Chelsea take on West Brom in their next Premiership game when they pay a visit to The Hawthorns this Saturday. Chelsea are currently at fifth spot, level on points with Arsenal, but trailing them in goal difference. A victory over the Baggies could open up a chance for Chelsea to re-enter the top four position as nearest rivals Arsenal travel to Anfield for their next game.
Roy Hodgson’s men were flirting with relegation in recent past. With one victory in seven Premier League games, they were certainly staring down the barrel for a fight to stay up. But somehow the Baggies have managed to call a halt to their poor run of form. And what a way to do so! West Brom have not only won their last two games, they literally bombarded the opposition net, scoring nine goals in the process and conceded only once. If the 5-1 victory over Wolves was considered as a one-off case, the 4-0 battering they handed to Sunderland did earn plaudits from pundits.
The Baggies are currently at thirteenth place in the table. Good news for them is that four sides – Sunderland, Everton, Fulham and Stoke City are just one point ahead of them. If they somehow manage to beat Chelsea, they could sneak into the top ten. Bad news for the Baggies is that, they are the Bogey team of the Blues. West Brom have lost all their last 11 meetings against their London rivals. A lot will depend on in-form Nigerian International, Peter Odemwingie and the fitness of Jerome Thomas if West Brom are looking forward to turn the table around against their long time nemesis.
In their last outing, against Bolton, Chelsea did finally manage to win their first game in five matches in the Premier League. The victory did take Chelsea back to top four, only for a short while though, as Arsenal bludgeoned Spurs on the very next day to snatch it back from Chelsea. Despite the much awaited victory, Chelsea have concerns on both on and off the field. Drogba limped off in the victory against the Trotters, while late substitute Torres took his tally of fruitless appearances to 21 games.
As if to make matters worse for Chelsea, rumors are doing rounds that there is unrest in the team. The cause of furor is the statements released mentioning that there is tension between the coach and the senior players. Recent media updates suggest that David Luiz has lambasted teammate Lampard for the latter’s alleged dispute with the coach.
However, Petr Cech showed more interest in football related matters as he voiced the target of the club in the up coming games, “The mood always derives from results so the mood is better. We still have a chance to finish third but our aim is to finish fourth as the worst case scenario. I still believe things will turn for the better and our season will be successful.”
Team News and Tactical Brief
West Bromwich Albion
West Brom are waiting on the fitness news of skipper Chris Brunt who has been practicing with the squad since the last week. Brunt has not taken the field since the New Year’s day fixture. Even Jerome Thomas has a niggling strain but is expected to play.
Roy Hodgson tactical brilliance has transformed the Baggies into an attacking team. Attack has been concentrated down the wings. The strategy to make Odemwingie play down the wings has paid rich dividends. Even Jerome Thomas has taken the winger’s role as a duck to water. Lone man upfront, Fortune, too has hit a rich vein of form. Midfielder Keith Andrews has scored in the last two games and has shown great composure with the ball. West Brom would like to sit back and hit back hard on the counter, exploiting Chelsea’s slow tempo.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-3-3): Foster, Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Andrews, Scharner, Morrison, Odemwingie, Thomas, Fortune.
Jose Bosingwa is likely to miss the tie with Ivanovic taking his place. Terry will remain unavailable for a significant period. So, it is a good time for Cahill to get habituated with Chelsea’s defensive organization and the fans would love nothing more if he can recreate his Wednesday night heroics for the Three Lions in the upcoming game. Drogba has a knee injury and could miss this clash, while Ashley Cole is likely to take the field.
Villas-Boas is expected to deploy a 4-3-3 formation against a side renowned to have a fragile defense. Attack will be concentrated mainly down the flanks with both wide-midfielders being supported by the overlapping runs of the full-backs to get any positive purchase. Last week Chelsea had a field day at Stamford Bridge. Lampard, who finally got a starting role, scored in the end for the team. He is expected to start in this game as well, meaning that Mata will have to play down the left flank. Torres is likely to play in this game following Drogba’s injury, with Sturridge playing the auxiliary goal-scorers’ role with his movements by drifting in and out of the penalty box.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-3-3): Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Cole, Ramires, Essien, Mata, Lampard, Sturridge, Torres.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Peter Odemwingie (West Bromwich Albion)
The Nigerian International has hit a purple patch in his career. Odemwingie seems to relish every moment of his new position in the field – of that of a winger. He has scored five goals in his last two outings for the Baggies including a hat-trick in the Black Country derby. Odemwingie could make life difficult for the slow Chelsea defense with his trickeries and lightning pace.
West Brom 2-2 Chelsea FC
Both teams are expected to play in their attacking formats. As the game wears on, it will become more and more stretched, the game will definitely see lots of goals scored. This is the best chance for West Brom to stop Chelsea’s dominance over them, in many years to come. A stalemate on the cards!
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST