West Ham United recorded their first win of the season against Everton last weekend – but they’ll do well to follow that up against Chelsea at the London Stadium.
The Blues are in town on Sunday, and Maurizio Sarri’s team are soaring at the moment with five wins out of five.
They sit top of the Premier League and arguably have the division’s standout player so far in their ranks in Eden Hazard.
The Belgium international has been imperious under the Italian, scoring five goals and tabling two assists so far.
The winger didn’t even start the first two matches following his exertions at the World Cup, but he has moved straight into top gear in 2018/19 – and West Ham should be worried. Just how can they deal with him?
Fredericks in, Zabaleta out
Summer signing Ryan Fredericks has seen a small amount of Premier League action so far.
He’s been battling it out with Pablo Zabaleta for a regular starting spot, but he should be getting the nod from Manuel Pellegrini here.
Zabaleta’s best days are far behind him, and the electric pace of Hazard would be a real worry.
Fredericks was recorded as the fourth-fastest player in the Premier League in August (according to Opta via The Mirror), and that fact alone could make him a better counter.
Declan Rice needs to get in and around him
Hazard is so unpredictable sometimes, but West Ham need to get someone to stick close to him to try and limit his influence in the final third.
One man for this job could be Declan Rice.
Rice has been steadily improving in recent weeks and was excellent against Everton.
His discipline in front of the back four could be key against Chelsea.
Hazard is excellent at breaking the lines and Rice is solid at preventing players from doing just that. It’d be a tough test for the youngster, but perhaps he is the best man for the job.
Fight fire with fire
West Ham, as tough as this will be against Sarri’s Blues, must find a way to keep hold of the ball.
And they must do this away from where Hazard is operating.
The forward cannot influence the game without the ball, and while West Ham have it, they need a player minding the Belgian to prevent any sudden counter attacks in the event of a possession turnover.
It’s difficult to stop a player who is in such fine fettle as Hazard is but if the Ironscan succeed, they’ll stand a great chance of getting something from the game.