By Dominic Toner
Paul Merson believes that N’Golo Kante can help nullify West Ham playmaker Dimitri Payet in Monday’s showdown against Chelsea.
The west Londoners signed the France midfielder for £30million this summer and he is expected to play a major role after helping Leicester to an likely Premier League title last season.
Merson has predicted West Ham to lose the match 2-0 and believes their star player Payet could struggle against compatriot Kante.
“If N’Golo Kante gets around Dimitri Payet, I don’t see Payet touching the ball too often,” Merson told Sky Sports. “He’s a top player and you don’t want to be giving away free-kicks around the box, but he’s not really going to run away from defenders.”
The pair were both a part of the France squad that finished as runners-up at Euro 2016 and will face up against each other at Stamford Bridge.
West Ham were unbeaten in the two league meetings with Chelsea last year, winning 2-1 at home and drawing 2-2 away due to a late Cesc Fabregas penalty.
Midfielder Payet was a key figure for West Ham last season and was a nominee for the PFA Player of the Year.
He joined West Ham from Marseille last summer for around £12.5million and was integral to the Hammers sensational season, scoring 12 goals and providing 14 assists in all competitions.
West Ham secured a seventh-placed finish in the Premier League season and a place in the Europa League qualifying rounds.
The Hammers have been given a boost ahead of the Chelsea tie with Cheikhou Kouyate, Pedro Obiang and Darren Randolph all available after picking up slight knocks.
Payet has been late returning to pre-season after his involvement in Euro 2016 but is expected to be in Slaven Bilic’s side.
In other West Ham team news, their senior player has revealed the unlikely reason for shaking off injury-prone tag.