WEST BROMWICH ALBION
Stamford Bridge, London
August 20, 2011, 16:30 GMT
Chelsea will play their first league match at Stamford Bridge this season, as they take on West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. The tea-time kick off could very well interest many football pundits and fans around the world, as all the eyes would be on the new manager, Andre Villas-Boas, as he makes his Stamford Bridge debut. The match would be the official home-coming for the Portuguese, after he had parted ways with the London club along with Jose Mourinho, in 2007.
The first game against Stoke City finished in a hard-fought draw for the Blues, despite dominating most of the game, more so in the second half. There is no attesting the fact that Andre Villas–Boas would be feeling the pressure, which comes along with the top job at Chelsea football club, especially after Chelsea failed to garner all three points in the season opener at Britannia Stadium. The club sits eleventh in the table, with Manchester United kick-starting their title-defence after a win over the same side which visits Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Manchester City made their intentions clear after thumping Swansea city, in style, at Etihad Stadium. The race to the title is up and running, as early as in the second week, and Chelsea would not like to lose too much ground at the start of the campaign.
The Baggies, on the other hand, will be no short of confidence as they travel to London after their gritty performance against the defending champions Manchester United. Albion fans were left lamenting their side’s loss after Ben Foster picked up the ball out of the net, following an unfortunate late own goal by Steven Reid. The manager, Roy Hodgson, who was infamously shown the door after Liverpool FC sacked the Englishman just after 27 weeks, has built a firm reputation of handling the ‘not so big’ clubs pity well. After finishing last season at a respectable eleventh position, the Baggies would certainly not be easy pushovers as they lock horns against an injury-wrecked Chelsea side.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas managed to raise quite a few eyebrows when he started with Fernando Torres up front in the last match against a physically strong Stoke City side. Fans have been debating that Torres had one of his best games in the blue shirt, as he was seen moving and swerving quite swiftly. Still far away from the form he has showcased during his days at Liverpool, the striker would once again be favorite to lead the attack, with Drogba expected to make an impact from the bench. The Stamford Bridge faithful could catch a glimpse of the club’s new Belgian signing, Romelu Lukaku, as he would be available for selection for the match, having officially completed his signing from Anderlecht. Florent Malouda is expected to start, exchanging passes with Ashley Cole and syncing overlaps on the left flank. Ivory Coast international Salomon Kalou was preferred on the right flank, but couldn’t influence the proceedings, and Anelka eventually had to be bought on to change things in the last match.
Center of midfield is the main concern for Chelsea as the lack of good, decisive through-balls and assists in the final third are haunting the west Londoners. Lampard alongside Ramires, would once again be expected to orchestrate the moves from the middle of the park, with the latter doing the box to box movement. The new number 6, Oriol Romeu, is also available for selection for the squad in this match, after the Spaniard returned from the U-20 World Cup and trained with the first team squad in Cobham. Josh McEachran is another perilous midfield weapon, which Villas-Boas could unleash, after his dominant performance on Asia pre-season tour. Mikel would start just in front of the most probable centre backs Terry and Alex, after Brazilian Luiz was ruled out of the fixture due to a prolonged injury problem. Jose Bosingwa did no harm to his contention for the right back position, after the Portuguese put in a good show at Britannia Stadium. Custodian Petr Cech is out for at least three weeks due to knee injury he picked up in training on Wednesday. Hilario would be the likely choice for this match.
Probable starting lineup: (4-3-3) Hilario, Bosingwa, Terry, Alex, Cole, Ramires, Mikel, Lampard, Malouda, Anelka, Torres.
West Bromwich Albion
Roy Hodgson is likely to deploy an unchanged starting eleve, which almost deservedly snatched a point of Manchester United at the Hawthorns last week. Opening their campaign against Man United, followed by Chelsea – fixtures which could easily be cited as the toughest for any team this season – West Brom certainly did show some teeth in their first game. New loan signing, Ben foster would once again be starting under the crossbar for the Albion, with Olsson and Tamas playing just in front of him. Steven Reid would combine with Brunt on the right flank, and Nickey Shorey will look to do the same with Morrison on the left. Both Morrison and Brunt are more than capable of floating in dangerous crosses for Tchoyi and the new record signing Shane Long, who was signed from Reading.
The good news for West Brom fans is that influential winger Peter Odemwingie is all set to start his new campaign, after sitting out the first game due to ankle injury. He signed a new contract, which would keep the Nigerian at the Hawthorns for three more years. Jerome Thomas is still ruled out due to a groin injury, and would miss the trip to London. Youssouf Mulumbu and Paul Scharner would form the engine of the team, with Mulumbu being assigned the dirty work of thwarting all Chelsea attacks. Dorrans is also fit, and was warming the bench on the opening day. Somen Tchoyi would be our man to watch out for, as the big Cameroonian would relish the chance of taking on the likes of Terry, Alex and Ivanovic, after his resolute performance gave Vidic and Ferdinand a run for their money at Hawthorns.
Probable starting lineup: (4-4-1-1) Foster, Reid, Olsson, Tamas, Nicky Shorey, Brunt, Scharner, Mulumbu, Morisson, Tchoyi, Odemwingie.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Fernando Torres (Chelsea): With a robust performance on the opening day, in a not so easy fixture, the Spaniard clearly echoed his intentions that he desperately he wants to prove a point to his critics. His clinical finishing is yet to be seen at Stamford Bridge, but El Nino is leaving no stone unturned to start the season on a positive note.
Chelsea 3 – 0 West Bromwich Albion
Chelsea has always been strong starters from past few seasons. The Blues got the better of Roberto Di Matteo’s side last season on the opening day, disturbing the scoreboard half a dozen times. Di Matteo, now part of the Villas-Boas team, would certainly offer some friendly advice to his players regarding the West Brom players and their tactics. It wouldn’t be wise to bet against Chelsea taking all three points on Saturday.