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West Bromwich Albion


Stamford Bridge, London
Wednesday 13th January 2016, 1945 GMT

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Chelsea FC welcome Tony Pulis’ West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday, hoping to continue the good run of form that has seen them undefeated in their last five games in all competitions

 

After a somewhat shaky start under interim manager Guus Hiddink, recent results and performances have given Chelsea FC fans hope for a strong second half to what has been a nightmare season thus far for the Blues’ faithful.

With two back-to-back home games to come, Hiddink will be looking to build on the clean-sheet victories against Crystal Palace and Scunthorpe, starting with Wednesday’s clash against West Brom.

Meanwhile, the Baggies recently ended a run of five Premier League games without a win by winning their last two games — against Newcastle United and Stoke City at the Hawthorns — and will be looking to increase the three-point gap between themselves and the Premier League champions.

Team news and Tactics

Chelsea FC

The Blues have received a double injury-boost with strikers Diego Costa and Loïc Rémy declared fit to play, although Eden Hazard is unavailable as he continues his recovery from a groin injury. Colombia international Radamel Falcao has also been ruled out with a thigh injury, with no return date set as yet for the former Manchester United striker.

Hiddink is unlikely to deviate from a 4-2-3-1 formation, and given the resurgence of John Obi Mikel under the Dutchman, the defensive midfielder is likely to occupy one of the two holding midfield roles. Since the game is at Stamford Bridge against opposition that will likely defend deep, the creativity of Cesc Fàbregas will be useful, and the Spaniard looks set to partner Mikel in the midfield double-pivot.

Diego Costa’s timely recovery means he will lead the attack, while Hazard’s injury ensures that the attacking triumvirate behind the Brazil-born Spain international will continue to feature Brazilians Willian and Oscar, as well as former FC Barcelona winger Pedro.

An early goal for the Blues on Wednesday will be crucial in order to draw the away side out, which should give the hosts opportunities on the break. Although Hiddink’s men have not had problems scoring goals since his arrival, the absence of a player like Hazard in the final third could prove to be an issue for Chelsea FC against a Pulis side that will defend with two banks of four in their own half.

Possible starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Ivanović, Zouma, Terry (C), Azpilicueta; Mikel, Fàbregas; Willian, Oscar, Pedro; Diego Costa

West Bromwich Albion

Tony Pulis will have to wait on defender Jonas Olsson and striker Victor Anichebe, who are both doubtful with hamstring issues. In positive news, goalkeeper Ben Foster made his return in the FA Cup third round draw against Bristol City this past weekend, and will now compete with current first-choice Boaz Myhill for a place in the starting line-up.

West Brom have played in several different formations this season — including a 3-5-2 — but are likely to go for a more conservative 4-3-3 at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, with Claudio Yacob, Darren Fletcher and Craig Gardner playing in the central midfield roles. Quick wingers have caused Chelsea FC a lot of problems this season, and it was no different at the Hawthorns in August, when the Blues ran out 3-2 winners.

As such, Pulis might consider starting either of James McClean or Callum McManaman in one of the wide attacking roles. His recent teams suggest, however, that he is likely to stick with a narrower formation in order to congest the midfield and force the Blues out wide. Diego Costa is the only real aerial threat Chelsea FC possess from open play, but the experienced centre-back duo of Johnny Evans and Gareth McAuley will back themselves to deal with crosses from the flanks all day long.

Rickie Lambert started in the Baggies’ previous Premier League fixture, but is the type of striker that Zouma and Terry will only be too happy to face. The more mobile Salomón Rondón, or ideally, the out-of-favour Saido Berahino would likely cause more problems for the Blues’ back-line.

Possible starting line-up (4-3-3): Myhill; Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Brunt; Fletcher (C), Yacob, Gardner; Morrison, Sessègnon, Rondón

Key Facts

  • Chelsea FC have not lost at home in a top-flight match against West Brom since 1978, winning 10 and drawing 1 of their 11 encounters.
  • West Brom have not won three Premier League games in a row since 2012, but have the opportunity to do so against the Blues on Wednesday.
  • Chelsea FC have been undefeated in 25 of 26 games in all competitions under interim manager Guus Hiddink.
  • West Brom are the only Premier League side to have not scored a goal in the opening 15 minutes of a game this season.
  • Chelsea FC striker Diego Costa has scored 4 goals in his last 3 games in all competitions, after scoring the same number in 17 previous games.

Player to watch

Diego Costa

Chelsea v Watford

The former Atlético Madrid striker has had a poor season for the Blues, failing to build on a stellar début season in the Premier League which saw him find the back of the net 20 times. However, Diego Costa has seemingly benefited from a change in the managerial position at Stamford Bridge, scoring four times already since Guus Hiddink took over.

The Spain international also looks much sharper in terms of his link-up play, and now seems to be focussing more on the football than on directing his frustration at opposition defenders. Diego Costa is a man in form, and will be the one to watch on Wednesday.

Prediction

Chelsea FC 2 – 0 West Bromwich Albion

The Blues have won convincingly in their last two games, and seem to be building some momentum in the new year under interim boss Guus Hiddink. Playing Mikel in midfield has added more balance and defensive stability to the team, while Diego Costa’s return to form means the Blues now carry a greater goal-threat from open play. A home win is likely on Wednesday evening.

Blast from the past