Chelsea v West Ham United

The good news is that Preview Percy has lost his voice. The bad news is that he can still write. Here's his look at this weekend's trip to Chelsea...

Next up we slip along the District Line to Fulham Broadway where we will be hosted by Chelsea. Kick-off is 3pm. Talking about the District Line, a fair chunk of it is shut around the Tower Hill area. There's also something similar happening around the Marks Tey area. Check before you leave as ever.

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I've noticed a bit of an attempt at revisionism amongst their support of late. In the past even the most brazen of them would concede that, without Abrahamovic's somewhat blood-stained billions they wouldn't have amounted to much over the last 15 years or so.

However, there has been a trend to downplay this aspect of late to the extent that one of them actually told me that their success since Abrahmovic arrived was little more than coincidence. And he said it with a straight face. Really.

As if to prove that money does have an effect, they are having a decent season under a manager whose managerial experience up to this season had been to see Derby fail to get promotion last season. Who'd have thought a manager could improve so much given a multi-billion pound squad to play with?

Of course, it has probably been to Fat Boy's benefit that he has been unable to actually spend any of those laundered roubles to date. They have been operating under a transfer ban, a result of 150 different infringements of the rules relating to the signing of Under 18 players. There is an appeal outstanding on that and they have hinted that they will go on a spending spree in January if they are allowed to.

This is likely to affect their younger players some of whom have benefited from the ban to the extent that Chelsea supporters - in particular the ones who think their success had nothing to do with the Russian Aluminium Wars - have now been giving it large about their youth system, a system the existence of which they had been blissfully unaware for the last 15 years or so.

Another effect of the ban has been to reduce number of players out on loan. Last season at one stage they had over 40 out plying their trade elsewhere. At the time of writing the number is 28. Still a silly number but a lot less than before. I'm guessing that the number will be reduced by one in January when the current deal involving Danny Drinkwater comes to an end - see my Burnley preview for the details of that particular soap opera.

As Daisy, the personal assistant with the beautiful smile, was quick to point out, the fact that they were in the middle of a transfer ban didn't mean that they didn't spend any money. However, despite them sending ?40.5m over to Real Madrid you'd be hard pushed to describe Mateo Kovacic as a new player, his deal having been the conversion of a loan to permanent deal that was agreed in August 2018, thus avoiding the ban.

With PGMOL having decided to award the Premier League to Liverpool this season, it looks like they are wrestling with Man City and Leicester for the remaining positions within the top four. At present they are fourth, a comfortable seven points clear of Wolves in the Thursday Night League slot. Their recent good run - six consecutive wins prior to last weekend, came to a halt up at the Etihad where they went down 2-1, Leicester's current good form leaves them in second on 29 points, Man City third on 28 with the Pensioners a couple of points back on 26.

Meanwhile they are hanging on in the so-called Champions League at present. They had to come back from 2-0 down to nick a point at Valencia the other night. This leaves them level with the Spaniards on eight points, a scenario that sees them looking at a return to the Thursday Night League. However, they do have a final match to come against group whipping-boys Lille so bearing that in mind they have a good chance of making the k/o stages.

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Top scorer at present is Tammy - real name "Kevin" - Abraham. He has got 10 in the league which, if whilst it may not be enough for him to keep his place if the purported spending spree ends up taking place, it ought to be enough to keep him in and around the first XI.

Next on the chart with five goals is USA Captain with a convenient (for the time being) Croatian passport Christian Pusilic. I'd be willing to bet that Pusilic is the only Croatian national to have played international football for the USA to have begun their football career as a youth team player with Brackley Town. Probably.

And so to our look at the wild and wacky world of Association Football. Those of you who have been reading this column over the years may remember an occasional feature that went by the title: "Daft Injury Of The Week".

Well we have a contender for this week in the form of Southampton's Sofiane Boufal. He is a doubt for this weekend's "relegation six-pointer" against Watford due to a toe injury sustained when he "ran into the kitchen and hit it on the table - something like that" to quote his manager. Look out for Southampton scouts at your local Ikea over the next few weeks then.

Meanwhile, Manchester City's owners, whose attitude to human rights is second to none, our lawyers seem to think, have added an eighth club to their portfolio by purchasing Indian outfit Mumbai City. Presumably they don't have a Financial Fair Play regime down there at the moment. You can't help feeling that they have missed a trick - if they had beaten Liverpool to a controlling interest in PGMOL instead we might have a closer top four in the Premier League.

And us? Another week another dreadful performance. I am all for tactical innovation but this ludicrous experiment of playing without a goalkeeper has, surely run its course. Yes, I know that when a 'keeper makes a mistake the very nature of the role tends to make such errors costly. However, whilst one can chalk up the occasional gaffe to being "one of those things" we are now at the stage with Roberto where these errors are becoming the norm rather than the exception.

