Match Preview: Chelsea vs. West Bromwich Albion #CHEWBA
It’s been over two months since Chelsea last lost a Premier League game. It’s 8 wins in a row, and the Blues will attempt to make it 9 when West Bromwich visit the Bridge on Sunday. While many Chelsea fans will laugh at the name of West Brom, the reality is they are a well drilled footballing side that themselves have not lost since October. The Baggies may not have the same big name players as Chelsea, but that does not make them a lesser team. The game on Sunday will kick start a holiday schedule that will see the Blues also face Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, and Stoke City. Chelsea will want to keep up their good form and pick up the maximum points available this December.
Back-to-back wins against Spurs and Man City have cemented Chelsea’s status as the Premier League’s best so far this season. They remain unbeaten in the Premier League since the formation shift. Costa is the joint leader for goals this year, Hazard is back, and the backline looks solid. Confidence is incredibly high in Antonio Conte’s camp, and there is every reason to believe this team will be Champions come the end of the year. It seems the only question Chelsea has heading into this weekend is who plays alongside Kante? Matic picked up a last-minute injury before the Man City game and Fabregas replaced him in the lineup, appropriating a sublime assist in the process. Matic is back to full health for this game, giving Conte a choice to make this weekend.
Injuries: Terry, Mikel (out). Oscar (unlikely). Zouma, Pedro, Costa (probable).
West Bromwich Albion
West Brom have not lost since a 4-0 result against Man City in October. However, their games since have been against Leicester, Burnley, Hull City, and Watford. Not exactly top Premier League opposition. The reality is that Chelsea are at a different level compared to those teams. West Brom certainly have it in them for the upset, but they will have to play an almost flawless game to get a winning result.
Similar to how Fabregas was dropped from the Chelsea starting lineup due to good form from the players ahead of him, Nacer Chadli is in the exact same scenario. The scintillating play of Matt Phillips, James Morrison, and Chris Brunt in the attacking midfield positions has kept the Belgian out of the starting lineup. Chadli has not started since a match against Liverpool in October. Tony Pulis has said this week that Morrison is dealing with a knock and may not be 100% for Sunday. If does indeed start and is not able to go the full 90, Chadli may have a small window of opportunity to attempt a comeback.
Also of note, Saido Berahino, one of the more talented players on this team, has not played since the early stages of the season due to several off-field issues. If you’re interested more in a situation you can read more about it here.
Injuries: Myhill (out). McAuley, Morrison (probable).
Also out: Berahino
Three Matchups to Watch
- Alonso vs. Phillips: this will be a battle between two players trending in opposite directions. Matt Phillips has been one of the hottest players in England recently, with three goals and three assists in the past four games. He is a major reason of West Brom’s offensive splurge this past month. On the flip side, Alonso has visibly struggled against both Man City and Spurs the past two weeks. Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker are two names that have toyed with Alonso, and the challenge won’t get any easier against Matt Phillips.
- Costa vs. Evans: the top scorer will clash with a consistent defender this weekend. Jonny Evans is one of the most underrated center backs in the league this year. He has been a solid rock for West Brom in the back. He has started every game except for one, and scored his first goal of the season last week against Watford. If he finds a way to contain Costa at the Bridge, he will be underrated no more.
- Pedro vs. Nyom: two players with very similar stories this year. Both started the year on the bench, and both are now one of the first names on the starting XI. Allan Nyom, a natural right-back, has played the full 90 minutes in the last 9 games and has cemented himself as the starting left-back for Pulis. Pedro, as Chelsea fans right now, has soundly replaced Willian in the lineup. The former Barcelona man has revitalized his Chelsea career, and will look to continue the momentum on Sunday.
- 2012 was the last time West Brom beat Chelsea at the Bridge, a 1-0 scoreline that included an 82nd minute header by Gareth McAuley.
- A win on Sunday means 9 wins in a row for Chelsea. The last time that happened for the Blues is 2009 under Hiddink and Ancelotti. That streak eventually went to 11 wins.