Chelsea will hope to build on their immense Carabao Cup victory against Barnsley when they travel to The Hawthorns to face off against West Bromwich Albion.
After an incredible transfer window, Chelsea’s start to life in the Premier League has already seen a high and a low, with an opening day victory against Brighton & Hove Albion, followed by a defeat at the hands of the defending champions Liverpool.
During the two games, it was evident that the injuries in the squad forced Frank Lampard to play a complicated setup with the likes of Kai Havertz and Mason Mount occupying the wing in the first game, and then Timo Werner on the left flank in the second.
During their midweek match against Barnsley in the Carabao Cup, though, new signing Havertz was able to click with the rest of the team, playing off of Tammy Abraham in the centre.
West Bromich Albion, on the other hand, sit rock bottom, with zero points in their two games. They have also managed to concede eight in the process while scoring two, following a 5-2 thrashing at Goodison Park against Everton in their previous outing. If things were not already rough enough, they also lost their Cup game against Brentford who came out on top in the penalty shootout.
The last meeting between these two was at the Stamford Bridge during the 2017/18 season which saw West Brom sink to the Championship. The game ended 3-0 in favour of Chelsea courtesy a brace from Eden Hazard and a goal from Victor Moses.
Team News & Tactics
West Bromwich Albion
Slaven Bilic will be without the services of Kieran Gibbs, who picked up a red card against Everton following an off the ball aggressive foul at James Rodriguez and is suspended for this weekend.
Kamil Grosicki, Ahmed Hegazi, and Kenneth Zohore will also miss the game due to injuries. At the same time, star striker Hal Robson-Kanu is doubtful after he hobbled off against Brentford in the Carabao Cup.
It could be an emotional first game back in the Premier League for Chelsea legend Branislav Ivanovic, who joined West Bromwich Albion on a short-term deal this week. He is expected to start as one of the three centre-backs, partnering Semi Ajayi, and Dara O’Shea in the heart of the defence. They will be responsible for screening Sam Johnstone in goal.
The back-three will be flanked by Darnell Furlong on the right side, while Conor Townsend replaces Gibbs as the left-wing back, which will turn into a flatback-five in defence. Ahead of them, Matheus Pereira, Romaine Sawyers, Jake Livermore, and Grady Diangana will form the middle block to shield the backline.
The two names in contention for the striker spot against Chelsea are Charlie Austin and Callum Robinson in the absence of Hal Robson-Kanu. But it is expected that the latter will get the nod ahead on Saturday.
Probable Lineup (5-4-1): Johnstone; Furlong, Ajayi, Ivanovic, O’Shea, Townsend; Pereira, Livermore, Sawyers, Diangana; Robinson
Frank Lampard has given updates on the fitness condition of Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic and has termed them as unavailable for this game. However, both of them are expected to join team training soon. Billy Gilmour remains out with an injury.
First Premier League starts for Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva are under consideration. However, the latest arrival at Stamford Bridge, Eduoard Mendy, will not be in the starting XI tomorrow and will be eased into the team.
It’s official! Edouard Mendy is a Blue! ✍️🔵#WelcomeMendy
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) September 24, 2020
In the absence of Ziyech and Pulisic, we expect Lampard to field a 4-2-3-1, with Timo Werner at the tip of the structure acting as a sole striker, while Kai Havertz gets the chance to play in his natural attacking-midfield role behind his compatriot. This role clearly benefitted the German in midweek, and it might be costly not to use him that way.
Mason Mount will retain his spot on the left-wing and is expected to continually switch with Havertz on the pitch as both players are well equipped with off the ball traits that will add to the fluidity of attack. Callum Hudson-Odoi will get his first start to the season on the right-wing after a solid game in midweek.
Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante will be fielded in a double pivot where Kovacic acts as ball-carrier, and Kante is given the responsibility to break the opposition midfield with constant interceptions and tackles.
This double pivot will be shielding a back-four, consisting of Ben Chilwell on the left, and Reece James on the right. Chilwell already got his first assist in a Chelsea shirt against Barnsley and will be crucial to breaking down Albion’s low block.
Thiago Silva, too, will be handed his Premier League debut having played just an hour in midweek, and will partner up with Kurt Zouma. Kepa Arrizabalaga will return to goal, hoping to make the best of what could be his last start in the Premier League for a while.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Kepa; James, Zouma, Silva, Chilwell; Kante, Kovacic; Hudson-Odoi, Havertz, Mount; Werner
- Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.95
- Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.66
- West Brom Over 1.5 Match goals @ 5.00
- Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion have faced each other 24 times in the Premier League, out of which the Blues have won 18 games, the Baggies have won three, while three have been draws.
- Chelsea have managed to do the double over West Brom in their last two seasons in the Premier League, winning 0-4, 3-0 in 2017/18; 0-1, 1-0 in 2016/17.
- The last time West Brom won against Chelsea was back in May 2015, registering a massive 3-0 win when Cesc Fabregas was sent off within half an hour.
- Chelsea have won three of their last five games in the Premier League. Both their losses during this time have come at the hands of Liverpool.
- On the contrary, West Brom have lost three of their last five games in the Premier League, having enjoyed 1-0 victories against Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle.
Player to Watch
German wonderkid Kai Havertz was signed by Chelsea after a long-fought battle against Bayer Leverkusen. In his first two games in the Premier League, Havertz found it difficult to click with his teammates, having played in roles that do not suit him. That said, there have been some positive signs in the form of off the ball runs, and passing.
The youngest players to score a hat trick for Chelsea:
21y 38d — Christian Pulisic vs. Burnley, 2019
21y 104d — Kai Havertz vs. Barnsley, 2020
21y 347d — Tammy Abraham vs. Wolves, 2019
— B/R Football (@brfootball) September 24, 2020
Moreover, the game in midweek, while against Barnsley, could serve as the huge motivation boost he needs to gel with the rest of the team. And if Frank Lampard gets his team selection on point, there is little stopping the 21-year-old from tearing it up against a West Brom side who seem to have one too many cracks within their team.
West Bromwich Albion 0-4 Chelsea
Chelsea have multiple problems of their own going into this fixture, the primary one being the burden of selecting just the right team that can thrive and challenge for the Premier League. But it is hard to overlook the cracks that Slaven Bilic is trying to paper over, starting from a defence that is unable to click.
Moreover, the addition of Thiago Silva to Chelsea, despite his age, is only a sign of better things to come. He adds the missing leadership from the back and will be able to organise this team mentally and tactically. The Hard Tackle expects Saturday’s game to be an easy outing for Chelsea with the attackers shining in a high-scoring victory.