West Ham hosted Chelsea in a spirited London derby on Saturday night that could prove hugely crucial at the end of the season.
While bragging rights are at stake, both teams have Champions League football in their sights and, with only six games to go, the stakes couldn’t really be higher.
The Blues occupy the last Champions League spot, just above the Hammers on goal difference after both teams endured frustrating setbacks last time in the Premier League.
And ahead of the London Stadium crunch game, with so much to play for, Sportsmail took a good look at where the game can be won or lost …
West Ham will host Chelsea in a massive clash in the race for Champions League football on Saturday
CHELSEA MUST FIND A WAY TO KEEP THE LINGARD QUIET
Needless to say, if Chelsea can keep man of the moment Jesse Lingard quiet at London Stadium, West Ham’s attack will most likely be tempered.
Lingard, on loan from Manchester United, has been at the heart of all of West Ham’s best bouts since joining, scoring nine goals and creating three assists in just 10 Premier League appearances for the club.
His good form has allowed him to reclaim his place in Gareth Southgate’s English set-up just months before the euro took off.
So Thomas Tuchel will be extremely wary of the threat Lingard will pose on Saturday night – but how will Chelsea deal with him?
Jesse Lingard will desperately want to keep his good form against West Ham’s London rivals
It would be easy to say Chelsea need to swarm around Lingard if they want to limit how much he gets on the ball, but that’s not how the Blues lined up under Tuchel.
One reason Chelsea was so successful under Tuchel is their intense pressure as a team, starting from the front. Very rarely do they go without the ball for long periods as they are always on the hunt to track down the threat from the opposition.
And they will do that again on Saturday, putting pressure on the attack and not giving West Ham an outlet.
It’s a philosophy that keeps Chelsea regularly dominating games under Tuchel. When recovering the ball, the Blues let the players control the pace of the game, with players like Jorginho and Mason Mount showing off their gear in midfield before allowing their attack to do the damage.
THE ASSEMBLY MUST PLAY AS A NO.10
Chelsea played a dull goalless draw against Brighton at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night, sucking life out of the game amid the fallout from the much-maligned European Super League.
The Blues were lethargic, arguably having their worst offensive performance under Tuchel since replacing Frank Lampard in late January.
But while players may have been impacted by the Super League announcement, it should be noted that England international’s positioning may have cost Mount the Blues over the course of the week.
Mount, once again Chelsea’s standout player this season, was deployed in the number 8 role alongside Jorginho in midfield.
Mason Mount will try to influence Chelsea’s attack more after a battle against Brighton
He played too deep that he could barely influence the game going forward and with a lot on the line on Saturday you can expect him to be much higher on the field against West Ham.
Mount is the only player to bring Chelsea’s offensive play together, and he may have become the club’s most important player at just 22 years old.
There were question marks as to how he would work under Tuchel, but he answered those doubters perfectly, and West Ham will know they have to be wary of keeping Mount quiet.
HAMMERS TO KEEP IT TIGHT IN THE FIRST HALF
This is a huge game for West Ham. If they lost two games in the trot you would think it would be a tough question to jump back and qualify for the elite European competition.
The late defeat to Newcastle at St James’ Park proved costly. Not only did they drop vital points in the race to qualify for the Champions League, but they also lost a key player in Craig Dawson, who received his marching order after two yellow cards.
David Moyes will also be without the protagonists Declan Rice and Michail Antonio, while there are still major fitness concerns about Aaron Cresswell and Arthur Masuaku.
So there are small choices for Moyes. But he knows that if his Hammers side can keep Chelsea silent in the first half, they can surprise them in the last 45 minutes.
David Moyes may be looking to the second half to pick up the Blues amid their hectic schedule
West Ham have started en masse at the front in recent games, particularly against Arsenal and Leicester, but with Chelsea in the midst of a hectic schedule, they could take Tuchel’s side in the second half.
Moyes’ high-flying side have had a whole week to get off the canvas after Newcastle’s defeat, while Chelsea beat Man City in the FA Cup, headed to Brighton and faced Real Madrid in the first leg of the game. their champion. Semi-finals of the competition on Tuesday evening.
So there can be plenty of tired legs on Chelsea’s side, and the longer the game lasts, the more chances West Ham – who will not play until May 3 – can have to slay the visitors by the sword.
PUT MORE LEGS AROUND THE NOBLE IN THE MIDDLE FIELD
Moyes has a huge dilemma at the heart of midfield, with Rice’s continued absence hurting European hopeful Hammers during a defining phase of their campaign.
While club legend Mark Noble has performed admirably in Rice’s absence, it will be a daunting task for the 33-year-old to hold his own against Chelsea’s fluid midfield as Mount and Co roam.
So how does Moyes go about making sure Noble isn’t overrun while mitigating danger from Chelsea’s midfield?
Perhaps, just like he did late in Newcastle last weekend, he could bring Manuel Lanzini into his attack with Pablo Fornals sinking a little deeper – sitting in central midfield next to Noble and the ever-reliable Tomas Soucek.
Mark Noble needs legs around him in West Ham’s midfield at London Stadium
By deploying Fornals in central midfield, Soucek should in turn jump forward more and give West Ham a different offensive dimension.
Without Rice for protection, the Czech Republic international has not been able to get onto the field as well as he would have liked.
Meanwhile, Lanzini’s inclusion could give West Ham a more brutal lead on the counterattack alongside Jarrod Bowen and Lingard.