Chelsea are on Prem title roll with Mason Mount back and firing – but best pal Declan Rice and West Ham pose huge threat
THERE is nothing West Ham will like more than throwing a spanner in the works of Chelsea’s title tilt – and Declan Rice poses the biggest threat to Thomas Tuchel’s side.
The Blues have been on a roll domestically having not tasted defeat in the league for over two months, so they should be confident of notching up another victory on Saturday.
But the Hammers possess a player in Rice who is capable of knocking the leaders out of their stride and leaving them at risk of following Liverpool in becoming surprise casualties at the London Stadium this season.
Injuries and form have left Tuchel with little option beyond Jorginho in midfield, and when he is on song he makes the European champions tick with his intelligent use of the ball.
But without the protection of N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic or sometimes Reece James alongside him, Chelsea do have a little vulnerability through the midfield against combative opponents.
The much maligned Scott McTominay and Fred were able to compete in the recent draw with Manchester United, and in Rice and Tomas Soucek it is arguable West Ham are far better equipped in that area.
Though the Hammers have looked leggy in the last couple of matches, the atmosphere of the London derby will ensure they will be right at it this weekend and Rice and Soucek will be on a hunt and destroy job in midfield.
The England midfielder is the player Chelsea and Manchester United could both do with most in terms of squad strengthening, for good reason.
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When he is on it he dominates matches, and has already shown in the first hour of the Euro 2020 final that he is able to shine up against Jorginho in the middle of the park.
If the Hammers gain superiority in that area it will allow them to get the dangerous Jarrod Bowen trying to expose the defensively questionable Marcos Alonso.
Michail Antonio has gone right off the boil so Bowen, and then set-pieces, are the biggest threats the East Londoners have going into the game.
Which is why Mason Mount may prove vital to Chelsea’s chances of success at the London Stadium.
Mount could well be asked to drop into a deeper role if Tuchel opts to overlook the claims of Ruben Loftus-Cheek – and that would put him in a straight battle with old pal Rice.
They may have grown up as footballers together, but there will be no love lost for 90 minutes as the pair tussle it out for the bragging rights.
Mount will need to be in and around Rice and Soucek deny the pair the opportunity to control the tempo and the pattern of the play and things could well get physical.
If that happens, then there are genuine claims West Ham would be better equipped to come out on top in that particular battle for dominance.
And that could well be the decisive factor in a game which could end Chelsea’s long tenure at the top of the table.
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