Premier League - Grant under pressure

Reuters - Fri, 10 Sep 12:34:00 2010

Premier League team news and stats ahead of the weekend's fixtures, with readers in the UK able to watch our exclusive videos.

Miss a Match? We didn't

Preview: West Ham v Chelsea

Table-topping Chelsea make the short trip across London to bottom-placed West Ham United on Saturday where they could terminally damage the chances of Avram Grant, their former coach, keeping his job.

While Carlo Ancelotti's champions have started the new season by winning their first three games with a goal tally of 14-0, the Hammers have stumbled to three successive defeats and, along with Stoke City, are the only club yet to collect a Premier League point.

With league action resuming after a two-week break, second-placed Arsenal host Bolton Wanderers. Tottenham Hotspur, England's fourth Champions League hopefuls, go to West Bromwich Albion looking to bounce back after their shock 1-0 home defeat by Wigan Athletic two weeks ago with new signings Rafael Van der Vaart and William Gallas set for their debuts.

Manchester City, whose cheque book is now closed after spending more than 120 million on players during the transfer window, entertain Blackburn Rovers. City are looking to hit back after losing 1-0 to Sunderland.

Win, lose or draw, all those clubs at least have points on the board, unlike the Hammers whose form has shown little improvement on last season's when they flirted with relegation after five years in the Premier League.

Although they survived, another former Chelsea hero, Gianfranco Zola, lost his job as manager and his replacement Grant is also having to endure anxious moments.

The 55-year-old Israeli, who spent his time at Portsmouth at the bottom of the table last season, is back in familiar territory with the Hammers, whose only goal in their opening three games was a penalty in a 3-1 home defeat by Bolton Wanderers.

More worryingly for Grant, who took Chelsea to within a shootout penalty of success in the 2008 Champions League final, West Ham have played badly in all three league matches. They even struggled to beat League Two Oxford United 1-0 in a League Cup tie.

Their last league match ended in a 3-0 thumping by Manchester United, prompting reports that Grant had three matches to save his job.

However, co-owner David Sullivan told the fans not to panic because the team was in a period of transition.

"We are building a new team under a new manager and transition is a tough time but game by game I anticipate an improvement over the coming months," Sullivan told the London Evening Standard.

"When we looked at the early fixtures we knew we faced a tough time but we only managed two points from the same fixtures last season."

Last season Chelsea hammered a nail into Zola's coffin when they crushed the Hammers 4-1 at Stamford Bridge in March and a similar scoreline would only add to the pressure on Grant.

In fact West Ham will be lucky to score even one goal.

Since conceding twice in a 2-1 defeat at Spurs in April, Chelsea have won their last six league matches with a staggering overall goal tally of 31-0.

Another man under the spotlight will be Gerard Houllier who takes charge of Aston Villa for the first time at Stoke City on Monday.

Reuters

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