West Ham – Chelsea preview: Chelsea continues its top three push with a visit to London rivals West Ham United at the London Stadium on Wednesday (Watch live at 3:15 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com)
The hosts remain above the drop zone on goal differential alone and are in dire need of points.
Lampard on his connection to West Ham, reported interest in Declan Rice: “In terms of being a special game, it’s certainly a special game in the fact that we want three points, nothing more than that, particularly for myself, even with the West Ham connection this is all about what we can do to keep pushing for the Champions League spots. Declan Rice is a good player you’re right, and I’ve known DC for a long time, he was in the Chelsea academy. But there’s no talk, I keep saying, about every player we’ll be asked about. Until these games and this season is finished, there’s nothing to say.”
Moyes on the Chelsea challenge despite West Ham beating the Blues recently: “Well I hope the team can take comfort from it, we’re looking for positives, we’re looking for things to keep us nice and high. When I was here last time we beat Chelsea at home and as you rightly said the players had a good result against them this season so we have to look at it as a real positive. But I was one of the fortunate ones that went to see Chelsea against Manchester City in midweek and undoubtedly we saw two very very good teams, two technically gifted teams and obviously a real good game as well.”
Odds and ends
Chelsea is the heaviest away favorite of any team in the Premier League this match week at -139. The hosts are +365 to boost all three points.
1. The Blues are for real and Werner is coming: The center forwards have not been good enough this season, even though young Tammy Abraham has bagged a lot of goals. Chelsea under Frank Lampard have produced an awful lot of chances, second only to City in the PL, but a clinical finisher could make them a genuine title threat.
2. Fernandinho’s hard-luck decisive moment: Pep Guardiola pulled a Javier Mascherano in turning one of the best defensive midfielders into a center back, and Fernandinho has been a war horse for City. But his hand ball on the line was not going to escape VAR, and he’ll miss at least three matches for the straight red card.
3. Pulisic isn’t (just) an American marketing tool: Well duh, but we’re probably going to be on this one for a long time, but those who criticized Chelsea’s big money purchase of the USMNT star certainly don’t have many reasonable excuses left in their locker after he scored his seventh goal in 17 Premier League matches by torching Benjamin Mendy to put Chelsea up 1-0.
4. Kevin De Bruyne is unreal: We knew that one, too.
Man of the Match
Andreas Christensen —The Chelsea center back blocked a shot with his face in his most memorable moment, but collected three clearances, four tackles, and an interception to go with it while winning all eight of his duels and passing at 95 percent. He also completed two dribble attempts.
Chelsea – Man City recap
The early moments were all Man City, but Chelsea provided some danger via a Christian Pulisic- and Willian-led rush which resulted in a 13th-minute corner kick.
Kepa Arrizabalaga denied City in the 18th minute, both sides now promising plenty for the remaining 70-plus minutes.
City was under big pressure after the half-hour mark, Ederson making a few key saves including Andreas Christensen’s headed off a 33rd-minute corner.
Chelsea got its goal through Pulisic’s brilliant long dribble following an Ilkay Gundogan and Benjamin Mendy produced error. Ederson couldn’t stop the American’s classy finish inside the far post.
N’Golo Kante scored a sensational goal to bring the Blues within one, but Chelsea couldn’t finish several terrific opportunities to tie the match.
Now 6-0, the Reds restored their five-point lead over second place Man City, while the Blues sit 12th with eight points.
The main takeaways
1. Alexander-Arnold at both ends: TAA’s exceptional work in the attacking third is nothing new, and it says something that it comes as little surprise when he produces something sublime like the opening goal off a set piece, but Alexander-Arnold’s goal line clearance in the 68th minute adding some icing to the cake as Chelsea looked pull a goal back from its 2-0 deficit. A fine performance from the right back.
2. Liverpool gets big let-off: Liverpool’s defending and passing was poor over the final 30 minutes or so, and if the Reds have something resembling a weakness it is their overall back line when the opposition is in the Liverpool half. Michy Batshuayi and Mason Mount should’ve both troubled Adrian in the latter stages, but were let off the hook by a Chelsea team with only one sub available to it after the break. More on that below.
3. Bats, not the Yank: Frank Lampard opted against starting Christian Pulisic again on Sunday, and two defensive subs in the first 42 minutes meant there was only one left for the second half. Lampard chose target forward Michy Batshuayi over Pulisic, Ross Barkley, and Pedro. Batshuayi drew a free kick upon introduction, and coudn’t flash an opener header on frame in the 88th.
