Tony Pulis takes his Albion side to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening to face a Chelsea side that seem to have recovered some form since the departure of José Mourinho. As time went on, Albion’s narrow defeat to Chelsea at the end of August looked like an increasingly poor result as it remained Chelsea’s only away victory in the Premier League until their win at Selhurst Park on 3rd January.
But that result, followed by victory over Scunthorpe United in the FA Cup mean that Chelsea are on a five-match unbeaten run since the appointment of Gus Hiddink as their interim Head Coach and, with Albion’s last win at Chelsea more than 30 years ago, the omens are not good for the Baggies.
Furthermore, in contrast to Chelsea’s comfortable victory over lower league opposition, Albion’s encounter with Championship strugglers, Bristol City, was anything but comfortable. A near full-strength side needed a 95th minute equaliser to salvage a draw and, with the prospect of another home tie in the fifth round, this time against League One promotion-hopefuls Peterborough United, the replay at Ashton Gate could leave either side with a good chance of reaching the fifth round.
In front of the best third round attendance at the Hawthorns since 1993 (a 2-0 home defeat by West Ham United if you were wondering), Albion produced a lacklustre display in the first half with Pulis’s “all out attack” of Rondón and Lambert failed to produce a meaningful chance in the first half. The introduction of Berahino, McManaman and Dawson on the hour injected a little spark and it was the want-away striker who grabbed the opening goal. What disappointed me most was the reaction of the team after that – they seemed to lose all concentration at the back, as if they thought it was “job done”, and sloppily allowed the visitors to score twice before that well-worked late equaliser. Evans, McAuley and Fletcher all had lapses which, I suppose, will only serve to reinforce Pulis’s view that we need two holding midfielders.
Albion were lucky, and with little apparently to play for in the league (although a few more performances like Saturday would drop us back into the mire), that Morrison goal has extended the interest in the season for another ten days at least.
One thing that became even more clear on Saturday is that James Chester is not a full back (not that I ever thought he was). He started brightly but got worse and worse as the game went on before being subsituted by Dawson. He looks so uncomfortable out wide that I really cannot fathom why Pulis spent so much money on him with the plan to convert him to a full back – at 5′ 10″ he was unlikely to ever play in the middle of defence in a Pulis side and, to be honest, I’m surprised such a vertically challenged player gets anywhere near a Pulis defence. I fully expect him to go before the end of the month for a significant loss.
Another thing we learned is that Ben Foster’s kicking has not improved while he’s been away!
Returning to Wednesday night’s game, however, I should not forget that Albion’s 32-year wait for a win at the Bridge should have been ended two seasons ago were it not for a dive by Ramires in the last minute that Andre Marriner decided was a penalty. Furthermore, while that 2-2 draw is the only point Albion have won at Chelsea in Premier League, since the 6-0 drubbing on the opening day of the 2010/11 season, the games in West London have been much closer and Chelsea have left the Hawthorns pointless on three occasions. In fact, the last eight meetings between the sides produced 3 wins for Albion, 3 defeats and 2 draws with 11 goals for and 10 against.
This will be the first time that Gus Hiddink has faced Albion – when he was last in charge of Chelsea in 2009, the two sides had already met twice before he took over from Scolari in February 2009.
At the time of writing, Albion’s only injury worries are the hamstring issues for both Jonas Olsson and Victor Anichebe. Chelsea, on the other hand, have a number of injury worries with Eden Hazard and Radamel Falcao definitely out, and doubts over Diego Costa, Oscar, Nemanja Matić and Loïc Rémy.
If all the players listed above do miss the game, Chelsea will be short up front and Albion could have a chance of getting something. It is only a chance, however, and I expect the home side to take all three points.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
23 Aug 2015 – Premier League
West Brom 2 (Morrison (2))
Chelsea 3 (Pedro, Costa, Azpilicueta)
Last meeting at Chelsea
22 Nov 2014 – Premier League
Chelsea 2 (Costa, Hazard)
West Brom 0
18 May 2015 – Premier League
West Brom 3 (Berahino (2, 1 pen), Brunt)
Last win at Chelsea
9 Nov 1983 – League Cup 3rd Round
West Brom 1
Albion’s Record against Chelsea
|Premier League Record|