The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
11 February 2014, 2000 GMT
Don’t let the incessant complaints from Jose Mourinho fool you. The way he’s complained about unfair scheduling, being the underdog and a whole host of other matters, you will be forgiven for having suspected his side was sitting outside the Europa League qualification spots. Currently sitting in top spot, albeit with City and Arsenal in close pursuit, Chelsea come face to face with a team that nearly wrecked one of Jose Mourinho’s most cherished records: that of never having lost a home league game a Stamford Bridge. It took a rather questionable penalty decision well past regulation time, from Andre Marriner to help Chelsea eke out a face-saving draw. Head of referees Mike Riley later apologized to West Brom in a move that did not go down well at Stamford Bridge, as Mourinho made very clear.
Any hopes West Brom may have had of exacting revenge, have taken an even bigger hit with a poor showing away at Crystal Palace last week. Pepe Mel’s side could only look on in dejection as Tom Ince and Joe Ledley, both making their debut, took the game away from them. West Brom will need to bring their A-game to the Chelsea encounter, and hope their crowd will provide the 12th man effect with flourish.
Chelsea will come out all guns blazing in a calculated bid of avoiding a repeat of the reverse fixture, where they left it too late and almost entirely to luck. Eden Hazard will again be key, should he play; there is after all the Manchester City FA tie to worry about too.
Team News and Tactics
West Bromwich Albion
The relegation threatened side will need to come out swinging, at home. If Chelsea thrive on managerial and boardroom chaos, it’s evident that West Brom don’t share the same fascination for self-flagellation. The departure of Steve Clarke, has meant West Brom have lacked on the tactical front when facing sides they should have drawn or won against.
West Brom have also been hard done by their unchanging 4-2-3-1 formation, with considerable space in the center for rival teams to exploit in midfield, especially in the absence of Stephane Sessegnon. With Jonas Olsson out of the defense, West Brom have looked shaky at the back and Pepe will likely rely on the experience of Diego Lugano to bolster central defense. McAuley whose performance left much to be desired will likely be picked over Dawson, for this big game.
Nicolas Anelka’s absence from the squad hits West Brom where it hurts, especially with Long and Odemwingie – goalscorers in last season’s fixture – long gone. Expect Scott Sinclair’s pace and trickery to be one of the few cards up West Brom’s sleeve, as the Manchester City star tries to make an impression in advanced midfield.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Foster (GK); Jones, Lugano, McAuley, Ridgewell; Mulumbu, Yacob; Sinclair, Morrison, Gera; Anichebe.
Chelsea will likely employ a more aggressive formation against a reeling West Brom. With Oscar having been largely mute in the game against Newcastle, expect Ramires to get the nod ahead of him. It remains to be seen if Eden Hazard will play all 90 minutes, and the hat-trick hero may only feature if Chelsea are desperate to score.
New signing Mohammed Salah, will get a test drive out on the field, after having embarrassed himself with two missed opportunities against Newcastle. The Egyptian, who clearly has loads of pace and an ability to run tangentially and outfox incoming defenders, will look to finally “arrive” on his big day. If he fails, Willian will be waiting on the sidelines to reclaim his spot.
Obi Mikel will get the nod ahead of Frank Lampard, and will partner the irrepressible David Luiz in midfield. John Terry may feature in the game too after having nursed a niggle in the previous game. Chelsea’s defense will likely be given license to roam up the field, in a bid to exert pressure on the flailing Baggies.
Jose Mourinho will roll out Fernando Torres who desperately needs a couple of goals under his belt, to give him enough of a boost for the remainder of the season. All in all, expect Chelsea to roll out a physically imposing side to counter West Brom.
Expected starting line-up (4-3-3): Cech (GK); Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta; Luiz, Mikel, Ramires; Hazard, Torres, Salah
- Chelsea have not conceded a goal in their last 4 away games
- West Brom have performed surprisingly well in their last 5 encounters with Chelsea, drawing one and winning two
- Chelsea’s biggest win over West Brom in the Premier League came in a 6-0 mauling in the 2010/11 season.
Player to Watch Out For
Mohammed Salah (Chelsea FC)
After two clear shots on goal that went begging to be converted, Mohammed Salah has already invited pressure on himself. Chelsea can be a hard place for young talent to thrive, and the West London side’s preference for players that have scored against it, has not always yielded positive results. Salah will undoubtedly be mindful that history is loaded against the likes of him, if he takes the field.
West Brom 1-3 Chelsea
The West London Blues’ midfield will likely be tested by a bossy approach to the game by West Brom. However, a taller than average starting line-up and a stern warning from Mourinho, should see Chelsea come out of the gates looking to put this game to rest in the very first half. West Brom are unlikely to score too many goals, with Terry marshaling the defense while Chelsea should be expected to run riot up front.