Chelsea face crunch match at West Ham

Interim manager knows he has little leeway to get Chelsea back on track after successive scoreless draws, so victory over West Ham is a must

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 December, 2012, 2:47am


Rafael Benitez needs no reminder, but the statistics are mounting up to confirm the scale of the task confronting the interim manager as he attempts to revive Chelsea's season.

Successive scoreless draws mean Benitez joins Avram Grant as the only Blues managers to fail to win either of their first two Premier League games under Roman Abramovich.

Those results extended a run that has seen Chelsea fail to win any of their past six league games, leaving them in third position in the table, seven points behind leaders Manchester United.

And while the figures sum up the state of a team in a rut, Fernando Torres' Premier League goal-drought, that now runs to almost 11 hours, highlights a player enduring another individual nightmare.

Little wonder, then, that Chelsea's trip across London to face West Ham at Upton Park today will carry much more significance than is normally attached to the fixture.

"We have to keep going forward, look at the positive things and win the games and fight, fight, in each game," said Chelsea midfielder Oriol Romeu, who completed his first 90 minutes of the season in the midweek draw with Fulham.

"When we get the confidence, the goals will go in. I'm sure about that. We had two clean sheets after a long time without that happening. So, that's a positive thing and the only thing is that if we score, we can win."

Having inherited a team that had not kept a clean sheet in 10 games, Benitez identified the defence as his first priority and Romeu echoed his manager's belief that would lay the platform for a more attacking approach.

"Once you are solid at the back, the quality in attack has to come through," Romeu explained. "It hasn't happened for the past two games but I'm sure with the players we have the goals will start to come again.

"This part of our game has to improve, but you also know that if you are not conceding any goals, you only have to score one to get the three points, and that's the most important thing."

Daniel Sturridge remains sidelined, so there is little threat to Torres' starting spot.

Gary Cahill will return to the back-four in place of the suspended David Luiz while Juan Mata should be back after starting the Fulham match on the bench.

However, senior stars Frank Lampard and John Terry are both expected to miss again with injuries.

West Ham, meanwhile, face their London rivals after successive away defeats at Tottenham and Manchester United.

However, Guy Demel, the Ivorian full-back, insists the manner of their single-goal loss at Old Trafford meant they would carry plenty of confidence into the clash with Benitez's side.

Sam Allardyce's team were outplayed in the 3-1 defeat at Spurs, but against United they were unfortunate not to claim a point, losing only to Robin van Persie's first-minute strike.

And Demel said: "We should take confidence from the way we played at Old Trafford. United were worried near the end of the game and the stadium was quiet. I couldn't hear their fans.

"We're back at home on Saturday and if we play like we did against United, and are able to create chances, then I think we have a chance to win the game."

The Hammers will be lifted by the return of Mark Noble from suspension, but Yossi Benayoun and George McCartney remain doubtful after the pair both missed the Manchester game.