Chelsea vs. West Bromwich Preview
The Hawthorns/May 12, 2017
As we approach the climax to the season and our sixth league title, we pay a visit to The Hawthorns where we could wrap up the title with just three points needed to complete the first step of a potentially double-winning season. Tony Pulis was at Stamford Bridge to witness our triumph over Middlesbrough and maybe to determine the type of bus his team needs to park in front of his box on Friday, although the reason given for his uninvited visit to the Bridge was to personally scout Boro’s captain, Ben Gibson. In the reverse fixture, Antonio had to dig very deep into his tactical reserve in order to see off what was a dogged and defensive West Bromwich Albion team. He started the game with his favoured 3-4-3 formation but discarded it after the hour for a more attacking 4-1-4-1 formation with the introduction of Willian, thereby moving Moses from his position at RWB to occupy the left side of our attack and Hazard playing just behind Diego Costa, and yet we still weren’t able to break down Tony Pulis’ men. Conte then brought on Fabregas for Moses, switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation and it was from the Spaniard’s pass forward that Diego Costa scored the only goal of the game after robbing Gareth McCauley of the ball fourteen minutes from time, after which Ivanovic was sent on to close out the game with a final switch of formation to a 5-3-2. The same flexibility to his formations might be needed from Conte on Friday because no team likes to be the one that submits the title. A draw might even be enough to win the title if Spurs fails to better our result but at this stage of the season nothing can be left to chance.
N’Golo Kante was the only absentee for the Boro game on Monday, but he should be ready to take the field after he was rested last time out. A win in this game will give Antonio Conte the luxury of resting his first teamers ahead of the FA Cup final with Arsenal at the end of the month. The likes of Willian, Chalobah, RLC, Ake, et al will be hoping for a favourable outcome tomorrow night as that will almost guarantee a start for them against Watford on Monday at Stamford Bridge. And if the reception that Terry received from the fans after replacing Luiz late on Monday is anything to go by then it will be even more so if JT were to lead a team of Champions out to the pitch with the Watford players forming a guard of honour. that will surely be a spectacle to behold but we’ve got to take care of business tomorrow against what’s expected to be a defensively stubborn West Brom side.
Injuries: N’Golo Kante (Thigh) – Slight Doubt
Last 5 Matches: WWWLW
This is perhaps one of the best times to visit the Hawthorns because West Brom isn’t firing on any cylinder at the moment. They have failed to hit the target in their last five games (L4 D1) before their 2-2 draw at Turf Moor last time out. But that’s not to say this is going to be a cake walk for our team because this is going to be anything but easy. Tony Pulis’ team is primed for this type of game where all they want to do is park enough bodies behind the ball and deny the opposition space to hurt them, a tactic we’re familiar with from the reverse fixture. Tony will be ruing the continued absence of Matt Phillips who has been their best player by a mile this season and whose absence coincided with their recent slump and barren run in front of goal. Jonny Evans is also rated 50/50 for this one so it’s likely to be the centre back partnership of Joleon Lescott and Gareth McCauley facing our attack on Friday
Injuries: Jonny Evans (Ankle) – Slight Doubt; Matt Phillips (Hamstring) – Out; Hal Robson-Kanu (Hamstring) –Slight Doubt
Last 5 Matches: DLLLL
3 Matchups to Watch
- Hazard vs. Craig Dawson: Eden Hazard, and indeed all our front three, were denied any space to operate in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge with West Brom playing with virtually a six-man defence. But that’s not likely to repeat itself because Albion, playing in front of their own fans might be tempted to have a go and that might isolate Dawson against Hazard, and the end result is not likely to favour the Albion defender.
- Luiz vs. Salomon Rondon: Salomon Rondon’s equaliser at Turf Moor last weekend was his first goal since the tail end of last year but the Venezuelan is one of the best in the business when it comes to holding the ball up and bringing others into play. Tony Pulis had recently turned to Hal Robson-Kanu to deliver the goods but he will have to make do with Rondon as the Welsh man is unavailable due to injury, and what better way to cement your place in the team than getting one past the Champions-in-waiting. Luiz will have to pay very close attention to the physically strong Venezuelan.
- Costa vs. Gareth McAuley: Costa will surely fancy his chances against the fast ageing McCauley. If the reverse fixture is to be considered then Costa will be licking his lips at the prospect of facing the Northern Irishman again, but that is not to say he’s going to have it all his own way. This is going to be an interesting battle that might go a long way to determining the end result of this match.
Were this to be tennis then we can be said to have three championship points with us having three chances to wrap up the title. This game gives us the opportunity to wrap up the title even before Spurs takes to the pitch against Europa League-chasing Manchester United, but most importantly victory at the Hawthorn tomorrow night will afford us the possibility of reserving our strength in preparation for the FA Cup final by giving deserved rest to some of our key performers, a luxury that the Gunners do not have with them as they are still chasing a top four finish in the league. Whatever the result tomorrow night, hopefully it’s a favourable one, there is no doubt that come the 21st of May the trophy presentation ceremony will take place at Stamford Bridge, something that will be the perfect occasion for our outgoing captain to bow out. Hopefully by the time I’ll be writing the preview for the Watford game on Monday we’d have been confirmed Premier League Champions for the 2016/17 season but until then, Keep The Blue Flag Flying High!