West Ham United v Chelsea

It’s been a very successful Christmas and New Year; victories over Fulham (3-2), Manchester City (1-0) and Birmingham (2-0) have stretched our lead at the top of the table to eleven points. Now we face a short trip east to Upton Park for a 12:45pm kick-off which will bring to an end our somewhat manic festive schedule.

West Ham have had a less successful time of late. They have experienced a downturn in form, picking up just one point — a 1-1 draw with Portsmouth on Boxing Day — from their last four matches. A 2-0 away defeat on New Year’s Eve to a Charlton side who had previously lost eight matches of nine in all competitions compounded the misery of losing 2-0 at home to Wigan three days earlier.

Frank Lampard will be returning to the club where he began his career, and is likely to receive the usual hostile reception. Another of our ex-West Ham contingent, Joe Cole, will be serving a one game suspension after picking up five yellow cards this season. He was given four days off by Jose Mourinho after the Birmingham match with some harsh criticism of his ‘over-elaborate’ performance ringing in his years. Cole is sure to take heed of Mourinho’s advice and continue as one of the country’s best attacking midfielders on his return.

Other team news is that William Gallas will not be risked after coming off in stoppage time against Birmingham with what appeared to be a hamstring problem. Claude Makelele is likely to return to the starting eleven, while Didier Drogba will be given the nod over Hernan Crespo as Mourinho continues his policy of rotating the strikers.

Prediction: Alan Pardew usually sets his team up with attack in mind but, as we saw against Charlton, this can leave them open at the back. The tactical genius of Mourinho is sure to have highlighted several weaknesses in Pardew’s approach and on current form there is only one winner. It should be a cracking match. 1-2.

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West Ham United 1 – 3 Chelsea · Update

Match reports: BBC Sport; Sky Sports; ESPNSoccernet; Sporting Life; Official Chelsea FC Website; The Times; The Independent; The Guardian; Daily Telegraph.

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