Man of the Match: Firmino, whose steady presence, strong dribbling, and — most importantly — powerful header steadied the match for a time, moments after VAR denied the Blues an equalizer.
Honorable mention: Kante was everywhere, stopping Mohamed Salah‘s long dribble toward goal late as a highlight. Another highlight, this. See ya later Fabinho.
A foul-heavy, physical start yielded a free kick atop the Chelsea 18 after Andreas Christensen got tangled with Sadio Mane.
A training ground play had Salah roll a shot pass for Alexander-Arnold to belt past Kepa Arrizabalaga in the 15th minute.
An injury to Emerson Palmieri then introduced Marcos Alonso to the match, a 16th minute substitution adding insult to the, well, you know.
Adrian saved Tammy Abraham‘s 1v1 chance in the 24th minute, a misstep from the youngster and great moment for Liverpool’s No. 2 backstop.
Azpilicueta looked to have leveled when he mopped up a sloppy final third performance from the Reds celebrated back line, but VAR ruled Mason Mount as offside.
Liverpool then made it 2-0, adding insult to insult, when unmarked Firmino hammered a header into the goal.
A calamitous first half continued with Christensen waylaid by an injury, as he subbed off for Kurt Zouma. Forty-two minutes in, two subs down.
The game could’ve been effectively put to bed on a 46th minute set piece, but Virgil Van Dijk‘s back post effort tame and allowed Arrizabalaga to make a fine save.
Chelsea found some footing in the second half, and Liverpool was cautioned for time wasting. N’Golo Kante dragged a shot wide in the 59th minute.
Kante was the next man on the score sheet, turning Fabinho and dribbling free into the 18 to blasting a 71st minute effort past Adrian. Game on.
But Batshuayi couldn’t flash a late header on goal, and Mason Mount butchered a difficult near-post chance to make it 2-2 late. Liverpool escaped, and is starting to feel a bit like the dreaded term: Team of Destiny.
Rudiger had been out with a knee injury after coming off 40 minutes into the 2-0 loss to Liverpool in early April. The German international was subsequently sidelined for the Europa League matchup against Slavia Prague plus the ensuing Premier League match against Burnley, but Sarri decided he needed Rudiger for the run-in to the Premier League season with Champions League play on the line, bringing him back for the game at Old Trafford.
The defender made it through 65 minutes before collapsing in real pain, and now goes under the knife with just three weeks remaining on the campaign. It would be tough to see Rudiger return unless the results came back overwhelmingly positive, at the very least missing this week’s Europa League semifinal against Eintracht Frankfurt plus the weekend’s league meeting with Watford.
That leaves Andreas Christensen as the partner to David Luiz at the back, with Sarri potentially forced to bring Gary Cahill back into the fold on the bench. Cahill has been a complete afterthought all season, playing just 23 Premier League minutes back in late September. The other option is 18-year-old academy product Ethan Ampadu who joined from Exeter City’s youth setup two years ago.
We know about the superstars. We know about the big-money transfers. We know about the young wonderkids.
But who are the players that have yet to reach the highest heights that could see a breakout performance? Harry Kane went from Spurs youth product to household name with 21 blasts in 2014/15. N'Golo Kante rocketed to stardom by leading Leicester City to a stunning Premier League title. Kevin De Bruyne made Chelsea sorry with 21 assists for Man City in 2016/17, cementing him as one of the best attacking mids in England. Jordan Pickford went from Premier League bottomfeeder to World Cup starter thanks to his performance last year with Everton.
So who makes the leap this coming season? We detail a few of the possible choices, will full knowledge that the true breakout star emerge come from a place nobody saw coming.
Liverpool’s outstanding young star was a true unknown midway through last season. The 19-year-old earned a starting spot in February and never gave it up, garnering respect from pundits and fans alike. At his tender young age, TAA started a Champions League final at right-back, tasked with marking the immortal Cristiano Ronaldo. He performed spectacularly. If that moment isn’t too big for the youngster, then what is? It’s not a question of if Trent will become a star, it’s when.
A relatively run-of-the-mill center-back at Leicester City before this summer, Maguire earned himself global notoriety at the World Cup, displaying aerial prowess and superior marking ability. Now, it’s up to the 25-year-old to back up that one month performance as more than a flash in the pan, whether he begins the season at King Power Stadium or at Old Trafford. Maguire set himself up perfectly with a summer to remember, but he needs a longer boost at the club level to become a true global household name.
