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West Ham United will fight to avoid a third straight Premier League defeat when they host European champions Chelsea at The Boleyn Ground in the early kick-off on Saturday. The Hammers have succumbed to defeats at White Hart Lane and Old Trafford in the past week and have slipped to 10th in the league.
Meanwhile, all the news surrounding Chelsea has still to do with the fans' reluctance to accept Spaniard Rafa Benitez as their new manager. The ex-Liverpool boss has not helped his cause at all, with two dour goalless draws in his first two games in charge, both of which, unfortunately for him, were at home. The Blues remain in the Champions League positions for now but with West Brom, Tottenham and now even Everton and Arsenal closing the gap, Benitez needs goals and wins.
The last time these sides met in the Premier League was in the 2010/11 season, when a goal from Chelsea's Ivorian forward Salomon Kalou and an unlikely brace from Ghana midfielder Michael Essien trumped Scott Parker's late strike for the home side.
Where to Watch Live
Kick-off is set for 12.45 pm GMT and live coverage is on Sky Sports 2 and Sky Sports 2 HD. BBC Radio 5 live will have live commentary on the match.
Sam Allardyce's side started the season cautiously but without any major hiccups, recording three wins in their first four matches in all competitions. The only blip was a 3-0 defeat to Swansea City at Liberty Stadium. Since then, wins have been a little hard to come by, with wins at Loftus Road and St James' Park and a surprisingly confident 4-1 demolition of Southampton, at home, the only highlights.
On the plus side, the Hammers have not been all that easy to defeat, which is always an advantage for clubs looking to avoid relegation. In fact, prior to the defeats against Spurs and United, Allardyce was on a run of only two defeats in seven games. Unfortunately for the former Bolton Wanderers manager, the last week of November and the entirety of December is set to be a very difficult period, one that could well determine whether the club stays in the Premier League or drops back into the Championship.
West Ham have already played two top sides and this game against Chelsea will be followed by the visit of Liverpool and games against West Brom (fourth in the league), Everton (sixth in the league) and Arsenal. Points will probably be very hard to come by from these fixtures, so expect the Hammers to fight for Premier League survival in December.
Meanwhile, Chelsea have major problems on their hands. And it all seems very different from a few months ago, when former player and fans' favourite Roberto Di Matteo led the Blues to an impossible double - the FA Cup and a maiden Champions League. However, Juventus' 3-0 defeat of the Stamford Bridge club means this is now Benitez's Chelsea and the fans are not happy.
Two home games have resulted in two unappetising goalless draws (against Manchester City and Fulham) and the continuing mis-firing of £50m Spanish striker Fernando Torres. Reports have suggested club owner Roman Abramovich has finally run out of patience with the former Atletico Madrid forward and has targetted either Bayer Leverkusen's Andre Schurrle or Metalist Kharkiv's Taison as a January replacement.
In addition, the fact the fans continue to make their dislike of Benitez publicly known cannot help the new manager establish control over a traditionally fractious dressing room... so it may be that a game away from demanding home fans will help the club regain some composure.
West Ham United
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): L L D W D
- Last Match: Manchester United 1 - 0 West Ham
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): D D L L D
- Last Match: Chelsea 0 - 0 Fulham
Allardyce is without long-term absentees Ricardo Vaz Te (shoulder) and Alou Diarra (thigh), while midfielder Jack Collison (knee) is still only partially ready. Israel midfielder Yossi Benayoun is also believed to be struggling with a knee injury but even if he were fit, he would be ineligible to play against his parent club (he is on loan from Chelsea).
The good news is defender George McCartney has recovered from his groin problem and may be available, pending a late fitness test; although it is likely he will start from the bench. Midfielder Mark Noble is available after a one-match suspension.
The club will be sweating a little on the fitness of on-loan forward Andy Carroll. The Liverpool striker will face a late fitness test for a knee injury but is expected to clear it and take his place up front.
Probable Line-Up: Jaaskelainen; Demel, Reid, Collins, O'Brien; Jarvis, Diame, Noble, Nolan, Taylor; Carroll
Benitez will not have Brazilian centre back David Luiz, as he serves a one-match ban. The club is also without captain John Terry (knee). This means Serbian international Branislav Ivanovic shifts to centre-back, alongside Gary Cahill, with summer signing Cesar Azpilicueta continuing on the right.
The absence of Terry will be compounded by that of veteran midfielder Frank Lampard (calf). The heart of the Blues' midfield, Lampard is in the final season of his contract and is expected to leave Stamford Bridge in the summer but he remains a talismanic player for the club.
Meanwhile, up front young forward Daniel Sturridge (hamstring) is fighting to be fit for this game but is unlikely to be risked, particularly with the lack of striking options for Benitez.
Probable Line-Up: Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Cole; Ramires, Mikel; Mata, Oscar, Hazard; Torres