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Chelsea-West Ham United Preview
Chelsea maintained their 100 percent start in beginning their Europa League adventure with a victory, but Maurizio Sarri wants his side to be closer to perfection as they resume Premier League play Sunday with a London derby at West Ham United.
The Blues (5-0-0), who lead the Premier League on goal difference over Liverpool, kicked off play in the second-tier continental tournament with a 1-0 victory at Greek side PAOK on Thursday. Willian's goal in the seventh minute stood as the match-winner with Chelsea dominating the proceedings, but the lack of finishing beyond the Brasil international's goal left Sarri pondering his attacking options going forward.
"We were in control of the match for 90 minutes," Sarri told Chelsea's official website. "We had a lot of opportunities, we missed them, so I am really happy with the three points and the performance but not the result, because when it is time to kill the match, we have to kill the match."
Some of the lack of finishing can be attributed to Alvaro Morata, who led the line but failed to put any of his seven shots on target. The Spain international's lone goal came against Arsenal on Aug. 18, and it would not be surprising to see Olivier Giroud restored to the starting XI after he assisted on pair of goals in last weekend's 4-1 romp past Cardiff City.
"Morata has to gain confidence with one, two or three goals. I am not able to give him confidence," Sarri noted. "In this game he had three or four opportunities, he was unlucky. I hope in the future I can try to help him, but the confidence comes only with goals.
"But I have to say also that for the first time this season he was very ready in the box. He was on the ball, he was active."
Also expected to return to the starting lineup is Eden Hazard, who did not make the trip to Greece along with central defender David Luiz and midfielder Mateo Kovacic. Luiz should also return to the back four, but Kovacic was forced off versus Cardiff with a knee injury, which makes room for either Ross Barkley or Ruben Loftus-Cheek to join Jorginho and N'Golo Kante in the midfield.
Though Pedro suffered a shoulder injury late in a collision with PAOK keeper Alexandros Paschalakis, Sarri said the injury was minor and the Spaniard should be available. If not, Willian would slide into the right forward role in Chelsea's 4-3-3 formation.
West Ham United (1-0-4) relieved some of the pressure on Manuel Pellegrini last weekend with a 3-1 victory at Everton, moving off the foot of the table and into 16th place. Andriy Yarmolenko justified his manager's faith in being given his first start with a first-half brace, and Marko Arnautovic sealed the win with a goal just after the hour.
"I said at the start that Andriy needs a few weeks to get used to playing in the Premier League," Pellegrini said at his Thursday news conference. "He has a lot of quality, we know that, but in this league you can't just play with quality. You need pace and be prepared tactically to be an important part of the game.
"He demonstrated against Everton that it was the correct moment. He did it very well. After this performance, we must demand him to give more, because he's able to be a top player for us."
The Ukraine international may have to lead the line since Arnautovic is carrying a knock to his knee and may be relegated to the reserves list for this game. Fellow striker Chicharito Hernandez is still feeling the effects of a virus and also unlikely to feature, and midfielder Jack Wilshire is out due to an ankle injury.
Wilshire's absence led Pellegrini to use a 4-1-4-1 set-up in which teenager and Ireland international Declan Rice played in front of the back four, forming an effective midfield triangle with Mark Noble and Pedro Obiang. Another option for this derby would be to start Michail Antonio as the lone forward and keep Yarmolenko underneath.
"A derby has a little bit more importance, of course," Pellegrini said. "I know, here in London, there are a lot of derbies with different teams. Our first at home is against Chelsea, the team at the top of the table, so I think that is one more motivation to try to beat them."
West Ham took four of the six points between the sides last term, including a 1-0 victory at London Stadium on a goal by Arnautovic six minutes in. The Irons have just three wins in the last 24 league matches between the teams (3-5-16).
Updated September 21, 2018