Premier League 17/18: Chelsea vs West Bromwich Albion – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Antonio Conte’s Blues will aim to avert a crisis when they host a Baggies side who are genuinely a club in trouble.
20:00 GMT, Monday 12th February, Stamford Bridge (London, England), Sky Sports
With only one league win this year, both clubs are facing campaigns that have delivered far less than pre-season expectations placed on them.
Antonio Conte’s side have struggled for consistency this season, possibly impeded by the extra games demanded of them by Champions League football.
Having slipped out of the top-four this weekend, Conte can reassert Chelsea’s credentials and restore a small amount of belief by claiming victory over a side yet to score against his team in any of their three previous encounters.
At the bottom of the table, West Brom have woefully failed to deliver on their hopes of building on a mid-table finish.
With only five league victories since this time last year, West Brom have turned to a manager promising attacking football but yet to deliver the consistency needed to halt their slide.
But while the Baggies have failed to win at Stamford Bridge since a 1-0 win in the League Cup back in 1983, Alan Pardew is looking to claim a win at Chelsea with a third different club, something that no other manager has achieved in the Premier League.
Last Time Out
Watford 4-1 Chelsea (Premier League)
Three late goals stung a 10-men Chelsea side who deserved little more from this game. Antonio Conte acknowledged after the game he had made mistakes regarding his team selection but it was a strong side, on paper at least, who failed to deliver for their manager.
Tiemoué Bakayoko caught the brunt of the headlines and the ire of the Chelsea fans when his inept performance in the opening half hour was rounded-off with a two-yellow, red card.
Bakayoko was far from the only player to underperform, with Pedro also guilty of doing more wrong than right.
At the tip of attack, Eden Hazard scored a wonderful goal, curled in from outside the area with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Beyond the spectacular, Hazard too was a peripheral figure in the game but while his goal was worthy of winning a point, Watford appeared antagonised in losing the lead and hit back with devastating effect against the beleaguered reigning champions.
West Brom 2-3 Southampton (Premier League)
The Baggies were dealt a serious blow to their survival hopes in an entertaining match which celebrated attacking football.
Preceded by a tribute to the late West Brom striker Cyrille Regis, it took just over 3 minutes for the Baggies to open the scoring.
Rather than pave the way for an assertive performance, Southampton quickly became the more commanding team. The midfield area was easily won by the Saints with Gareth Barry and Claudio Yacob unable to provide the finesse or energy levels required to stamp authority on the match.
Pardew did give Daniel Sturridge a first start for the Baggies, however, it was telling that the on-loan striker is short of match-time.
There was better news for his strike-partner Salomón Rondón whose battling display earned him a goal with the ball bouncing in from his shoulder. The 72nd-minute goal proved little more than a consolatory effort with the Saints three-goals from a 15-minute spell around the interval being too much for West Brom to overhaul.
Conte won’t have either Tiemoué Bakayoko (suspended) or Álvaro Morata who continues to struggle with a back problem but could welcome back Marcos Alonso who suffered a small muscular problem caused by fatigue.
Andreas Christensen (hamstring) is also likely to miss out while Ross Barkley (hamstring) is expected to start from the bench although, Olivier Giroud could be in line for his first start for the club.
West Brom Lineup
Pardew may not be facing the extensive injury list he had last weekend, however, he will still be without Nacer Chadli (thigh) James Morrison (Achilles) and Hal Robson-Kanu (knock).
Grzegorz Krychowiak (thigh) and Kieran Gibbs (Hamstring) are both expected to return on Monday although Jake Livermore (knock) Jonny Evans and (hamstring) both look as though they will fail to recover in time.
Key Battle: Oliver Giroud (Chelsea) vs Ahmed Hegazi (West Brom)
Chelsea have been without a physical presence in attack since Diego Costa was told by Conte that his services at the club were no longer required.
In buying Giroud from Arsenal last month, the Blues now have a player capable of offering both an aerial threat and a player who can hold up the ball high up the pitch. His place in the team will also allow Hazard more freedom to roam which will provide a double threat for the Baggies to be wary of.
Defending against him will be an Egyptian who has been one of few successes for the Baggies this season.
Hegazi is a strong opponent in the air and will relish the challenge provided by the ex-Arsenal forward. While the lack of pace from the central partnership of him and Gareth McAuley was fatally exposed against Southampton, either Jonny Evans or Craig Dawson alongside him could prove a formidable defence for the Blues to break down.
Gone but not forgotten
Much has been made lately of the players Chelsea have let slip through their fingers. From Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah to Arjen Robben, players at the top of the game have often moved away from West London to enjoy greater success on new pastures.
The most recent departure saw £33 million signing Michy Batshuayi only leave the club on loan, however, he’s already having a dramatic impact in his new environment. Three goals and an assist from his opening two games at Borussia Dortmund has seen him ably fill the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang-shaped hole at the Bundesliga club.
Despite this early flourish, Batshuayi may not have contributed the same for Chelsea if he’d found himself playing at Stamford Bridge over the past two weekend’s. This burst of end-product serves to highlight how ill-fitting the young Belgian striker is in the current Chelsea system.
Batshuayi certainly looks an effective player in Germany but whether Chelsea will ever be set up to play to his strengths in the future remains a question nobody can presently answer.
All but gone?
The last two weeks have proved uncomfortable viewing for West Brom fans. While the bottom of the Premier League table remains incredibly competitive on an almost unprecedented scale, the Baggies have slowly become marooned at the foot of the league.
The 4-0 win over Brighton which provided renewed hope has been extinguished by two defeats that have allowed their rivals to pull away. Currently sitting 5-points below 19th-placed Stoke City and seven points adrift of safety, West Brom watched six of the eight clubs directly above them pick up points this weekend.
What’s required now is a succession of wins to dig them out of trouble. For a team who have only managed one win since mid-August, this is a tall order.
With time running out and three of their final five league matches against teams currently in the top-four, they desperately need a win over last season’s champions rather than a morale-boosting draw, or worse.
Prediction: Chelsea 4-1 West Bromwich Albion
Daniel Sturridge will return to his former club tonight, once more aiming to put his stuttering career back on track. With relegation becoming a distinct possibility for the Baggies, Pardew’s side can be expected to approach this match with the same determination which served both Huddersfield and Newcastle so well this weekend.
Chelsea too are likely to play like a wounded animal and this game could display the gulf in class between opposite ends of the league and provide some temporary respite for the under-fire Chelsea boss.