WILL it be third time lucky for Rafael Benitez? Goalless draws at home to Manchester City and Fulham haven’t done anything to sway the ‘Rafa Out’ brigade, who made their feelings known even before the Spaniard had taken charge for the first time on Sunday.
And with a seven-point gap to league leaders Manchester United, a win is essential at Upton Park tomorrow, if the Blues are to justify Benitez’s faith that his team remain in the hunt for the title.
The good news for Chelsea is that they last lost to West Ham in 2003, thanks to a 1-0 defeat at the Boleyn Ground with Paolo Di Canio the scorer. They have won 10 of the 12 contests since, scoring 30 times and conceding just seven.
Considering that record, Coral’s offer of 10/11 for the away win looks a good bet.
The Hammers have made a decent start to the season under Sam Allardyce but come in to this clash after successive defeats, at White Hart Lane and Old Trafford, and on a three-game winless stretch.
Their opponents might not have won in six, but there is too much quality in the Chelsea squad for that run to continue much longer.
I expect the Hammers will follow the blueprint laid out by Fulham on Wednesday evening at Stamford Bridge and try to contain their visitors.
A 1-0 or 2-0 Chelsea win looks about right to me, and I am tempted by the former, at 7/1 with Coral.
Anticipating a low scoring contest I will be selling total goals, at 2.7, with Sporting Index.
Chelsea at 10/11 with Coral
Chelsea to win 1-0 at 7/1 with Coral
Sell total goals at 2.7 with Sporting Index
FULHAM vs TOTTENHAM
THE second London derby of the day takes place at Craven Cottage, with Tottenham favourites to claim what would be a third straight league win.
Victories over West Ham and Liverpool have helped get Spurs’ top four tilt back on track and they have an encouraging record against the Cottagers.
Tottenham have won the last five league meetings between the teams and should make that six.
The spotlight will be on ex-Fulham pair Clint Dempsey and Mousa Dembele, with the Belgian’s return to the side of particular significance for Andre Villas-Boas.
Dembele has not lost in a Spurs shirt and, with him alongside Sandro at the heart of midfield, the Lilywhites look far more dynamic and dangerous.
Martin Jol will be desperate to deny his old club, but Fulham have just one win in nine in the Premier League and lost 3-1 to Sunderland last time out at home.
The visitors are worthy of investment, at 6/4 with Coral, but they just can’t keep a clean sheet – they have managed only one in 14 league outings.
Spurs have clocked up three 2-1 wins this term and that is the kind of scoreline I’m expecting here. It can be backed at 8/1 with Coral and the advice for spread bettors is to buy total goals at 2.9 with Sporting Index.
Tottenham at 6/4 with Coral
Tottenham to win 2-1 at 7/1 with Coral
Buy total goals at 2.9 with Sporting Index