BACK TO THE BREAD AND BUTTER
Thank goodness we got out of that paltry League Cup eh! We clearly didn’t want to win it anyway, why else did we let it go all the way to penalties, which we were so obviously going to lose. At least we can now concentrate on the league, and even before you can say, ‘why did we have three right-backs playing at once,’ a trip to the Midlands appears on the horizon with West Bromwich Albion welcoming us to the Hawthorns.
Renowned for playing attractive football under Tony Mowbray – with ‘long throw-in’ probably a curse word for the former Middlesbrough, Celtic and Ipswich defender – it is a shame to see West Brom sitting at the bottom of the table with just three wins from twelve games. Their last game saw a 0-3 trouncing at Anfield against Liverpool last weekend, and Mowbray will be looking for significant improvement from his side this Saturday.
West Brom will be boosted with the news that several players are returning from the injury list in time for the Chelsea game. Marek Cech (no relation to Petr) and midfielders Filipe Teixeira and Kim Do-Heon have all returned to training after spells out, while there could also be appearances from Abdoulaye Meite and James Morrison, who at the time of writing are slight doubts. Defender Leon Barnett is definitely out along with ex-Chelsea man Neil Clement, brother of Chelsea Youth Team coach Paul Clement. The left-back spent four years at the Blues before the turn of the millennium but only made four appearances in as many years.
Top scorer and former Hearts striker Roman Bednar could be a threat to his Czech compatriot Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal, while Ishmael Miller is often lively coming off the bench. Scott Carson, Jonathan Greening and Paul Robinson have played every minute of West Brom’s Premier League season so far. When faced with a side from the ‘big four’, most newly-promoted sides will put five in the middle and try to spoil the game, however West Brom have shown that regardless of the opposition, they stick to their guns and try to play the right way. It will be interesting to see whether Mowbray will look to outplay Chelsea – particularly with a recent vulnerability creeping in to the Blues – or if he’ll simply ‘park the bus’.
It is quite conceivable that most – if not all – the starting XI who succumbed to Burnley on Wednesday night could find themselves out of the line-up and on the sidelines for the trip to West Brom. If the Carling Cup was a chance for some fringe members of the squad to force themselves into Luis Scolari’s regular match-day squad, they well and truly blew it. Deco still looked short of match fitness, Kalouda (Kalou and Malouda are basically one and the same, equally as frustrating certainly) typified their performances so far this season with another poor showing, Di Santo tore up his chances of first-team action with a torn hamstring, while Paulo Ferreira will probably be lucky to get his customary five minutes at the end of EVERY game.
Juliano Belletti went off injured against Burnley and is now a doubt for Saturday’s late kick-off, and he joins Michael Essien, Ricardo Carvalho, and Joe Cole on the sidelines. Ashley Cole is not far from a comeback though. Didier Drogba could continue his return to action – if it doesn’t interfere with his police interrogation – while Michael Ballack is also in line for a return to first-team contention.
The last time we played West Brom was a couple of seasons ago, the last time they featured in the top-flight. Arjen Robben was sent-off in a stormy 2-1 victory at West Brom, which had Bryan Robson fuming and José Mourinho celebrating his 100th game in charge with a win. Drogba opened the scoring before Robben saw red for a terrible tackle, and Joe Cole added a second before a late West Brom consolation courtesy of Nwankwo Kanu. West Brom’s last league win against Chelsea came almost 30 years ago back in March 1979.
With a perfect away record this season to protect, and a humiliating defeat mid-week to avenge, Chelsea should come out of the blocks flying at the Hawthorns. So far, we have bounced back well after defeats, and there is no reason why that can’t continue this weekend. West Brom may play the right way but we play the winning way with a winning squad, and with the league the current priority for Scolari, Tony Mowbray may have to get scrappy against the Blues.
Prediction: A 2-1 win again, and a return to winning ways. We may even forget the Burnley game even happened!