Once again, Rafa Benitez will be the focus as Chelsea welcome West Bromwich Albion to Stamford Bridge. With Rafa’s outburst after the 2-0 FA Cup Fifth Round win against Middlesbrough dominating the headlines, the players will want to get back to winning ways in the Premier League after the disappointing loss to Manchester City.
It’s the first Premier League match at The Bridge since the 4-1 hammering of Wigan at the start of February. And make no mistake about it, Benitez will be praying for a similar outcome. Chelsea haven’t beaten West Brom since the first home game of Andre Villas-Boas’ reign. And the last two encounters have led to the fixture to be known as ‘the sack game’. A loss to West Brom was AVB’s last game and Di Matteo’s last Premier League game.
Amongst the abuse that Benitez will undoubtedly receive, don’t forget to give a warm welcome home to Steve Clarke – former player and assistant to Jose Mourinho, who has done a tremendous job at West Brom in his first managerial role.
Benitez is likely to make a string of changes after naming a weakened team against Middlesbrough. Cole, Lampard, Mata, Hazard and Ba are all likely to earn recalls. Azpilicueta and Cahill sat out the FA Cup tie with injury and illness respectively, and a decision is yet to be made on their inclusion. Yossi Benayoun is likely to miss out after picking up an ankle knock.
West Brom could go into the game without their two first choice strikers. Chelsea loanee, Romelu Lukaku is ineligible as part of his loan agreement. And Shane Long hasn’t trained this week after a picking up a knee injury against Sunderland last week. Clarke has named 16 year old school boy, Isaiah Brown in his squad.
Chelsea haven’t kept a clean sheet in six Premier League matches, winning just two of those.
Frank Lampard could score his 200th goal for Chelsea, which would leave him just two behind Bobby Tambling’s record of 202.
Chelsea and West Brom have never drawn. Chelsea have won 10 of the 12 encounters, with West Brom winning the last two.
West Brom have won just four of their 20 matches in the Premier League during March.
West Brom have won their last two games, after not winning since Boxing Day.