Jose Mourinho will be sweating on the fitness of two of his Spanish internationals ahead of Saturday’s home game against West Bromwich Albion.
Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas both played no part for Spain during the international break, with Costa not even reporting to duty due to a persistent hamstring injury, while Fabregas withdrew complaining of a similar ailment.
He can however, welcome back fellow Spaniard Cesar Azpilicueta into his side after completing a three match ban. John Obi Mikel featured for Nigeria in their African Cup of Nations qualifier against Congo-Brazzaville, after missing games against Maribor and QPR for Chelsea, and so his hopes of making a rare start could be boosted thanks to Fabregas’ possible absence. Loic Remy also faces a race to be fit after injuring his groin against Maribor and not featuring since. Nathan Ake is also ruled out – another player with hamstring problems. Andre Schurrle can also be counted upon for selection after overcoming illness.
Filipe Luis will likely be the victim of Azpilicueta’s availability, as the Spaniard has been preferred to the summer signing from Atletico at left-back. The spot for Fabregas’ place faces more competition however, as Ramires and Mikel will be vying to play alongside Nemanja Matic in the heart of midfield. Should Costa not be passed fit and Remy likewise, Didier Drogba will be called upon to lead the line. 17-year-old striker Dominic Solanke could perhaps feature in the matchday squad again should injuries permit his inclusion.
Alan Irvine’s travelling Baggies have no new injury concerns, with Sebastien Pocognoli and Jonas Olsson still out of contention with respective hamstring and Achilles problems. Cristian Gamboa and Jason Davidson could be their replacements, however have only a combined two Premier League starts between them. However, they can call upon a veteran in comparison in the shape of Craig Gardner, who returns from suspension.
While the form of the home side would lead many to pick them first on this weekend’s wagers, it is not that straightforward given the past few games between these two sides.
West Brom were the only side that Chelsea failed to beat last season, as they played out two draws between them. A controversial Eden Hazard penalty salvaged a point for Chelsea at the Bridge in thrilling 2-2 last November, while a late Victor Anichebe goal cancelled out a Branislav Ivanovic strike to share the spoils in February earlier this year. In fact, Chelsea have only won of the last five against the Midlands side, a Demba Ba goal proving vital in a 1-0 win in March 2013.
However, since their first meeting in 1905, Chelsea boast a far superior record, winning 56 games and drawing 34. You will need to go back to 1983 for their last win at Stamford Bridge, a 1-0 victory in the Milk Cup. A further five years back in 1978 was the last time The Baggies headed back to The Hawthorns with three league points, in a 3-1 win with Steve Wicks scoring our only goal.