The International Break is over and we are set to resume action in the Barclays Premier League after a span of a fortnight.
League leaders Chelsea host West Bromwich Albion on Saturday lunchtime at Stamford Bridge. The Blues who lead their nearest rivals Southampton by 4 points will be looking to go 7 points clear at the top of the standings.
West Brom displayed quality football in London last season after having come back from a goal down to lead by 2-1. Chelsea though were lucky to escape with a draw thanks to Eden Hazard’s last gasp penalty. This time though the Blues should have no problem in steamrolling past their opposition on Saturday.
THE TEAM AND RECENT FORM
The Baggies currently lie thirteenth with 13 points from 11 games, 16 behind Chelsea. They were however lucky to escape the drop last season having finished in a precarious seventeenth position. Alan Irvine however took up the job in the summer and has overseen a welcome brand of attacking football.
West Brom have endured a tough run of form in their past six games. With equal share of draws, wins and losses alike, Alan Irvine is expected to go Stamford Bridge with a revitalized squad, hoping to get something from the encounter.
The Baggies lost to Newcastle United at home in their last game but beat Leicester and drew against Crystal Palace in recent encounter.
However, the greatest motivation for them would be how they have fared against top sides. They were unlucky to be beaten by Liverpool at Anfield but drew 2-2 against Manchester United at home in what was a lovely and free flowing clash.
FORMATION AND STYLE OF PLAY
Alan Irvine is one of those old fashioned managers who loves to employ the classic English 4-4-2 while attacking, but which is a more rigid 4-5-1 off the ball. James Morrison and Craig Garner hold the key for the Baggies, the former who can run with the ball thanks to his great pace. With Saido Berahino and Stephane Sessegnon also having great ability and pace to burn, expect the away side to soak up pressure, but hit on the counter.
Irvine would instruct his boys to be much disciplined against Chelsea’s hard working midfielders and ask his wingers to fall back and sort out their defensive discipline throughout the ninety minutes. The Baggies will have to brave not to give away fouls to the tricky Eden Hazard and should try to score if they create an opening.
STRENGTH – KEY PLAYERS
Saido Berahino: This 21-year-old Englishman has been the talk of the season so far for West Brom. With raw pace to burn and a cool head on matured shoulders, expect Berahino to make penetrating runs into the Chelsea back four. Berahino has scored 5 goals this season in the premier league and his most impressive game came against Burnley where he scored a brace as the Baggies ran out 4-0 winners.
Stephane Sessegnon: Like Berahino, Sessegnon has great pace which troubled Manchester United earlier this season. He is expected to play in a more supporting role but will stretch the Chelsea defense with his immense work rate. Chelsea are expected to man mark him to keep his quiet else he makes a major impact.
Joleon Lescott: The former Manchester City and Everton defender has been in great form, especially against Tottenham where he helped his side keep a clean sheet at White Hart Lane. The centre back will be given the role to keep Diego Costa quite, but it certainly isn’t an easy task that too at Stamford Bridge. The away side though can bank on Lescott’s much heralded experience.
The Baggies haven’t really looked great to gel as a squad. Mixed results have seen them slide in the table and they conceded sloppy goals, which could have been easily avoided. They also have some fitness issues; Sebastien Pocognoli is a huge doubt, while Jonas Olsson is out of favour and will miss the proceedings. Moreover, they tend to give the ball away in midfield which will be a huge area of concerns. They have not won a game at Stamford Bridge for 36 years, a record that is expected to be intact even after Saturday’s clash.
HEAD TO HEAD and PREDICTIONS
West Brom have caused the Blues problems of late, having lost only one of their five previous meetings. Chelsea though are unbeaten this season with 13 wins from 17 games and have scored two goals or more in every home game this season. The Blues have been a class apart and their juggernaut is expected to run on. I believe Jose Mourinho’s men will go through a comfortable 3-1 win.
Edited By: Ankur Bhatt