Stamford Bridge, London
August 14, 2010, 9:55 PM IST
Last season’s winner of the double, Chelsea FC is all set to face off West Brom on Day One of the Barclays Premier League season 2010-2011 in a bid to defend their premiership title. The reigning champions are expected to secure a convincing victory to mark the start of the season on a positive note.
Chelsea have been going through a rough patch of late and they will want to arrest that run on Saturday. They have lost to Ajax, Eintracht Frankfurt and Hamburg on their pre-season travels. Their dismal pre-season run culminated in a resounding 3-1 defeat at the hands of their title rivals Manchester United in the FA Community Shield match.
Though Chelsea were not at their best during the entire pre-season, their record for the season kick off has been impressive of late. Chelsea have managed to win their opening game ten times in eleven seasons. Moreover, they have not lost any matches against a newly promoted side in the last 55 fixtures. Ballack, Deco, Joe Cole, Beletti and Carvalho have been offloaded. The only addition to the senior team has been Benayoun so far. Ancelotti is interested in signing a couple of more players before the transfer window closes.
The Blues have been heavily linked with three Brazilians Ramires (signing comfirmed just a few hours back), Neymar and David Luiz. Petr Cech was out injured for the entire pre-season and Chelsea are hoping that he returns on Saturday to offer confidence in the goal as his replacement duo Hialrio and Turnbull have had a dreadful pre-season. Drogba and Essien are back to match fitness and are expected to be in the starting line up. Alex is out with a thigh problem and it is expected that Ivanovic will play a more central role alongside Terry and Ferreira to play on the right side of defense. On the other hand West Brom finished second place in Football League Championship to secure automatic promotion to the Premier League. This is their fourth return to the premier league in the last ten years earning them the nickname of the “yo-yos” of English football.
The Baggies made a solid start ahead of the Premier League kick-off. They have lost only once in their last five pre-season games. They salvaged a draw against Osasuna in their last warm up game. Former Chelsea star Roberto Di Matteo, who now coaches West Brom, knows his side face a baptism of fire after they won promotion from the Championship. The Italian, who had spent six fruitful years in Chelsea, is fondly remembered by Blues fans for two FA Cup final goals. He was also selected in the squad of Chelsea’s greatest ever XI. It would be interesting to see how the fans welcome one of their heroes. History shows that West Brom have only managed to win their season opener once in 12 occasion. Three of their first four games are against Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham. They will again meet with these three teams in April as well, so their end of season hopes for points are dim as well.
The Baggies sold off one of their heroes of last season, Robert Koren, to Hull City. Since the promotion they have been busy in the hunt for defenders and attackers. Pablo Ibanez and Nicky Shorey were brought in to strengthen the defense. The hunt for a striker is still on and they’ve been linked with James Beattie and PSV Eindhoven’s Marcus Berg. A bid to sign Liverpool’s David N’Gog on loan looks to have failed. They are also interested in signing former United player Djemba-Djemba. Boaz Myhill has been signed to deputize Scott Carson. Scotland international Graham Dorrans is causing Di Matteo some concern as he is currently troubled by a groin injury and was taken off during their friendly against Sweden. Ibanez is expected to recover from a minor problem. Strikers Roman Bednar, Luke Moore and Simon Cox are all struggling for fitness. After the signing of Boaz Myhill, Matteo must be in a dilemma trying to decide whom to make their first choice keeper as Scott Carson was last season’s starting keeper and captain.
Head To Head Record:
Chelsea have won their last 10 encounters against West Brom. Chelsea did a double over West Brom two seasons back. The Londoners obliged themselves with a 3-0 win at The Hawthorns and backed it up with a 2-0 triumph at the Bridge.
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch Out For: Didier Drogba(Chelsea)
Last season’s Golden Boot winner had an indifferent World Cup campaign and missed most of the pre-season because of injury. He must be hungry for goals and a home game against West Brom would be the ideal platform for him to start the season on a high.