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Chelsea v West Ham - e-Football Preview

Article by e-Chelsea Correspondent Lee Beevor

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After all the fuss about Juan Mata, it will be a relief to return to the business of winning football matches. Certainly this was Jose Mourinho’s focus at his pre-match press briefing, as he declared Chelsea’s business in the January window to be at an end. Of course he added a caveat, giving the right to react to any special situation that may occur. But this is probably just Jose being a tease, allowing the media free reign to keep speculating about who could yet be a late arrival at the club. Indeed he was in good spirits throughout, treating the assembled journalists to champagne to mark the passing of his 51st birthday.

Jose reiterated his delight at having balanced the squad and at the same time, banked a healthy profit. He pointed out, very politely I thought, that having six number 10s was perhaps a little too many! As such, De Bruyne’s and Mata’s departures do not weaken the group at all, but the signings of Salah and Matic add quality to areas that lacked depth. Jose was unconcerned they would be unavailable for the Champions League, referring to the long term nature of his project and the solitary goal of improvement.

Looking ahead, he would only comment on the West Ham fixture, stressing his objective is always to win the next game. The way he continues to down play Chelsea’s hopes of obtaining silverware this season, convinces me he is growing in confidence. Jose seems very relaxed and content, in stark contrast to his demeanour following the defeat at Newcastle on November 2. Since then, Chelsea has looked much stronger defensively and is currently on a seven match winning streak. I am sure he is privately thinking that there are titles just over the horizon.

Moving to specific team affairs, Mohamed Salah will be at the ground for the match against West Ham, but too late to be considered for selection. Torres continues to recover from injury and with Eto’o having played in the FA Cup at the weekend, could lead to a start for Demba Ba. Otherwise, I expect those rested in the Stoke match to be restored to the side, giving an eleven of: Cech, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry, Ivanovic, Ramires, Matic, Hazard, Oscar, Willian and Ba. This side should be far too strong for the East London strugglers and I can foresee no other result than an eighth successive victory for Chelsea.

Thereafter, we will turn our attention to what is arguably the biggest game of the season so far. Whilst at trip to Manchester City would be a daunting prospect for most, Jose claimed there would be no change in his approach. Despite it being normal for teams to concede four, five or six, the Special One stated that just as for West Ham at the Bridge, he will be trying to win. Should Chelsea claim six points in these fixtures, Jose may find it increasingly difficult to dampen talk of popping champagne corks once again come May.

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