At 17 years old last season, young Ryan Sessegnon became the first Championship player to ever be named to the PFA Young Player of the Year shortlist. Beginning his career at left-back, it became clear that Sessegnon’s true value was higher up the pitch, and Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic obliged. With the freedom to maraud forward, Sessegnon couldn’t stop scoring. He bagged 20 goals and nine assists last season in Championship play, but his young legs tired as the season came to a close. If he has rested up and fires goals in the Premier League like he did last season a level below, he will be worth a fortune in a year’s time.
New Arsenal defensive midfielder Lucas Torreira is just what the doctor ordered for the Gunners. Last season Arsenal maintained plenty of possession but struggled to cover the counter when they gave the ball away. With Unai Emery now in charge at The Emirates, the 22-year-old simply needs to beat out Granit Xhaka for minutes in the middle of the pitch. If he can earn his place in the lineup, Torreira showed in Serie A last season what he can bring to the Gunners, ranked the #10 overall player in the league last season by Squawka Statistics’ player metrics. He proved at the 2018 World Cup that his season was not a fluke, and now he’s ready to do big things in London.
Arsene Wenger may be gone from Arsenal, but that isn’t stopping the Gunners from plucking up premiere French young talent. Guendouzi is just 19, yet was a standout performer in Arsenal’s preseason run-up to the league campaign, and his David Luiz curls give him the edge needed to be a recognizable figure off the pitch. Costing just $10 million, his transfer from French club Lorient was utterly unnoticed, and that could make him one of the steals of the summer if he can earn regular playing time behind Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The Danish center-back was a critical figure last season at Chelsea, earning significant playing time. However, he dipped in form through the final third of the season, and wasn’t that spectacular at the World Cup. 2018-19 appears to be a critical season for the 22-year-old, but if Christensen can recapture the form that earned him a starting role under Antonio Conte, he can develop into one of the best center-backs in the Premier League.
Spending much of his young career either out on loan or a bit-part player at Chelsea, the Blues youth product has been on these lists and has yet to make the jump into a significant role. However, England manager Gareth Southgate saw enough ability to use him in a repeated substitute role at the World Cup this summer, and that might be the signal flare Maurizio Sarri needed. Working against Loftus-Cheek is a crowded Chelsea midfield, competing for time with Cesc Fabregas, Mateo Kovacic, Danny Drinkwater, N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, and Ross Barkley, but if he can come up with the goods this year, he will have pedigree to back up his hype.
With one Fulham player already on this list in Sessegnon, a new White makes the cut in new Ivory Coast international Jean-Michael Seri. The 27-year-old midfielder was a passing wizard in his three seasons at French club Nice, and he reportedly picked the Cottagers over Champions League clubs in England, Italy, and Germany. In Ligue 1 play, he was seventh in the league in completed through balls, and third if you don’t count absurdly dominant PSG. He was third overall in the league in key passes from open play. His xGBuildup, a stat that compiles the xG of every possession the player touches the ball not including shots and key passes, was better than Paul Pogba last season. Seri could be critical in Fulham’s attempt to play a Manchester City style in the top flight, and if he excels, he could be a valuable asset to not just survival but even greater accomplishments.
Wolves obliterated the Championship last season from start to finish, and a big reason why was the 21-year-old Portuguese winger. His pace was blistering, and with it he racked up 17 goals and drawing comparisons to Eden Hazard. Of the 16 games Jota scored in last season, Wolves won 12 and lost just one. He’s critical to the newly promoted side, and if he continues his form from last year, he could earn himself a look not just for Premier League Young Player of the Year, but also in the Portuguese national team, where he’s played significantly at the youth level but has yet to crack the senior squad.
With so many Liverpool stars around him, it would be easy for Naby Keita to enter the Reds starting lineup in his first season and fly under the radar. Don’t expect that to happen. The 23-year-old enters into a logjammed midfield with Fabinho making his way from Monaco, Jordan Henderson coming off a spectacular World Cup, Girginio Wijnaldum having a great preseason, Adam Lallana healthy and James Milner continuing to grind games out. He has plenty of talent around him, and with any luck can be a more well-rounded N’Golo Kante, even if those are massive shoes to fill.
Bonus +1! Kepa Arrizabalaga
What would this list be without the new Chelsea goalkeeper? A relative unknown until recent weeks, the 23-year-old has suddenly become the world’s most expensive goalkeeper. He will have a massive weight upon his shoulders to replace Thibaut Courtois, and if he performs, would help Chelsea fans forget the Belgian’s departure altogether. Kepa is relatively untested with just two full top flight seasons under his belt. Yet so was Courtois when Chelsea brought him in and loaned him to Atletico Madrid where he helped bring the Spanish side to the Champions League final. His first Premier League season could go a long way to defining his future.