Merry Christmas to all the Chelsea fans around the globe! This has been a brilliant season for the Stamford Bridge’s faithful and Santa has certainly been kind to us with all the goals, assists and points we have been racking up so far.
To be league leaders at Christmas usually means you are in a pretty good chance to be crowned the king at the end of the season. Unless you are a Scouser or a Gooner of course. Fortunately, we are not!
So, back to actual football. The Premier League continues this boxing day when the league leaders Chelsea welcomes a high-flying West Ham at Stamford Bridge in what promises to be a feisty London Derby between the two sides.
Every year in PL there’s always a team, which against all expectations, lights the league on fire. This year West Ham is turning out to be that side. Usually, these teams cool off around the Christmas period (see Southampton) but our London neighbours are still going strong. 4th in the league table, just a point behind Man United, Sam Allardyce has done pretty well as a manager this season with clever additions and some actual football compared to last season’s “19th-century football”.
So, keeping all that in mind let’s take a look at some of the key player battles, and mind you there would be a handful of individual battles going around the park, but here we take a look at three of them which are most likely to influence this fixture tomorrow.
DIAFRA SAKHO vs CESAR AZPILICUETA
West Ham are expected to line-up in a 4-3-1-2 formation at the Bridge where the two up top would comprise of Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho. Although, Sakho starts as the second striker alongside Carroll/Valencia on the papers but if you watch West Ham play, the 25-year-old likes to stay on the right side of the pitch and usually cuts inside with his blistering pace and good physical play.
The striker/winger has already racked up 7 goals in 9 starts so far in the season and has been a huge hit for Allardyce’s side. His key attributes are his pace, physicality and the instinct of being in the right place at the right time.
Cesar Azpilicueta has his work cut out at boxing day as the Spaniard fullback surely starts over Filipe Luis tomorrow. Filipe Luis, for all his attacking talent in going forward, still is a bit of concern defensively, more so when he is up against a fast and physical player. Azpilicueta, who is considered one of the best defender in the league in one on one situations, will have to be on his heels mo0re often than not against the likes of Sakho and Kouyate. Definitely look out for this battle guys!
STEWART DOWNING vs NEMANJA MATIC
The joke at Anfield has turned out to be a winner at West Ham. Remember a couple of seasons back, when Liverpool was mocked for their purchase of Stewart Downing. Well, tides have changed for the English midfielder who is proving himself to be one of the best players in this West Ham side.
Sitting in the hole behind the striker in the 4-3-1-2 formation, Downing has been the main creative outlet for this West Ham side. Yes! creative outlet! Apparently 19th-century managers also like to have a bit of creativity in their side. eh?
Nevertheless, 4 goals and 6 assists in 16 starts? Not bad considering his Anfield career, where he had like one assist in all season? right?
Still the English midfielder is playing the best football of his career and Matic would be the one with the task of stopping him from creating anything worthwhile just like the Serbian has been doing all season long. It would be useless to write anything about Matic, considering we have been talking about him, all-season long. The guy is the best CDM in the world and is brilliant, almost poetic, at what he does, which makes this battle even more interesting. Watch out for it, will ya?
CARL JENKINSON vs EDEN HAZARD
Just like an article on Literature would be incomplete without the mention of Shakespeare, similarly a player battle would be incomplete without the mention of our little Belgian.
As the Stoke player were inept against the quality of the Belgian, the Potters conspired to kick the winger every way to Sunday on our little trip to Brittania. Phil Bardsley was almost successful in breaking his leg but Hazard fortunately survived and although the winger did have to leave the field due to an ankle knock after the last attack on him by the frustrated hosts, Hazard trained with the first team and would be available for selection at Stamford Bridge.
With Carl Jenkinson next on the list of fullbacks demolished by Eden Hazard on his quest to greatness, it could turn out to be a nightmarish afternoon for the loanee from Arsenal.
Sam Allardyce tactics would be to have Cheikhou Kouyate to track back and help Jenkinson control the Belgian’s runs for the most part of the day, and stop him from cutting inside and link up with Fabregas. We could expect another physical battle at Stamford Bridge tomorrow, and this battle could be very important in determining the outcome of this game.
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Edited By: Ankur Bhatt