Table toppers Chelsea travel north to face West Brom at the Hawthorns. Jose Mourinho’s blues are in ominous form and are going for an equalling club record of six consecutive away clean sheets. Meanwhile the ‘baggies’ have an OK home record, having drawn two and won one in 2014. The latest draw was against Liverpool, albeit with a little help from Kolo Toure.
Chelsea will travel north without inspirational leader JT so I expect David Luiz to partner the recently impressive Gary Cahill. Ashley Cole is also expected to return to a defence which has conceded two in the last eleven outings. The form of Petr Cech should not go unmentioned. He had his doubters early in the campaign but he has made vital saves at crucial times against Newcastle, Man City, Liverpool and Arsenal.
Going forward Chelsea are simply on fire. Eden Hazard is quite rightly being given all the plaudits. The term ‘world class’ is used too often, but in the case of the mercurial Belgian, he is indeed worthy of such an accolade. His vision, movement and speed are at times breath-taking and he will only get better. His link up play with Samuel Eto’o is stunning to watch and one or the other will score again tonight. Another worthy of mention is the ever improving Willian. This guy’s work rate is staggering and his pace in open play is a constant treat. He will be a better player next season when he adjusts fully to the rigours of the world’s toughest league.
The term ‘transition’ is used a lot in football parlance. Transitional phases going from attack to defense – or defense to attack. Your “transition game” is what you and your team do in the moments right after you take or lose possession of the ball – how you go from defending to attacking or from attacking to defending. Mourinho has got the transition spot on. Chelsea attack, after winning the ball, at frightening pace, a la Hazard’s goal on Saturday. Fifteen seconds from winning the ball from a defensive corner Newcastle’s keeper was picking the ball out of the net! Equally impressive is the energy to get behind the ball after losing possession. This is where Willian, Ramires and Matic are key. These three are the best three in the premiership at tracking back and protecting the danger zone.
The biggest challenge tonight is complacency. If, as I expect, Jose has the team straining at the leash like a coiled blue cobra ready to strike, we will win comfortably.
Torres is back in the fold tonight and should make a cameo. Salah will become a great impact player for the remainder of this season. When legs begin to tire after 65 minutes he will float past defenders. His pace is electric. I expect Salah is come of the bench tonight and make a real contribution.
Finally the quote of last weekend has to be ‘ giving Juan Mata to David Moyes is like giving your granddad an iphone’!! Quality.