This weekend sees the return of the English Premier League, which is sure to set pulses rating across the country. While most neutrals may be intrigued by how high-flying Southampton will fare at the home league leaders Arsenal in Saturday’s early kick-off, however, those with a keener knowledge of British football will be holding out for the evening fixture between West Ham and Chelsea at a raucous Upton Park. With both teams having been struggling for form and consistency of late, this contest should deliver an abundance of tension, drama and unrelenting action.
The Three Battles That will Determine the Course of the Game
At the heart of every football match is a series of individual battles, each of which has an influence on the course that the game takes. This match-up will be no exception, so here are three of the key contests that will have a huge bearing on the final result: –
James Collins (West Ham) vs. Samuel Eto (Chelsea)
With Chelsea’s much maligned £50 million spearhead Fernando Torres sidelined through injury, veteran striker Samuel Eto is set to take his place in the starting line-up. While he boasts neither the pace or thrust of his younger self, he has retained excellent movement and his awareness of space in and around the penalty area is second to none. This distinguishes him as a huge threat to the Hammers back-line, who must strike a balance between pressing him when he has hick back to goal and not leaving too much space in behind. A fully fit and returning James Collins is likely to be tasked with marking the enigmatic Eto, and his capacity to subdue the Cameroon hit man while also marshalling his fellow defenders will have a crucial impact on the result.
Mohammed Diame (West Ham) vs. Ramires (Chelsea)
Without wishing to disrespect the midfielders of either club, the battle in the centre of the pitch is likely to be one of attrition rather than inspiration. This is embodied by the qualities of Ramires and Mohammed Diame, who boast strength, athleticism and pace as their most obvious qualities. The two are likely to be in direct opposition on Saturday, and both will be looking to break beyond their respective forward lines and pose a threat in behind the defence. Given the energy levels of both players and the fact that they undoubtedly have an assured touch in front of goal, whoever dominates this particular battle may inspire their team to victory.
Ravel Morrison (West Ham) vs. John Terry (Chelsea)
Given the exertions of Gary Cahill on international duty last week, club captain John Terry is likely to return to Chelsea’s starting line-up on Saturday. While this should add experience, leadership and organisational qualities to Chelsea’s rearguard, however, it will undoubtedly leave them even more vulnerable to the threat of pace and direct running. This is an issue that has characterised Chelsea’s season, as their awkward and slightly cumbersome defence has occasionally been exposed by fast and direct opponents. West Ham will therefore be keen to distribute the ball to the resurgent and uniquely talented Ravel Morrison, whose skill and pace will commit defenders and create space for others. If Sam Allardyce’s side can isolate Terry against the mercurial Morrison, West Ha, will have an excellent opportunity to claim all three points.