Chelsea welcomes London foes West Ham United in what, one hopes, will be a feisty derby. Last week’s big all-London clash- between the Hammers and Tottenham Hotspur- was a dreary 1-1. Both teams were caught in low gears, failing to summon anything resembling a rhythm. But for all the insipidness, West Ham might’ve snatched three points in the final minutes. Manager David Moyes will naturally demand more intensity from his wards. The 15th place they presently occupy betrays the quality of their squad. On the other side, The Blues received a gashing courtesy of Southampton. Leading via Raheem Sterling’s scratchy effort, Romeo Lavia and Adam Armstrong struck for the Saints. The defeat leaves them languishing at 10th. 

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Since the defeat, Thomas Tuchel has been busy in the shop window. With Wesley Fofana, Denis Zakaria (on loan) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyanga to show for, one hopes the hopped-up German is satisfied with the transfer dealings. Aubameyang’s signing brings a genuine goal threat, a presence Chelsea has lacked for some time now. For all of Sterling’s numbers– the winger misses more chances than he converts- he isn’t a reliable source of goals (for a club with designs on the title). 

Moyes has fresh faces to brandish of his own. Lucas Pacqueta is a headline purchase. A marquee player, the Brazilian attacking midfielder showed glimpses of his quality against the Spurs. The tall and tatted Italian striker Gianluca Scamacca provides cover to the terrier-like Michail Antonio but is far from unseating the corn-rowed Englishman. Antonio is a powerhouse forward, a battering ram who brings strength, skill and discipline to the forward line. Thilo Kehrer, in defence, is an interesting addition. His quality on the ball is undoubted, but the German remains prone to defensive lapses.  

Incomings aside, both clubs have players capable of delivering the knockout blow. For the hosts, the return of Reece James from illness will lift Tuchel’s mood, as does Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s recovery from a hamstring issue. The duo have been in fine fettle this season, playing with poise and authority. N’Golo Kante’s absence means Conor Gallagher partners Mateo Kovacic and Loftus-Cheek in a midfield three. If young forward Armando Broja had felt a start was likely, he suffers disappointment. The misfiring Kai Havertz drops to the bench as Tuchel opts to go with a front two of Sterling and Pulisic.   

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Moyes makes one change to his XI against Spurs. Pacqueta gets his first start as Benrahma drops to the bench. Chelsea old boy Emerson Palmieri, who starts, will be itching to leave a mark on the tie. Midfielders Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek will be central to their success if any. Antonio continues as the lone forward. But in Jarrod Bowen and Pablo Fornals, he has able company on the flanks.

Starting XIs:

Chelsea (3-5-2): Mendy (GK), Fofana, Silva, Koulibaly; Cucurella, Loftus-Cheek, Gallagher, Kovacic; Sterling, Pulisic. 

West Ham (4-2-3-1): Fabianski (GK), Coufal, Kehrer, Zouma, Cresswell; Rice, Soucek; Fornals, Pacqueta, Bowen; Antonio