??Chelsea host West Brom looking to arrest the slide which has seen them lose back-to-back games by a three-goal margin for the first time since October 1995. The west Londoners went down 3-0 at home to Bournemouth two weeks ago, and despite a late equaliser by Eden Hazard, ended up being overpowered last week at Vicarage Road late on to ?come away 4-1 losers.
The Blues have only one win in their last five, with an indifferent start to 2018 posing a serious threat to their top-four hopes, and with the added caveat of a last-16 European clash against Barcelona looming next week. Antonio Conte finds himself under increased pressure, with the next few weeks pivotal if he is to keep his job.
Similarly, relegation-threatened West Brom find themselves in deep trouble, having failed to build on their win over Brighton in mid-January, only their third win all season and first since August. Ever since beating the Seasiders, they have one point from nine, conceding seven goals to drop to the very summit of the table.
Both sides desperately need a victory to try and save their season at opposite ends of the table, which should make for a close encounter at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea have struggled at the Hawthorns in the past decade, with two defeats in 2012 proving fatal for Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto di Matteo in the hotseat. In last season’s visit, Michy Batshuayi’s memorable late goal clinched the title for Antonio Conte at the first time of asking.
However, it was a more recent outing, back in May 2015, which was symbolic of the decline to come. Tony Pulis’ Baggies produced a brilliant performance to overwhelm their visitors 3-0 and give their fans a late-season treat.
The game took a comical turn, with Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas being dismissed midway through the first half for kicking the ball at Chris Brunt from 20 yards away, perfectly hitting the northern Irishman. After a tussle between Diego Costa and Gareth MacAuley, the Spaniard looped a ball cross-field which accurately hit the opposing captain, leaving the referee no choice but to send him off.
Berahino doubled his and West Brom’s tally from the penalty spot, stroking past Thibaut Courtois just after half-time to leave the 10-man champions with a mountain to climb.
Chris Brunt added a third just after the hour mark to leave the hosts in dreamland, and Mourinho’s side stunned by the sudden collapse, offering no reply in the second half to fall to just their third league defeat of the season.
With the Blues champions and Albion safe in mid-table, the game meant little to either side, but was perhaps a precursor to the extraordinary downturn in form Chelsea would suffer the next season, leading to the Portuguese’s sacking seven months later.
Chelsea have one win in their last five league games, their only success in that run being the 4-0 away win at Brighton almost three weeks ago. Having also crashed out of the Carabao Cup to Arsenal, it has been a stressful start to 2018 for the champions, with serious questions being raised over Antonio Conte’s job.
The Italian has remained coy on rumours linking him with the exit door at Stamford Bridge, branding the club ‘stupid’ should they decide to replace him.
West Brom have only one win in their last 24 games, with Alan Pardew’s men five points adrift of safety in 20th, with relegation a real possibility. Defeats to Manchester City and Southampton in recent weeks have cemented their position in the bottom-half scrap, with the Midlands side looking a good candidate to go down at this moment.
Alvaro Morata remains out for the hosts with a recurring back problem, and Antonio Conte admitted he is unsure how long the Spaniard will be out for. Thus, Olivier Giroud could be handed a full debut, with the deadline day signing from Arsenal eager to show what he can do in his Stamford Bridge bow.
The Blues will be without Tiemoue Bakayoko after his red card in the defeat at Vicarage Road on Monday night, with Andreas Christensen facing a late fitness test on his way back from a hamstring problem.
Jay Rodriguez is available for selection despite his FA charge for alleged racial abuse of Brighton’s Gaetan Bong, a charge he readily denies. Jonny Evans and Kieran Gibbs should return from injury, but the likes of James Morrison and Nacer Chadli remain long-term absentees.
Predicted Chelsea Lineup: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Kante, Drinkwater, Alonso; Willian, Giroud, Hazard.
Predicted West Brom Lineup: Foster; Dawson, Hegazi, Evans, Gibbs; Brunt, Barry, Yacob, Phillips; Rodriguez, Sturridge.
Despite both sides’ woeful run of form, you would expect the world-class quality in Chelsea’s squad to shine through and give Antonio Conte a much-needed victory. However, the same could have been said for the Bournemouth and Watford games, with the west Londoners pointless after those two.
However, West Brom do not possess the pace and guile those two teams have in abundance, and should be easier to break down in the latter stages when tiring.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-0 West Brom