Two clubs enduring difficult times meet at Stamford Bridge on Monday and, while the nature of the difficulties could hardly be more difference, both will see the potential implications as severe.
Albion’s momentum was brought to a shuddering halt with the home defeat to Southampton last weekend and, while a trip to Chelsea is hardly the sort of fixture that they would normally view with optimism, the Blues’ own recent problems have raised hopes that the Baggies could finally end their 33 year wait for a win at the Bridge. Antonio Conte’s team have suffered successive three goal defeats to teams they would normally expect to beat and the Italian’s future at the club has been the subject of much speculation this week. There are even suggestions that Conte is trying to get himself the sack, which would obviously play into Albion’s hands, but you would also expect that the players themselves would be doing everything possible to avoid a third successive defeat.
The Baggies have a history of getting Chelsea managers the sack having been the last Premier League opponents before both André Villas-Boas and Roberto di Matteo were dismissed by Roman Abramovich, with Chelsea having been beaten at the Hawthorns on both occasions. Arguably, it could happen a third time irrespective of the result, but a win for the Baggies would make it much more likely and give a much needed boost to Albion’s hopes of staying in the Premier League. It may not be one of the fixtures that Alan Pardew will have marked down for points in the run-in, but with Chelsea currently misfiring, it must be seen as an opportunity to get something. With the game not kicking off until Monday evening, Albion could be even further adrift at the bottom of the table should Swansea, Stoke and Huddersfield all pick up points over the weekend, which is not unreasonable as all three have winnable home games.
In my opinion, the defeat to Southampton was mostly due to the absence of Krychowiak, Gibbs and Evans. Yacob and Barry as a two in central midfield was a mistake, but with both Grzeg and Livermore injured, Pardew’s choice was to pick Sam Field or change formation. Field had been suffering with illness but was fit enough to make the bench, so perhaps Pardew didn’t quite trust him enough and probably didn’t foresee the match-winning performance that Mario Lemina would put in, although that was partly down to the ineffectiveness of Albion’s middle two. Perhaps Pardew could’ve switched formation to maybe play Brunt in the middle which might have allowed him to start Rodriguez as one of a front three, but you can understand his reluctance to change a formula that had brought success in recent weeks. At the back, the absence of Evans and Gibbs, and the fact that Gabr does not yet have a work permit, left Pardew with little choice and Albion’s central defence with a distinct lack of pace.
It looks like Gibbs and Krychowiak will be fit for Monday evening which should hopefully give Albion more of a chance. At the back, I’d be tempted to move Dawson alongside Hegazi and put Nyom at right back although, strangely for a right-footer, the Cameroonian does seem to look more comfortable at left back. Dawson’s mobility would certainly be a plus in the central pairing.
As for the rest of the team, Phillips had a poor game against the Saints so you could argue as to whether Pardew should switch things around there, but his main decision will be up front. With J-Rod having played two full matches in the week leading up to the Southampton game, he felt it was right to give Sturridge a start, but all three strikers will be raring to go on Monday so he will have a choice to make. He could, of course, pick all three but that might be a little too bold against the champions, even if they are a little off form. It may not be a problem that Pardew has for too long of course with the news that Rodriguez has been charged with racially abusing Gaetan Bong in the match against Brighton; J-Rod continues to protest his innocence and from what we know, it seems to be one man’s word against another’s, so it would seem difficult to prove guilt. However, the FA disciplinary process is not like a court of law and should he be found guilty, it would be a massive blow to Albion’s survival bid with a potential ban for half of their remaining fixtures.
I’ll be at the Bridge on Monday and, for all Albion fans, it’s important to put the game into context. The Southampton defeat has resulted in some declaring that Albion are already down, but that is far from the case, and a defeat on Monday will make that no more likely. Chelsea’s recent poor form does, perhaps, give the Baggies a better chance, but their players are still much better than ours, and they should win the game. A point would be a great result, a win would be incredible, but what Albion need to avoid is a heavy defeat – goal difference could well be crucial given how tight the bottom half of the Premier League is, and Albion’s isn’t too bad compared to some.
Monday is a bonus game and any points will be a massive boost.
Chelsea remain the only club that Albion have faced in more than eight Premier League seasons without registering an away victory. Garry Thompson scored the only goal in a League Cup tie in 1983, but you have to go back to September 1978 for Albion’s last league victory at the Bridge. Three club legends were on the scoresheet for the Baggies that day as Cyrille Regis equalised a 3rd minute opener from Steve Wicks before John Wile and Bomber Brown both scored in two second half minutes to give Albion the points.
Since the League Cup in in 1983, Albion have won just 3 of 33 matches against Chelsea in all competitions although that win was the last in a run of five wins in six meetings which started with a 2-1 win in a Division Two at the Bridge at the end of January 1976. Mick Martin and Bomber Brown scored the Albion goals that day, with Ian Britton netting for the hosts, and the Baggies went on to claim promotion in April of that year with the famous 1-0 win at Oldham, while Chelsea followed with their own promotion by finishing runners-up to Wolves the following season.
The Baggies record win at Stamford Bridge came in April 1929 when Tommy Glidden’s hat trick was added to by goals from Joe Carter and Joseph Evans in a 5-2 win, while they matched that winning margin in December 1967 when Jeff Astle, Dick Kryzywicki and Clive Clark all found the net in a 3-0 win. Chelsea’s record win over the Baggies was thanks largely to a 5-goal haul from the legendary Jimmy Greaves as the Blues romped to a 7-1 in December 1960 with Alec Jackson netting Albion’s consolation, while we can all remember the 6-0 hammering we took on the opening day of the 2010/11 season when Malouda (2), Drogba (3) and Lampard all found the net.
There is a chance that Albion could come away with points based purely on Chelsea’s recent tribulations, but I’d be surprised if Conte’s team capitulated for a third straight game. Chelsea haven’t lost successive home games since January 2013 when they lost to QPR in the league and Swansea in the League Cup, while you have to go back to October 2011 for successive home league defeats when Arsenal and Liverpool both won at the Bridge, and on both of those occasions, Chelsea won an away game in between the home defeats. I can only see this one as a home win.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
18 Nov 2017 – Premier League
West Brom 0
Chelsea 4 (Morata, Hazard (2), Alonso)
Last meeting at Chelsea
11 Dec 2016 – Premier League
Chelsea 1 (Costa)
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 (Thompson)
Albion’s Record against Chelsea
|Premier League Record|