José Mourinho will be reunited with Steve Clarke on Saturday as Chelsea play hosts to West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge at 3:00pm.
Clarke, 50, worked as Mourinho’s assistant during the Portuguese’s first stint as the Blues boss from the years 2004 to 2007 but this is the first time the two, who won several trophies together including two Premier League titles, will meet as opposing managers on the touchline.
Mourinho, who was critical of his Chelsea side that lost 2-0 away against Newcastle United in their last league outing, got the response he wanted in midweek with a comfortable 3-0 win over Schalke in the UEFA Champions League group-stages, whereas the Baggies will be hoping to extend the recent run of form which has saw them lose just once in their last five matches.
West Brom will travel to London without Ben Foster (foot), Billy Jones (leg), Nicolas Anelka (groin) and Zoltán Gera (hamstring), but both Victor Anichebe and Scott Sinclair (both hamstring) have returned to training this week and could make the bench.
Fernando Torres (leg) and Ryan Bertrand (unspecified) both picked up injuries before the Schalke game and are also expected to sit out of this weekend’s clash, whilst Marco Van Ginkel (knee) still remains a long-term absentee.
Head-to-Head: Last Five Meetings
Chelsea 1-0 West Bromwich Albion – 2nd March 2013 (Premier League)
West Bromwich Albion 2-1 Chelsea – 17th November 2012 (Premier League)
West Bromwich Albion 1-0 Chelsea – 3rd March 2012 (Premier League)
Chelsea 2-1 West Bromwich Albion – 20th August 2011 (Premier League)
West Bromwich Albion 1-3 Chelsea – 16th April 2011 (Premier League)
Mourinho v Clarke: Possible Team Line-Ups
Key Man – Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
Since Mourinho waltzed back onto the Chelsea scene this summer, John Terry has been a pivotal figure in his plans so far by starting every single Premier League game, and also opening his goalscoring account for the season with a header against Tottenham Hotspur in September.
[sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” cite=”Mourinho’s reaction to Chelsea’s defeat against Newcastle” quotestyle=”style02″] I am exaggerating because we had some normal to good performances but I made 11 wrong choices. I didn’t like my team today. When one team is not there they normally lose and that is what has happened to us. We lacked everything really [/sws_blockquote_endquote]
Whilst Mourinho is willing to drop anybody who he believes isn’t working hard enough for a starting berth, both Gary Cahill and David Luiz have recently been locked in a battle to try and secure the remaining spot alongside Terry – with Cahill’s solid performance against Schalke on Wednesday potentially being a route for him to get the nod over his Brazilian team-mate against West Brom.
Cahill, who won 75% (3) of his four tackles, made two interceptions and also recovered the ball nine times against the German outfit, has so far won 78% of his aerial 50/50 duels and completed 86.9% of his passes in the league, compared to Luiz’s 60% aerial success and 84.2% pass completion.
The England international, who has helped Chelsea to victory in the last three games he has started in all competitions, will be a key player to watch, should he start the game, in order to see whether he can cope with West Brom’s power from set pieces succesfully and perhaps nail down his permanent role in the starting line-up in the process.
Key Man – Youssouf Mulumbu (West Bromwich Albion)
With a place in the top ten up for grabs should West Brom walk away with something against Chelsea this weekend, the evergreen Youssouf Mulumbu will be a vital player in the Midlands club’s pursuit of a positive result for various reasons.
In the 2-0 win over Crystal Palace at the Hawthorns last weekend, Mulumbu produced another top display by making a stupendous 12 ball recoveries and five interceptions to shield his defence and ultimately stop Palace playing their passing game alongside James Morrison on the day.
The 26-year-old has won 76.1% of his 21 tackles at the moment, with a tackle coming every 43 minutes on average, whilst the Congo international also boasts an 84.9% pass completion rate.
Mulumbu carries the fundamental importance of effectively breaking up the play against Chelsea, doing all he can to prevent their abundance of quality in attack from creating goalscoring chances, whilst also feeding balls through to the likes of Stéphane Sessègnon for him to then link the midfield with the attack.
Games between these two sides have been relatively tight in the last few fixtures, with only five goals coming in the last three occasions, but the creative flair and exuberance that Chelsea contain in the final third could be the difference maker in the end.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-0 West Bromwich Albion
Referee: Lee Probert