West Ham United vs Chelsea: 3 Key Battles That Could Decide The Game

17th placed West Ham United will be facing Premier League heavyweights Chelsea at the London Stadium on Sunday. Although the former will have the home advantage, the Hammers face the challenge of going up against an in-form Chelsea side.

Both the clubs were taken over by new managers before the start of the season, with Manuel Pellegrini being appointed as the West Ham coach and Maurizio Sarri being named as Chelsea’s. However, their starts at their respective clubs have been very different.

While Sarri has kept a 100% win percentage so far, his counterpart has managed only one victory.

Here are three key player battles when the two sides meet:

Pablo Zabaleta vs Eden Hazard

Eden Hazard has been in red-hot form since the start of the season. The Belgian has scored five goals in the league so far and sits on top of the goalscoring table. The Chelsea number 10 will be going head-to-head against former Manchester City full-back Zabaleta, who has only made two appearances in the league for the Hammers this season.

The 33-year-old defender has put forward decent performances when called upon and Pellegrini will want the best from him when he lines up against Hazard tomorrow. Zabaleta has been booked in both of the games but averages two tackles, one interception and four clearances per game.

Hazard has already bagged the man of the match award on three occasions for the Blues, with his five goals and two assists playing a crucial role in the London side’s phenomenal start to the season.

Andriy Yarmoleno vs Marcos Alonso

Chelsea wing-back Marcos Alonso is a player who loves running down the left flank to give support to Hazard, but the Spaniard might have to hold himself back a bit on Sunday as he will have to deal with new West Ham arrival Andriy Yarmolenko.

After making four substitute appearances in the first four gameweeks, the Ukranian made his full league debut against Everton last week and he announced it in style. The 28-year-old bagged a brace against the Merseyside club as West Ham came home with a 3-1 victory.

Alonso has got one goal and two assists to his name so far, but on Sunday it will be his defensive record that matters more. The 27-year-old averages 1.6 tackles, 0.2 interceptions and 4.6 clearances per game. He has been only dribbled past 0.2 times per game which is a good sign for Chelsea.

Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena vs Olivier Giroud

One of the most important and interesting battles in the game will be between Olivier Giroud and the two West Ham centre-backs. The French striker made his first start under Sarri against Cardiff last week and he made a big impression.

The former Arsenal frontman came out of the game with two assists to his name. The role the forward played in Hazard scoring the hat-trick against the Bluebirds was immense. Sarri started Alvaro Morata ahead of him against PAOK in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday, meaning Giroud will return to the line-up on Sunday.

West Ham will hope to come out of the game with something and it will depend on how the centre backs Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena cope with Giroud’s threat. The 31-year-old is a specialist in creating space for his teammates and if he does that successfully at the London Stadium, the Hammers can kiss goodbye to their hopes of getting anything from the game.

Stats courtesy: Whoscored

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