Remember this, Andre? - Laurence Griffiths
After a run of disappointing results, Chelsea will be looking for a return to the sparkling form of the early part of the season. There's just one problem. West Bromwich Albion have been one of the surprises of the season, and are playing very well, particularly at home. There's every chance this is yet another week of hurt for the Blues.
As I said, fifth-place West Brom have been flying high in the Premier League this season. They've also made the Hawthorns a fortress, winning all their games but one. The lone exception being a somewhat-cruel defeat to Manchester City, in which Chelsea loanee Romelu Lukaku had several gilt-edged chances to put the champions to the sword. Only a great save from Joe Hart and some poor play from the Belgian kept City in the game, and substitute Edin Dzeko denied the Baggies even a point.
Enough about that. The point is that the Albion away is always a tough task. Ask erstwhile Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas. His tenure at Stamford Bridge ended after a 1-0 loss at the Hawthorns in which Chelsea put in one of their worst performances under the Portuguese. Even though Chelsea are better team this season, West Brom have improved as well.
It's not a secret that the Albion are my second team, but don't let that make you think I'm over-rating their chances. There's every chance they continue our less-than-stellar run later today/tomorrow. Chelsea have had many more players taking crazy journeys in the recent international break. Given that a lack of sharpness has been a major contributor to our recent run, RDM has every reason to express his concerns about the travel of our players.
West Bromwich Albion Team News
West Brom have just two players confirmed missing for the visit of Chelsea. The first is keeper Ben Foster, who has been very solid in goal for the Baggies, though Boaz Myhill has been a good understudy. With their back four being very solid this season, though, it's not as huge a problem as it would be, for instance, if Chelsea had to swap Petr Cech for Hilario.
The second, after Foster, is the aforementioned Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku who is ineligible to play against his parent club due to FA rules. As Tim explained earlier in his Tactical Preview, this unlikely to be a massive problem for Steve Clarke and his side. Shane Long is more than enough to cause any team problems. He will be The Baggies' main threat against Chelsea.
It's hard to say exactly what Clarke will do in the midfield, having a number of highly-flexible players, several of whom have small injuries which will make them late decisions. That said, West Brom have plenty of quality depth, so the manager will be able to field a string team, which is troubling for us.
Predicted[, but probably wrong] West Brom Lineup: (4-2-3-1) Boaz Myhill; Billy Jones, Gareth McAuley, Jonas Olsson, Liam Ridgewell; Claudio Yacob, Youssuf Mulumbu; Chris Brunt, James Morrison, Peter Odemwingie; Shane Long
Chelsea Team News:
As with West Brom, Chelsea have just two major players definitely missing this week. John Terry, who thankfully still has a right leg after his accidental clash with Luis Suarez, will be the biggest loss. In his absence, Chelsea's defence have been shipping goals for fun, which has been a concern for us. Hopefully, David Luiz will still be in the zone where he kept Falcao in his pocket on duty with Brazil, and can make Shane Long a non-factor. Gary Cahill will be thankful the only Swede he's tasked with this weekend in Jonas Olsson. Ashley Cole may miss another game at left-back, meaning Ryan Bertrand again steps in.
In midfield, Robbie has a dilemma. We definitely need a win over a hard-to-beat West Brom side away from home, but we could do with giving our band of three a bit of a rest before the visit of the Champions. Hopefully, he can find room to rest at least one of them, but don't be overly surprised if we go with a full-strength midfield. In the pivot, we find our second-biggest miss, Frank Lampard, though you could make the argument that Mikel and Ramires are a better option for the pivot. Still, we're rather thin in the centre of midfield, so we can't afford any injuries.
Predicted[, but probably wrong] Chelsea Lineup: (4-2-3-1) Petr Cech; Ashley Cole, David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic; John Obi Mikel, Ramires; Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Victor Moses; Fernando Torres.
Who: West Bromwich Albion vs. Chelsea
Where: The Hawthorns, West Bromwich, West Midlands, UK.
When: 15:00 GMT [10 am EST, 20:30 IST]
TV: Fox Soccer Channel, Star Sports
Referee: Michael Oliver