After great back-to-back wins against Tottenham and Manchester City, We have now won eight successive matches, in addition to the above-mentioned sides; this run has also included wins over Manchester United and Everton at home, and Southampton away. To come away with wins from each match over this tough run of fixtures has been extremely impressive.
While we have an excellent record against West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge, this has to be regarded as another tough test. West Brom are seventh, meaning that in our last eleven matches, we have faced every side in the top eight. We follow this fixture with matches against two of the current bottom seven teams, Sunderland and Crystal Palace.
The baggies are unbeaten in four, having won three of those, and have only conceded more than one goal on three occasions this season, and two of those were against Manchester City and Liverpool. They are built on a strong defence, and Tony Pulis has them extremely well organised defensively, as you would expect.
The backline rarely changes, and includes some of their most consistent performers. Right back Craig Dawson is accomplished at both ends of the field, while Gareth McAuley is having a great season, and is a danger from set pieces at the other end, as is centre back partner Jonny Evans. It is perhaps the man between the sticks who could pose us problems. Ben Foster always seems to play very well against Chelsea. Perhaps England’s most under-rated keeper, he is having another excellent season.
It is not only the backline that is settled, as Pulis hasn’t rotated the side much, and understandably so. Fletcher and Yacob are more than likely to anchor the midfield in a 4-2-3-1, with Brunt, Morrison and Phillips the usual suspects behind the main goal threat, the in-form Rondon.
As previously alluded to though, despite the great season they are having, West Brom have a shocking record at Stamford Bridge. Their last win in the league here was 1978, and we have won eight and drawn two of our last ten meetings in west London. We did however draw last seasons match 2-2 at home. Azpilicueta netted in both fixtures against the baggies last season, and the 2-3 away win was also memorable for a Pedro goal on his debut.
At least won goal from the home side is statistically very likely, with Chelsea finding the net on 21 consecutive occasions in this home fixture. The last time we failed to find the net at home to West Brom in the league was 1967! Looking further back, the overall record is a lot tighter, with Chelsea winning 56 of the previous 135 meetings, to West Brom’s 43.
Hazard is one goal shy of his fifty for Chelsea, if he finds the net here, only Drogba and Hasselbaink will have reached that milestone quicker. (He would tie Gudjohnsen for third incidentally).
Chelsea, as is the norm now, will likely be unchanged, and in the usual shape. Fabregas came in for the injured Matic at the Etihad, and if the Serb is fit, will give Conte a selection dilemma of sorts, as Cesc was impressive. Costa still remains one yellow away from a suspension.
Certainly not a routine home win, as the previous fixture history would suggest, but buoyed by two massive wins we can only hope that our winning momentum can continue. It will be interesting to see how Pulis approaches this one. Sitting back may negate our counter attacking threat, but on the other hand Tottenham exposed a weakness for attacking our midfield centrally, and Morison is a dangerous creator in this area who will need to be watched. This may require one of our back three to advance and cut out the threat if the midfield gets overloaded.
Here’s hoping for nine on the bounce…