Wednesday, April 25
 

Premier League

Preview: West Bromwich Albion vs. Chelsea

Sports Mole previews the Premier League clash at The Hawthorns between West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea.

West Bromwich Albion play host to Chelsea on Saturday afternoon having failed to win a game in any competition since August 22, a period which has included 10 matches.

Chelsea make the trip to The Hawthorns on the back of a 1-0 victory over Manchester United, but head coach Antonio Conte will know that the Blues must put a run of wins together in order to have a chance of defending their Premier League crown.


West Bromwich Albion

After the club's performance in the 1-0 defeat at Huddersfield Town, many West Brom supporters expected Tony Pulis to be sacked during the international break but the head coach will be in the dugout for the visit of the champions.

Pulis himself has acknowledged that calls for his exit are justified after not registering a league win since the second weekend of the season and recording just 12 points from their last 20 games in the Premier League.

The Baggies' form is befitting of a team who face a fight to remain in the top flight but as it stands, work done earlier in the campaign keeps the West Midlands outfit out of the relegation zone by a point.

There is little doubt that West Brom's upcoming games will decide Pulis's future, with trips to Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool coming either side of crucial encounters with Crystal Palace and Swansea City.

That schedule leaves the pressure very much on Pulis and his players on Saturday afternoon, but Pulis will take confidence from witnessing his team compete against Manchester City just three weeks ago, despite eventually falling to a 3-2 defeat.

However, West Brom have won just three of their last dozen matches in the Premier League, and that return must improve sooner rather than later if the fans are not to fully turn on their club.

Recent form: LDDLLL


Chelsea

Much has been made of Conte's future at Chelsea, but witnessing his side battle their way to a 1-0 win over United before the international break may just help the Italian turn the corner at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues are nine points off the pace in the Premier League, but the response to a 3-0 defeat to Roma in the Champions League suggests that the squad are still pulling in the right direction.

David Luiz is likely to remain on the fringes of the squad this weekend, but the emergence of Andreas Christensen has not left a huge hole at the back, with the Dane now having made an impression against each of Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and United.

Further forward, Alvaro Morata also appears to have got his form back, with his decisive header against Jose Mourinho's men ending a run of over 400 minutes without a goal.

Saturday's trip to West Brom marks the start of a testing period for Chelsea, with trips to Qarabag and Liverpool also to come in the next seven days, but Conte must find a way of rotating his players while still picking up results which could ultimately make or break their season.

A successful defence of their league crown looks unlikely - even at this stage of the season - but Chelsea must put themselves in position to capitalise on any mistakes from the two Manchester clubs and Spurs if speculation over Conte's longevity in West London is going to disappear.

Recent form: WLLWWW
Recent form (all competitions): DWWWLW


Team News

Pulis is expected to make a number of changes to his starting lineup, with Matt Phillips, James McClean and Salomon Rondon in contention for a recall.

A decision must also be made on the formation, with Pulis potentially reverting to a 4-5-1 rather than using three at the back like at Huddersfield.

Jake Livermore should keep his place in the team, despite playing all but four minutes of England's games with Germany and Brazil.

Conte could select the same XI which impressed against United, with the likes of Antonio Rudiger and Willian being saved for the Champions League game in Azerbaijan.

Victor Moses is unlikely to feature due to a hamstring injury, while Luiz is expected to have to settle for a place among the replacements after his falling out with his manager.

Gary Cahill should be fit to play despite missing out against Brazil in midweek after declaring himself available for selection.

West Bromwich Albion possible starting lineup:
Foster; Nyom, Evans, Hegazi, Gibbs; Barry, Livermore, Krychowiak; Phillips, Rodriguez, Rondon

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Zappacosta, Kante, Bakayoko, Alonso; Fabregas, Hazard, Morata


Head To Head

Saturday's match will represent the 138th time in which these two teams have squared off in a competitive fixture, with Chelsea winning 60 times in comparison to 42 successes for the Baggies.

Chelsea have won four of the last half-a-dozen meetings, although the biggest margin of victory has been 2-0, and West Brom have previously enjoyed success against the West Londoners at The Hawthorns.

Since 2012, the Baggies have claimed three wins and a draw, with Chelsea only ever prevailing by a one-goal margin.


We say: West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Chelsea

Chelsea have already slipped up to one struggling side this season with Crystal Palace running out winners at the start of October, but we are backing the Blues to battle their way to three precious points at the ground where they won the Premier League title last season.


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TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
CManchester CityMan City34293298257390
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd34235665263974
3Liverpool352011480374371
4Tottenham HotspurSpurs34208666313568
5Chelsea34196959342563
6Arsenal341761166462057
7Burnley351411103532353
8Everton35129144054-1445
9Leicester CityLeicester341111124947244
10Newcastle UnitedNewcastle34118153543-841
11Bournemouth35911154158-1738
12Watford35108174260-1838
13Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton34812143247-1536
14Crystal Palace35811163654-1835
15West Ham UnitedWest Ham34811154263-2135
16Huddersfield TownHuddersfield3498172754-2735
17Swansea CitySwansea3489172751-2433
18Southampton34514153353-2029
19Stoke CityStoke35611183265-3329
20West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom35413182954-2525
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Transfer Talk Daily
Match previews - twice weekly
Morning Briefing (7am UTC)
Get the latest transfer news, match previews and news direct to your inbox!
Premier League Table
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
CManchester CityMan City34293298257390
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd34235665263974
3Liverpool352011480374371
4Tottenham HotspurSpurs34208666313568
5Chelsea34196959342563
6Arsenal341761166462057
7Burnley351411103532353
8Everton35129144054-1445
9Leicester CityLeicester341111124947244
10Newcastle UnitedNewcastle34118153543-841
11Bournemouth35911154158-1738
12Watford35108174260-1838
13Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton34812143247-1536
14Crystal Palace35811163654-1835
15West Ham UnitedWest Ham34811154263-2135
16Huddersfield TownHuddersfield3498172754-2735
17Swansea CitySwansea3489172751-2433
18Southampton34514153353-2029
19Stoke CityStoke35611183265-3329
20West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom35413182954-2525
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