Why The Premier League Is Now Secondary For Both Chelsea And West Ham

The London rivals meet this weekend, but attention may be elsewhere
08:00, 24 Apr 2022

As West Ham cross the capital today to take on Chelsea, with both sides in the race for the top four, we can expect a firecracker of a game at Stamford Bridge. But with more empty seats expected in West London due to the sanctions imposed on the club, both sides will be forgiven for casting half an eye on what is to come. 

David Moyes’ side have been the overachievers in the Premier League this term and are currently the best of the rest, the highest-ranked side outside the top six. They still have an outside chance of making the top four, but with every week that passes, the games are running out for them to close the gap. 

Instead, it is in Europe where the Hammers are making waves. An outstanding away win in Lyon goes down as one the best results in the club’s history and now they are into their first major European semi-final for 46 years. Anything else for West Ham this season is now secondary, even though they could secure a place in next season’s Europa League with a strong finish to the season. 

On Thursday, they host Eintracht Frankfurt in front of a sold out London Stadium in the biggest game for a generation. Feasibly, Moyes could consider resting some of his big guns for that European encounter as an injury against Chelsea for someone like Declan Rice would be nothing short of a disaster for West Ham’s dreams of European glory. 

If West Ham fans were polled on whether to finish in the top four, or lift the Europa League in May, not a single soul would go down the Premier League route. It is utterly unanimous that this cup run has given West Ham fans dreams that they wouldn’t swap for anything. Plus the reward is the same, a place in the Champions League. 

For Chelsea, it's slightly different. Real Madrid put an end to the Blues’ hopes of retaining their Champions League title and now they seem like they are coasting in the league. Despite their defeat to Arsenal last time out, they maintain a five point advantage over both north London outfits, and boast a game in hand. 

Given Arsenal still have to travel to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, it would take a collapse of preposterous proportions for Chelsea to miss out on Champions League football next year. They seem in slight disarray, Cesar Azpilicueta’s angry reaction at a fan at full-time showed that cracks may be starting to appear for Thomas Tuchel’s side, but they should have enough to get over the line in the league. 

For years, we have been reminded of the importance of every single Premier League by broadcasters that have paid huge amounts to show the games, so they won’t play it down, but neither side will take a defeat too harshly this weekend.

With no Champions League football for the remainder of the season, Chelsea can now turn their attention to making sure they win some silverware this season. Liverpool got the better of them in the League Cup final on penalties back in February, but Tuchel will get another crack at beating his countryman Jurgen Klopp at Wembley. 

The FA Cup could well be where Liverpool slip up in their bid to win an unprecedented quadruple. The Reds are so focused in fighting on a European front, and desperate to chase down Manchester City in the league, that Chelsea could well throw a spanner in the works. Only a penalty miss from Kepa gave Liverpool the win in February, and Chelsea matched Liverpool for the entire 120 minutes. 

For the success of their tumultuous season, they need to win the FA Cup. They won’t be resting players for that final in May quite yet, but as the final approaches, it will take on increased importance. 

For West Ham, it's rare that an away day at Chelsea is not the biggest game of their week, but it just speaks of the outstanding progress the club has made. It will still be an intriguing watch at Stamford Bridge, but clearly priorities lie elsewhere. 

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