The magic number is one. One more victory for Chelsea on Friday night and they will once again be crowned champions of the Premier League.
It seems as if it’s just been a matter of time. After Chelsea’s run of 13 consecutive victories from October until January, it’s almost been a foregone conclusion that the Blues would lift the Premier League trophy in May.
Chelsea’s 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough last Monday night extended their lead over Tottenham to seven points, meaning that the Blues need just one more victory in their next three matches to win their second Premier League title in three seasons.
West Bromwich Albion presents the first test on Friday night, and if ever there was a team outside the top 7 that would ensure Antonio Conte’s side would maintain their intensity and concentration, a Tony Pulis side would fit the bill.
Based on the form table, it looks as if West Brom’s players are already thinking about their post-season holiday. The Baggies are winless in their last six matches, losing four and drawing twice.
However, sometimes a glance at the form table doesn’t always tell the full story. Despite their run of poor form, West Brom have conceded just five goals in those six matches. Aside from a dismal effort against Watford, 1-0 defeats to Southampton and Liverpool and a 0-0 draw to Manchester United are not poor results, especially since Tony Pulis’ side will finish eighth this season.
Regardless of form, West Brom are always a side that teams have to break down to beat. Pulis’ sides are known for their organization, and they will most likely do everything they can to frustrate the league leaders.
For Friday’s match, Chelsea will welcome back PFA and FWA player of the year N’Golo Kante from a slight thigh strain, though the performance of Cesc Fabregas against Middlesbrough in Kante’s absence will give Conte something to think about.
Against a side like West Brom that pose a bit more of a physical threat, Conte has opted for a more powerful central midfield, pairing Kante with Nemanja Matic.
However, Fabregas put on a show on Monday night with his variety and range of passing and his ability to control a game in the midfield, something that tends to be lacking with the duo of Kante and Matic.
Given that West Brom are known for being well-structured defensively and difficult to break down, Fabregas might be an option in terms of creating chances. However, West Brom are also a good counter-attacking team when they need to be, so Chelsea will have to be mindful of that aspect of the match.
But despite the details and minutiae of the match itself, the overall picture is clear. Victory for Chelsea will clinch them the title and clinch the title before title rivals Spurs have a chance to kick a ball again after their 1-0 defeat to West Ham just one week ago.
League titles aren’t easy to win, so Chelsea must take care of business at their first opportunity. Win at the Hawthorns and a guard of honour awaits the Blues at Stamford Bridge on Monday night.