Antonio Conte and his men will play host to Tony Pulis’ West Bromwich Albion as Chelsea look to win their ninth consecutive Premier League game and extend their lead on the top

The league leaders come up against an 8th placed West Brom who are just finding their feet this season and trying string together a good run of results. Antonio Conte’s men will be desperate to continue this good form and at the minimum try and maintain, if not extend their lead at the top of the table.

A Tony Pulis managed West Brom will certainly prove to be a new kind of test for Conte’s Chelsea, who will certainly be feeling the pressure of being title contenders and the Baggies will go into this tie knowing that they’re the underdogs who have nothing to lose.

Tactics and Probable Lineups

Chelsea

The Blues will be without Captain John Terry and Oscar will not feature as he is out with an illness. Nemanja Matic is back in contention for a starting place after missing out against Manchester City, which likely means Cesc Fabregas will once again be resigned to the bench.

Kurt Zouma and Marco Van Ginkel are still playing for the reserves in a bid to get back to full fitness, but it is unlikely they will feature in the squad.

With midweek matches coming up, there exists the possibility that Conte may want to switch things up a little and rotate his squad, but he would likely still go with the usual starting XI and choose to rotate for Sunderland during midweek. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill and David Luiz will retain their places in the squad.

Chelsea's Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas runs during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on December 3, 2016. / AFP / Paul ELLIS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Chelsea’s Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas runs during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on December 3, 2016. / AFP

The presence of Matic and Chalobah gives Conte a selection headache, one which he will be pleased to have. Fabregas had a great game against Manchester City last week and will probably feature in this game in some capacity, probably from the bench. Moses, who is irreplaceable in this squad will start at right wing-back and Marcos Alonso will start on the left.

Willian had a good game against City last week, where he notched his side’s winner and Conte will have to choose between him and Pedro, who has seemingly rolled back the years to his Barcelona days and seems fantastic this season.

Costa has been in fantastic form this season and will surely lead the line but summer acquisition Michy Batshuayi will be desperate for a chance to impress, but given Costa’s form, he will have to be content with a place on the bench.

Chelsea will have to make good use of their possession as it’s expected that they will enjoy the lion’s share of it in this tie. The Baggies will put pressure on their midfield from the get go and pressurize them into making errors, much like how Tottenham and Manchester City tried to. The Blues will also have to be wary of being caught out on counter attacks.

Predicted Starting XI (3-4-3): Courtois; Cahill, Luiz, Azpilicueta; Moses, Matic, Kante, Alonso; Pedro, Costa, Hazard
Chelsea

West Bromwich Albion

Only second-choice keeper Boaz Myhill isn’t available for the selection for Tony Pulis, and he will have a full strength squad to pick from with no injuries or suspensions. Craig Dawson, Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans and Allan Nyom will likely make up Pulis’ back four.

Darren Fletcher and Yacob will be a part of the pivot who will be tasked with the keeping N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic at bay, whilst also helping in the transition from defence to attack, when they get the opportunity.

Chris Brunt, Nacer Chadli and Matt Phillips will make up the attacking trio in midfield and Salomon Rondon, is expected to start and lead the Baggies attack in place of Saido Berahino.

Against Chelsea, they will likely have to sit deep and defend and put pressure on the Blues for prolonged periods of time. Chances for Rondon will be few and far between when he comes up against what is currently the best defensive setup in the league, so the Venezuelan will have to be on his guard.

West Bromwich Albion's Venezuelan striker Salomon Rondon strikes the ball during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and West Ham United at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, central England, on September 17, 2016. / AFP / BEN STANSALL / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

West Bromwich Albion’s Venezuelan striker Salomon Rondon strikes the ball during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and West Ham United at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, central England, on September 17, 2016.( BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Like any typical Tony Pulis side, West Brom’s strategy will be centered around defensive solidity and not conceding any goals, or in this case, the minimum amount. This is often done at the expense of keeping possession. The emphasis placed on defence doesn’t allow for the opportunities to get full fledged chances on a regular basis, restricting them to half chances and extending periods of keeping possession, which could ultimately leads to a mistake.

However, defending deep, in numbers and staying extremely compact as a unit has its misgivings. Emphasis on not conceding has a direct effect on the attacking aspect of their game. Chances created will be few and far in between and the attackers will have a limited number of opportunities to get on the scoresheet , with the focus more on counter attacks and set pieces.

Predicted Starting XI (4-2-3-1):  Foster; Nyom, Evans, McAuley, Dawson; Yacob, Fletcher; Phillips, Chadli, Brunt; Rondon
West Brom

Key Statistics

  • The last time West Bromwich Albion won at Stamford Bridge was in 1978.
  • Chelsea’s Eden Hazard is currently on 49 Premier League goals.
  • Chelsea are on course to win their 9th consecutive Premier League match.
  • West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis has lost only 1 match in his last 4 meetings against Chelsea.
  • Chelsea have won only 3 out of the last 9 matches against West Bromwich Albion.
  • West Bromwich Albion have won only 1 of their last 6 away games.
  • Referee Mike Dean has awarded the most number of penalties and red cards this campaign.

Players To Watch

Chelsea: Diego Costa

Chelsea's Brazilian-born Spanish striker Diego Costa celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on December 3, 2016. / AFP / Paul ELLIS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Chelsea’s Brazilian-born Spanish striker Diego Costa celebrates scoring his team’s first goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on December 3, 2016. / AFP

The Spaniard has been in a phenomenal form this season and he continued his good form last week, scoring his side’s equalizer. He was duly rewarded with the Player Of The Month award for November and his 11 goals in 14 Premier League matches this season have seen him storm to the top of the Premier League scoring charts alongside Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez.

He has a fine record against West Brom, scoring 2 and assisting 1 goal in last four games against the Baggies and Conte, his colleagues and the fans will certainly hope he can add to that record at Stamford Bridge.

West Bromwich Albion: Ben Foster

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Ben Foster of West Bromwich Albion shouts instructions during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Tottenham Hotspur at The Hawthorns on October 15, 2016 in West Bromwich, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 15: Ben Foster of West Bromwich Albion shouts instructions during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Tottenham Hotspur at The Hawthorns on October 15, 2016 in West Bromwich, England. (Photo courtest Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

The Baggies have kept only 3 clean sheets this term it is safe to say that defensively, they aren’t performing at the same level as they did last year.

The 33-year-old Englishman is currently enjoying a decent run of form, but if West Brom are going into this tie with the intention to win or even salvage draw, Foster will have to be at his very best when he comes up against the likes of Hazard and Diego Costa. How he manages to keep out Chelsea’s fearsome attack and keep the damage to a minimum will be interesting to watch.

Betting odds

Favourable Bets:

1. Over 1.5 Chelsea cards @ 1.83
2. Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.65

Underdog Bets:

1. Full Time Result – Draw @ 6.00

Prediction

Chelsea 3-0 West Bromwich Albion

With Chelsea’s current run of form and West Brom’s defensive record, it should be a sure 3 points for the Blues. Given the quality that the Blues possess within their ranks, a 3 or 4 goal margin in Chelsea’s favour wouldn’t seem too far fetched.

However, Tony Pulis has managed to churn out unlikely results against Chelsea in previous seasons and will certainly believe that he can do the same when they face the league leaders at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea can’t afford to be overconfident going into this match, and is wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the only one who can make life difficult for them against the Baggies are themselves.

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