss to Southampton on Sunday drags them right back into the mire and a solitary point separates the four clubs above Norwich in the table.
West Ham are a longer price to get relegated than, Norwich, Villa, Bournemouth and Watford but they're far from safe and having failed to score in their last three Premier League games and having lost seven of their last nine, odds in excess of 2/1 about them going down look reasonable.
In-form Chelsea can't afford to rest on their laurels
Chelsea have returned to the fray in fine form, winning all three of their Premier League games, as well as Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final tie at Leicester, 1-0.
The Blues effortlessly brushed aside Everton 4-0 in their first game back, came from behind to beat Aston Villa 2-1 away and they delivered the Premier League trophy to Anfield, courtesy of a 2-1 home win against Manchester City last Thursday night.
Frank Lampard's charges have hit the ground running and it's a good job they have with both fifth-placed Wolves and sixth-Manchester United both playing very well after the restart. If Manchester City's appeal to CAS is successful and their two-year ban is overturned, only the top-four teams will qualify for the Champions League, and with Liverpool and City clear of the remainder, the Blues can't afford to slip up.
Third-placed, Leicester, although still odds-on to finish inside the top-four, have been poor since the resumption so Chelsea are quite rightly the shortest priced of the four clubs to secure a place in the Champions League but they certainly can't rest on their laurels and three more points on Wednesday night are essential. Wolves are now within two points of the Blues and if United win at Brighton on Tuesday night, they will be too.
Lampard's men to prove too strong for a weak West Ham
West Ham have won only four of their 15 Premier League home games this season and Chelsea have lost only four of their 15 away. The Hammers currently sit third from bottom in the Home Form table and the Blues sit third in the Away Form table. West Ham have won just two home games since September and Chelsea have lost only one away game this year. West ham have lost three in-a-row in the Premier League and Chelsea have won their last three. The Hammers are very hard to fancy.
There are a couple of positives that West Ham fans can cling to. The Hammers beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in November and Chelsea haven't scored at the London Stadium in the last two seasons. The two sides drew there 0-0 last season and the Hammers won 1-0 at home in the 2017/18 season. And West Ham may also benefit from not being involved in the Cup at the weekend.
The games are coming thick and fast since the restart so having a break of eight days in-between matches could be advantageous. In contrast, Chelsea have played twice in the six days preceding this fixture - although they did make six changes for the Cup game on Sunday.
Chelsea also look likely to be without their prolific American talisman, Christian Pulisic, who picked up a knock on Sunday and that has to be viewed as a negative but to counter that, Robert Snodgrass, who has five goals and five assists so far this season, is definitely out for the home side and their top-scorer, Sebastien Haller, is unlikely to return to the side.
Given they've conceded at least once in their last 11 Premier League games and in 80% of their home games this season, and that Chelsea have scored two or more in each of their last five in the Premier League, it's very hard to make a case for West Ham getting anything from this fixture - especially given how much home advantage has been negated since the break...
All four FA Cup ties went the way of the away team at the weekend, as did the two Premier League matches (both involved relegation-threatened teams). Cup ties and relegation battles are occasions when the home crowd can really make a difference and without one again on Wednesday, I fear for the Hammers. Odds of [1.65] about Chelsea winning their fifth game in-a-row and their fifth in six in the Premier League are more than fair.
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