The Hawthorns, Birmingham
Sunday, 23rd August 1230 GMT
In what already is being billed as a relegation six-pointer this early on in the season, champions Chelsea take on fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion in Englanda s second city, 130 miles north-west from its first. The Hawthorns isna t the ideal place to play for the opposition at the best of times, for an under-pressure team like Chelsea, the noise is sure to go up a few decibels.
Tony Pulisa team have had the better of Jose Mourninhoa s team the past few times and with the way things are going at the Bridge at the moment, it might be the best time to play them. A 3-0 defeat last time the champions visited The Hawthorns is a sure reminder of the capabilities of this side. However, transfer rumours going around their best player last season a Saido Berahino a is sure to have disrupted the mental peace in the camp. It remains to be seen what effect it has on the player, and perhaps more importantly, the team.
With more headlines being made off the pitch, traditional strong starters Chelsea have just a point from 2 games and are looking, for the first time in a while, vulnerable. However, with virtually infinite cash at his disposal, Mourinho finally got his way in the transfer window and brought in much needed fresh legs into the team. Baba Rahman from FC Augsburg and Pedro from Barcelona have injected fresh blood into a somewhat aging team.
Team news and tactics
West Bromwich Albion
As far as the injury list is concerned, only Ben Foster is a long-term absentee worry for Pulis. Serge Gnabry, who wasna t match fit previously, could make this debut in a Baggies shirt.
The home side will line up in a 4-4-2 formation with Berahino and Ricky Lambert leading the attack up front. Darren Fletcher usually sits deep in the midfield in front of the two centre halves, which could be the formation adopted this time around to counter the threat of the star-studded Chelsea midfield. Additionally, Gnabry will use his defensive ability on the right side of midfield to counter Eden Hazard, and possibly Pedro if they switch wings. An unsettled striker is never good for a team, but Berahino will be looking to sign off (if that is indeed what happens) on a positive note in front of the Baggies faithful.
With Pulis on the verge of completing a move for Tottenham man Fazio, he probably needs to look at his attacking options. They havena t managed to score in the two games so far. A laboured looking Chelsea defence is their best bet for a counter-attack with the pacy Berahino looking to cut through the Terry-Cahill wall.
Possible lineup (4-4-2): Myhill (GK), Chester, Dawson, Lescott, Brunt; Gnabry, Fletcher, Morrison, McManaman; Berahino, Lambert
Only Oscar and Victor Moses are definitely out of contention for this match, while the rest of the squad is available for selection. New boys Rahman and Pedro might be given a chance at some time during the match, with the former even in contention to start, having trained for the whole week with the squad.
No change in formation is expected though, with a 4-2-3-1 shape. Diego Costa will lead the line up front with possibly Cesc Fabregas right behind him in a number 10 role. It might be too early for Pedro to start, hence Ramires could return to his deep-sitting role in midfield with Willian and Hazard on the wings. The Spanish duo up front hasna t shown any sign of threat so far, but this could be the match to turn things around. Thibaut Courtois will be back between the sticks although Asmir Begovic turned out to be more than an able number two in the last match.
The defence, however, does not pick itself this time around with Branislav Ivanovic struggling to make a tackle and John Terry being subbed-off at half time during the trip to The Etihad. Our best bet is that Rahman will start at left-back with Cesar Azpilicueta moving to his favoured right-back role. Terry and Cahill should retain their place in the center, but Kurt Zouma could feature again in place of either of them.
Possible lineup (4-2-3-1): Courtois (GK), Rahman, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Matic; Hazard, Fabregas, Willian; Costa
Player to watch out for
Even though he might not have the best player in the world playing in front of him anymore, Pedro is still a threat to any opponent he faces. He was the engine room behind Barcelonaa s front three and it will be interesting to see how he fits into the a Mourinho moulda of a player. Although he may only play a bit part role this match, his first impression on his new set of fans could be a lasting one.
- The 3-0 defeat of Chelsea last season still remains the joint-heaviest margin of defeat that Mourinho has suffered so far in the Premier League
- Tony Pulis will be looking to become the first manager to beat Mourinho thrice in the Premier League.
- West Brom are only one of two teams in the Premier League yet to score a goal
- Chelsea have kept only one clean sheet in their last 7 games
West Brom 1 a 2 Chelsea
A must-win game for the champions this early in the season should motivate the players enough to get home the three points. The home side will provide a fight, but the champions should get their title defence back on track.
Blast from the past