Chelsea-West Ham United Preview
Jose Mourinho is less the "Special One" and more the "Mouthy One" this season while Chelsea struggle to defend their Premier League title and assert themselves in Champions League.
Slaven Bilic could be deemed the "Ideal One" for revitalising West Ham United.
After Mourinho’s most recent controversial comments midweek, Chelsea attempt to avoid becoming the latest of the Premier League’s elite to fall to the Hammers on Saturday.
Mourinho has been under fire for more than Chelsea’s 12th-place position in the league. He drew public scrutiny for criticising former team physio Eva Carneiro for treating an apparent injured player late in a match in August.
He was fined £50,000 and given a suspended one-match ban after criticising referee Robert Madley for not awarding the Blues (3-2-4) a penalty during a 3-1 defeat to Southampton on Oct. 3.
While Chelsea announced they’re appealing the punishment, Mourinho’s ire was focused on Slovenian referee Damir Skomina in Tuesday’s scoreless draw with Dynamo Kiev in Champions League. The official refused to give Cesc Fabregas a penalty, leading Mourinho to call him "weak and naive."
"It is a clear penalty," Mourinho said. "The referee didn’t see it, the referee decided not to give it, I don’t know."
The officials were spared his wrath at Stamford Bridge last Saturday when Chelsea beat Aston Villa 2-0, ending their stretch of three games without a win across all competitions (0-1-2).
That performance, combined with the effort at Ukraine midweek, are encouraging to Mourinho, who has seen his side concede 17 goals in league play – eight more than at this point last season.
"We are much more solid. Two matches, two clean sheets, no problems defensively," Mourinho told the team’s official website. "The team was solid and compact, the midfield was really strong. We showed tactical effort and tactical discipline.
"We are recovering these qualities that are very important when you are not flying, you are not scoring goals and playing with that confidence and flair. These two solid performances are good for us."
Bilic has received more than two solid performances from West Ham (5-2-2), who are unexpectedly fourth in the table after finishing 12th last season. Their improvement includes stunning road victories at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City.
The Hammers, though, are 1-1-2 at Upton Park.
They got another victory away from home last weekend when Manuel Lanzini scored in the 88th minute before Dimitri Payet added another in stoppage time of a 3-1 victory at Crystal Palace.
The performance prompted joint-chairman David Sullivan to gloat on the team website.
"I would like to thank the supporters for their magnificent support," he said. "We have not done as well as I would have hoped at home, but with their support we can turn that around.
"It’s a long season and there are 29 games to go, hopefully we can make it a very special season."
Payet is doing his part with team highs of five goals and three assists. The midfielder has scored four times while assisting on two other tallies over the past six games.
Bilic has singled out Andy Carroll, who has been used off the bench in three league matches after returning from an ankle injury. The forward is still seeking his first goal.
"He’s got something that is very hard to cope with," Bilic said. "I played centre half and I know that position. When the ball comes in, it’s more about you than them when you try to stop it.
"We’re so happy and we’re so lucky that he’s back."
Chelsea hold a 14-3-1 advantage in their last 18 matches with West Ham, outscoring them 21-7 while going 7-1-1 at Upton Park.