There comes a time where you just have to say enough is enough. Unfortunately, that time was a few weeks ago. I really can see no justification for keeping Roberto in place in the hope that he will come good - that's been tried without success already.

The problem with the team is that we are ok until the first goal goes in. Then we go to pieces. Newcastle, Burnley and now this one. The major concern is as to what will happen when we come up against someone, who, unlike Spurs, might be half-decent. Like this weekend for example.

Of course, there is healthy debate about Roberto's standard of play, unlike that of Michael Oliver in the middle. Now I am in no way blaming the gormless official for the defeat - I'd like to make that quite clear. However, that performance by Oliver was nothing short of disgraceful. Issa Diop will be missing from the Chelsea game due to a suspension that arises from a decision so perverse it beggars belief.

Sometimes you can make a case for a referee by saying that he had the "wrong angle" or was in some other way "unsighted". This was not the case here. Oliver had a clear view throughout. There are only two explanations for the decision then: either Oliver isn't aware that hauling a player to the ground constitutes a foul under Law 12 of the laws of the game or, for some reason he decided to give a deliberately incorrect decision for some unknown personal reason.

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I'm leaning toward the latter based on the fact that the "Diop Incident" was far from an isolated one. Kane was continually picked up for those snidey little fouls that would see him receive a deserved kicking at a lower level but strangely none of those seemed to be worthy of a yellow card. It was only Snodgrass's retaliation that finally saw the card come out - though the suspicion is that had had Snoddy not reacted to what was Kane's SEVENTH yellow card offence he'd have carried on unpunished.

One should also remember that Oliver was in charge for Liverpool's defeat of Man City not that long ago, a match in which that he might well have just stuck on a red shirt and have had done with it. That match ended with a formal complaint being made to PGMOL, the result of which was Riley sticking two fingers up at the game and saying "we do what we like" before adding the complaint to the recycling pile that now reaches 200ft above their HQ.

Of course there will be no action taken against Oliver because PGMOL have pretty much established that no matter how poor, biased or bent a referee is it will always be a bigger offence in football for a manager to question a referee's integrity than it ever will be for a referee to deliberately affect a match for their own purposes. All of you who keep defending them? This is your legacy.

The one bright spark of the whole debacle was the return of Michail Antonio who made a nuisance of himself and moved about more in his 45 minutes than we have seen from our forward(s) all season since, well since Antonio got injured. He took his goal well as well. Keep those hamstrings warm son.

Talking of hamstrings, we are down to two injuries. Matron bumped into Fabianski last weekend. Well, not literally - we need him back asap. Fabianski's response to the question "how long?", once a totally avoidable misunderstanding that made Matron blush had been cleared up, was "two weeks".

The official line is that it may be a week or two longer but we will cling to the hope that the No.1 will be back soon and that we can pick up a decent backup in the window. The other absentee will be Lanzini whose sickener up at Burnley made a cold, wet and miserable afternoon even more miserable than one might have thought possible up to that moment. Diop will be the other absentee of course.

So to the prediction. Well if we throw in the towel against a team as rank average as Spurs gawd alone knows what will happen with this match. Antonio's return notwithstanding, having a keeper whose lack of self-confidence is matched by the delivery of kittens seemingly received by his team-mates every time the ball comes near him does not bode well. So you won't be surprised if the ?2.50 I was going to send to Michael Oliver to try and establish the going rate to buy a match official, goes instead on a home win. Mr Winstone please give me odds on the optimistic full time score being 4-0 to the home team.

Enjoy the game!

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When Last We Met At The Money Laundry: Lost 2-0 (Premier League April 2019)

Madrid-bound Eden Hazard was the difference between the two sides, his brace inbetween dives putting the home support in denial as to his impending departure.

Referee: Jonathan Moss

The man who managed to get an FA Cup Final appointment simply by being the only referee who hadn't already done it with no connection to either of the finalists. Says it all really.

Danger Man: Tammy Abraham

Looked to have found his level in the Championship with Villa and who knows, he may have ended up there permanently had there not been a transfer ban.

Percy's Poser

Last time out we left you with the following desperate attempt from the Brighton & Hove Online website to get a local angle on a news story::

"Former Brighton trialist enters XXXXXXXXX XXXXXX"

Congratulations to Maisie Orthopaedic-Insert of Debden who correctly identified the missing words as "Celebrity Jungle", the story referring to Ian Wright who is apparently now appearing on some nonsense tv programme or another involving Ant and/or Dec and Australia. Sounds like my idea of hell even before you throw Ian Wright into the mix.

This week, in honour of Man City's new sister club we visit India from which we have obtained the following headline, from which some key words have been removed:

Indian minister slams loose morals of XXXXXXXXX XXXXX

Good luck everybody!

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