The Premier League returns this weekend and both of these sides will be eager to continue their good starts to the season. Many expected Chelsea to be the side to beat this season and they have already shown themselves to be the best side in the opening three months. They have avoided defeat at Old Trafford, Anfield and the Etihad Stadium, suggestions that they could go the season unbeaten shouldn’t be ignored. Meanwhile West Brom have started well, especially when you consider that many thought they would be strong contenders for relegation. Alan Irvine has always had a good reputation in the game, and he is showing that he has the ability as a number one.
Chelsea are currently top of the league, already establishing an eight point lead over Manchester City, although Southampton in second are only four points behind them. Some people are already suggesting that the league is Chelsea’s to lose, but Jose Mourinho will know that it’s crucial to avoid complacency over the Christmas period as that lead could be gone within two weeks. The quality in Chelsea’s side is clear for everyone to see, they have a quality player in all eleven positions. And they have players like Andre Schurrle, Loic Remy and Ramires who haven’t been regulars this season, yet they would all be starters for the majority of Premier League clubs. They will be expecting to win this weekend.
West Brom are in 13th place, but they are only 1 point behind both Liverpool and Tottenham. That might say more about those two sides than the Baggies, but West Brom have started well. Their wins away against Tottenham and Leicester and their draw at home against Manchester United were perhaps the pick of their results so far, but they have looked an organised side, who can cause any side problems. With the pace of Saido Berahino and Stephane Sessegnon, they can be effective on counter, which is how they will be trying to play at Stamford Bridge.
Last season, West Brom nearly came away from Stamford Bridge with three points, and many would argue they should have become the first side to beat Chelsea at home under Jose Mourinho after a contentious penalty decision gave the hosts a point. Samuel Eto’o and Eden Hazard scored for Chelsea, while Shane Long and Stephane Sessgnon netted for the visitors. In the reverse fixture, the two sides drew again as it was West Brom getting the late equaliser this time through Victor Anichebe, while Branislav Ivanovic scored for Chelsea.
Cesc Fabregas missed out on international duty through an injury he picked up against Liverpool, but the club are confident he will be fit to play this weekend. Andre Schurrle and Ramires are the other doubts for this weekend. The rest of the squad are available. It’s a huge boost for Jose Mourinho that Diego Costa is back to full fitness.
West Brom have three players who will face late fitness tests to see if they are fit to face Chelsea. Sebastien Pocognoli was taken off against Newcastle, but he could be fit for this weekend. Silvestre Varela could return, while Jonas Olsson is also back in the reckoning. Victor Anichebe impressed against Newcastle, however Stephane Sessegnon could be recalled.
Chelsea have only kept three clean sheets this season, which is very surprising given they are known for their organisation and ability to win tight matches.
West Brom have only lost once in their last five meetings against Chelsea. It’s a fixture they have done well in over the last few seasons and that will provide them with hope for this weekend.
Chelsea showed that they had a clear concise plan in the summer to bring in players that would improve them and fit straight into the side, unlike Manchester City and Manchester United who brought players on reputation. Unlike these two sides, Chelsea have seen their new signings fit straight in and make an instant impact. Cesc Fabregas was an obvious signing to provide attacking threat from the midfield, it’s surprising that more clubs didn’t try and sign him. His ball retention is also fantastic. Alongside Nemanja Matic, he fits in well, giving Chelsea one of the best, if not the best central midfield partnership in the league. In eleven Premier League matches, the Spaniard has nine assists, which is brilliant. He may only have one goal, but he isn’t relied upon for goals by Chelsea. He was never going to replace Frank Lampard, he is a different player and his style of play suits Chelsea far better than Lampard did in his latter years. This weekend, West Brom will have to make sure Fabregas sees as little of the ball as possible, as he is a player who can inflict massive damage.
Not many people think that West Brom have much of a chance this weekend, but one thing is for sure, if they are to come away from London with anything, they will have to take their chances. Chelsea aren’t the impenetrable force that they were last season, they can be broken down. West Brom will have to play on the counter, and the pace of Saido Berahino could be crucial. The striker has looked to be one of the most efficient finishers in the league this season, which made his England call up unsurprising to the majority who have seen the youngster play over the past few months. He has the ability to find pocket of spaces in front of the back four and fire in shots from distance or make clever runs in behind. The latter is the strategy that might be best suited to breaking Chelsea down this weekend, as there is a lack of pace at the back for the leaders. He has seven goals so far, which is brilliant, but he’ll be keen to push on and ensure there will be interest in him from bigger clubs come the next couple of transfer windows.
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It would take a brave man to bet against Chelsea not getting maximum points this Saturday. They are in great form and although they have looked more beatable lately, it could take a huge effort for West Brom to repeat last season’s result, never mind winning the match. A sub par Chelsea performance will still be good enough to beat the majority of sides in this league, especially at Stamford Bridge. West Brom would have to play superbly to get anything from this match. I do think they will be competitive and score, but Chelsea will kill the match of at the death with a couple of late goals to win it.
Chelsea 3-1 West Brom