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Rob Burnett: Don’t expect it to be pretty as West Ham prepare to frustrate title-chasers Chelsea

02 Mar | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Rob Burnett: Don’t expect it to be pretty as West Ham prepare to frustrate title-chasers Chelsea

With the Hammers on a bad run, expect Big Sam to shut up shop and try to get another one over old foe Jose Mourinho

A wide smile leapt on to Sam Allardyce’s wide face. He laughed and slammed the desk in front of him with his right hand, exclaiming between chuckles, “I knew he would! He can’t take it, can he? He just can’t take it because we’ve out-tacticed (sic) him, we’ve outwitted him. He just can’t cope!”

January, 2014, and West Ham had held title-chasing Chelsea to a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge. Jose Mourinho had accused Allardyce’s Hammers of playing “19th century football”.

When a reporter relayed this to Allardyce, the glint in the West Ham boss’s eye told you just how much he enjoyed taking a point off the Special One in his own back yard.

On Wednesday night it’s the Hammers who host Chelsea, and Allardyce will no doubt be licking his lips in anticipation of going up against Mourinho again.

But his opponents could hardly be a tougher proposition for a West Ham side that has just two wins from 14 matches – and none in their last six. They are also smarting from a shock 3-1 home reverse against Crystal Palace – the first time an Allardyce team has conceded three set piece goals since Opta records began.

With that in mind, expect Big Sam to once again shut up shop and go for a point to stabilise the ship. It is his standard response to a bad run – and we’ve already seen them do a good shut-out job when they frustrated an expansive Southampton side to a 0-0 draw at St Mary’s a few weeks ago.

By contrast, Chelsea are on the crest of a wave, fresh from picking up the Capital One Cup on Sunday – a result Mourinho celebrated like it was the World Cup.

Though he denied it, perhaps he was also in jubilant mood because Manchester City lost at Liverpool, opening up the route for his side to regain the Premier League.

With midfield enforcer Nemanja Matic serving the second of his two-game ban, expect Kurt Zouma to start in midfield, as he did in the win over Spurs on Sunday.

Elsewhere, it should be the usual fare of John Terry keeping order at the back (and who better to lead the charge in the face of a physical onslaught from an Allardyce-inspired team?), Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard running midfield and Diego Costa leading the charge up front.

For West Ham, with Andy Carroll no nearer to returning from his knee ligament problem, it will be Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho up front again – if Allardyce goes with two up top. He may well sacrifice one to try to keep control of midfield.

Of course, on that day back in January 2014, Big Sam’s claim that he had “out-tacticed and outwitted” Mourinho was a little rich. The shots ratio that day read Chelsea: 39, West Ham: 1.

Still, if he does the same on Wednesday and gets another 0-0, you suspect Allardyce’s response to any criticism of his side’s style will be the same as it was back last January: “I don’t give a s**t.”

5/4 – West Ham to win or draw against Chelsea