West Ham's Grant under pressure as Chelsea visits

BY foxsports • September 9, 2010

Chelsea's chase for a fourth straight win at the start of its Premier League title defense could spell big trouble for former Blues manager Avram Grant.

Grant led Chelsea to the 2008 Champions League final but is already under pressure at West Ham after his new team lost its first three Premier League matches to fall to the bottom of the standings.

Grant comes up against his former club in one of Saturday's eight Premier League matches and, with Chelsea having scored 14 goals in its opening three wins, things don't look like improving any time soon for the Israeli.

West Ham hired Grant after firing former Chelsea striker Gianfranco Zola after the team only narrowly avoided relegation last season.

Grant won acclaim for coaxing improved performances from relegation-bound Portsmouth last season and taking the heavily indebted club to the FA Cup final, but seems to be finding things just as hard at West Ham.

"It's not easy to keep the morale up - especially after last season - but I don't like talking about last year because we do not need to be reminded about it," Grant said. "It's not easy but I've told the players from the beginning that I want to see their character both when they win and when they lose.

"It's only the beginning of the season and if we win two games we will be as good as any other team."

But West Ham may have to wait for the first of those wins.

Its problems start up front with strikers Carlton Cole and Frederic Piquionne failing to score so far. The Hammers' only Premier League goal came from a penalty by Mark Noble against Bolton three weeks ago.

The Hammers' problems up front could mean a debut for Victor Obinna, who is on loan this season from Inter Milan.

"We just need a little time for the players to come together," Obinna said. "We need to work with each other and understand our strengths. Why can't we do something against Chelsea?

"I would like to be involved against Chelsea if the manager decides. I believe it is going to be one of the toughest games we have played this season."

Grant said that West Ham's struggles are down to a tough run of opening fixtures. West Ham lost 3-0 at Aston Villa, 3-1 to visiting Bolton and 3-0 at Manchester United, which is at Everton on Saturday.

"Chelsea is a tough fixture and I can't ever remember a team at our level having such tough fixtures at the beginning of the season," Grant said.

Wayne Rooney also comes up against his former club when United plays Everton.

The striker has been on the front pages of Britain's newspapers rather than the back following allegations about his private life, but Rooney scored for England in midweek and is setting up goals regularly.

Everton beat United 3-1 in the corresponding fixture last season but has taken just one point from three matches.

"We're at home and we need a win no matter what," Everton defender Tony Hibbert said. "We've had a few good results at home against Man United so I think the lads are looking forward to it.

"I think we're playing brilliantly, we really are. We're getting a grip of the game and passing the ball really well. We're just lacking a little bit in the final third, but maybe that's a bit of luck and maybe that will come on Saturday."

Also Saturday, Arsenal hosts Bolton, Fulham hosts Wolverhampton Wanderers, Manchester City hosts Blackburn, Newcastle hosts Blackpool, West Bromwich Albion hosts Tottenham, and Wigan hosts Sunderland.

On Sunday, Liverpool is at Birmingham. Gerard Houllier takes charge of Aston Villa for the first time on Monday with a match at Stoke.

League Championship leader Queens Park Rangers hosts Middlesbrough on Saturday, when second-place Cardiff hosts Hull, and third-place Ipswich is at Portsmouth.


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