View on the Visitors - Chelsea

Freelance sports journalist Rob Maul lifts the lid Wednesday's visitors Chelsea

Chelsea have been top of the league for the majority of the season – what have you made of them?

“At times, Chelsea have been magnificent this season, especially during the 3-1 win over Burnley and the 5-0 away victories over Schalke and Swansea City. However, at times, they have been sloppy and complacent, most notably the 4-2 FA Cup defeat by Bradford.

"Nonetheless, you have to appreciate what Jose Mourinho has done, the way the Chelsea manager has managed to transform the squad over the past 12 months into serious title contenders. Their transfer activity has been very shrewd, with key deals for Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas done very swiftly at the start of last summer.”

Who, in particular, has been in good form for the Blues recently?

“New recruits Costa, with 17 Premier League goals, and Fabregas, with an astonishing 15 league assists, have really excelled in their first seasons at Stamford Bridge. The Serbian right-back Branislav Ivanovic has particularly impressed in recent weeks.”

Chelsea are going strong in several competitions, so do they have the strength to cope with all the fixtures?

“Yes, they do. But injuries to their first-choice goalkeeper and key defensive personnel would potentially damage their chances. Long, demanding seasons are hardly new for Chelsea. In the 2011/12, they played 61 matches in all competitions; 69 matches in 2012/13; and 57 matches last season. In those three seasons, Chelsea won three major trophies. So, the nucleus of this squad understands what it takes, the mentality that is needed, at the business end of a campaign.”

What have you made of West Ham United this season?

“Better than expected. But it’s important that the season doesn’t fade away now. A European place is within reach. New strikers Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia did fantastically well in the opening months. The full-backs Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Cresswell have been consistent. James Tomkins has developed into a centre-half of some substance.

“Beating Manchester City and then Liverpool at Upton Park were spectacular results. Fans were, understandably, angry by the manner of the 4-0 FA Cup exit at West Brom but that score line was an aberration; it was the first walloping the club had experienced since the 2014 Capital One Cup semi-finals. Certainly had it not been for a succession of injuries – as well as conceding last-minute equalisers in recent weeks – the Hammers would still be in the top six.”

A night game, a London derby, it should be a fantastic atmosphere. How do you think Chelsea fans will approach the game – would they take a point or go for all three?

“Given how they have played on their travels thus far, Chelsea fans would expect all three points. They have a decent record at Upton Park with six victories in eight visits in the Roman Abramovich era. That said, its promising to be quite the contest – midweek matches under floodlights in E13 against local rivals are always memorable, passionate occasions.”

What is your prediction for the score?

“Apologies to West Ham fans but, despite playing three days after the Capital One Cup final, Chelsea should be too strong. My prediction is 2-0 to the visitors from west London.”

Where will Chelsea finish come the end of the season?

“In the Premier League, they have, on paper, an easier run-in than nearest rivals Manchester City. In my opinion, it’s their title to lose.

"I expect them to overcome Paris Saint-Germain at home in the Champions League Round of 16 second leg – then it will depend on the composition of the quarter-final and semi-final draw. But, honestly, I can’t see them beating the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich over two legs.”