The FourFourTwo Preview: Chelsea vs West Brom
Friends reunited as Mourinho looks to kill off Chelsea’s seasonal curse.
November has been the month of nightmares for Chelsea in recent years – just ask Big Phil, Carlo Ancelotti, AVB and Roberto Di Matteo, who all found themselves with one foot out the door at Stamford Bridge following an unwanted autumn wobble.
- Chelsea 3-0 Schalke (CL)
- Newcastle 2-0 Chelsea (Prem)
- Arsenal 0-2 Chelsea (LC)
- Chelsea 2-1 Man City (Prem)
- Schalke 0-3 Chelsea (CL)
WEST BROM FORM
- WBA 2-0 Palace (Prem)
- Liverpool 4-1 WBA (Prem)
- Stoke 0-0 WBA (Prem)
- WBA 1-1 Arsenal (Prem)
- Man Utd 1-2 WBA (Prem)
True to form, Jose Mourinho’s men kicked off the 11th month in sluggish fashion against Newcastle last Saturday, losing 2-0 at St James’ Park to bring a fine run of form (eight wins and a draw in nine games) to an alarming halt.
“I don’t believe in curses,” said Mourinho after the game. “I have no idea why it happened in the past but we have to try not to be like that. I’m confident it won’t happen again.”
We’d expect nothing less than such a bullish reaction, but he’ll know that in West Brom he’s facing a side that’s tough to beat, with old chum Steve Clarke’s charges losing once in seven league outings.
The biggest story of the Baggies’ season so far has been the emergence of Saido Berahino.
The 20-year old scored his sixth of the campaign in all competitions in last weekend’s win over Crystal Palace, leading to much talk of him making Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad next summer. With just two – two! – Premier League starts under his belt, though, let’s not get carried away just yet.
Clarke has understandably been more concerned with finalising a new contract for the youngster, who earns £850 a week – that’s less than many Premier League kit men. With talks ongoing this week, if Berahino can do to Chelsea what he did at Old Trafford in September, he might be able to bump up the reputed £12,000-a-week deal currently on the table – especially with team-mates Shane Long and Nicolas Anelka out of sorts in front of goal.
Fernando Torres is out with a thigh muscle problem, so Samuel Eto’o should start up front following his brace against Schalke. After nicking another sneaky goal from under the feet of a goalkeeper – unlike his one against Cardiff, however, this one was right to stand – Boaz Myhill will need to watch his back as well as the ball. Elsewhere for the Blues, Ryan Bertrand should return to the squad after picking up a minor knock in training.
For the visitors, full-back and fan favourite Billy Jones will be badly missed, having played in every game this season before pulling a muscle against Palace, which will see him miss several matches. On-loan speedster and former Chelsea man Scott Sinclair is available, however, having recovered from a hamstring injury.
Key battle: Youssouf Mulumbu vs Eden Hazard
West Brom’s Congolese enforcer may still be prone to the odd needless booking, but he’s re-emerged as a key figure for his side. Sitting in front of the back four alongside Chris Brunt, he frustrated Palace time and again last weekend, making 12 ball recoveries and five interceptions – the highest in the game on both counts. Mulumbu will no doubt be far busier come Saturday, and keeping Hazard quiet will be a tough task.
Dropped against Schalke after his no-show for training on Monday, Mourinho confirmed the dynamic Belgian would be off the naughty step in time to face the Baggies. "I don’t want to lie, he forgot the time,” said Mourinho. “Kids make mistakes, and fathers have to be clever." That’s you told, Eden.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Chelsea 1-0 WBA (Prem, Mar 13)
- WBA 2-1 Chelsea (Prem, Nov 12)
- WBA 1-0 Chelsea (Prem, Mar 12)
- Chelsea 2-1 WBA (Prem, Aug 11)
- WBA 1-3 Chelsea (Prem, Apr 11)
Clarke is one of three current Prem managers with ‘Mourinho apprentice’ stamped on their CV, the latter having promoted the Scot from youth team chief to first-team assistant in 2004. Their styles couldn’t be much different, though, as Clarke himself admitted this week. “I’m quieter, reserved, and definitely not a shouter,” he said. Clarke may be calling his old boss a loudmouth, but the pair remain close friends, so man-hugs near the tunnel are a certainty as they go head-to-head for the first time.
Facts and figures
- Chelsea have won 12 of their 14 Premier League games with West Brom (W12 L2) including all 7 at Stamford Bridge.
- West Brom have won 2 of their last 3 league games against Chelsea, but both have been at the Hawthorns.
- The 14 previous Premier League meetings between Chelsea and West Brom have seen a total of 13 managers take part.
- Chelsea have hit more shots off target than any other Premier League side this season (77).
- Chelsea have scored 76 goals in their last 26 Saturday 3pm Premier League games at Stamford Bridge, an average of 2.9 per game.
- Chelsea (along with Man City) are the only teams with maximum points from their home games this season.
- Chelsea have made fewer interceptions than any other side this season (80).
- WBA veteran Nicolas Anelka has only scored 1 goal in 12 Premier League appearances against Chelsea.
- This compares to Anelka’s rate of 38 goals in 125 Premier League appearances for Chelsea.
- Chelsea have won 12 of their last 13 Premier League home games.
- Chelsea, who lost at Newcastle last week, haven't lost back to back league fixtures since the 2011-12 season.
- The Blues have won 9 out of 11 home fixtures against mid-table teams, and 12 of 13 in total.
- There have been 3 or more goals in 9 of the last 14 league games at Stamford Bridge.
- West Brom have lost each of their last 8 league matches away to top-six teams, and have been losing at both half-time and full-time in 7 of those 8.
- Four of West Brom's last 8 away defeats have been by 2 or more goals. have won 12 of their 14 Premier League games with West Brom (W12 L2) including all 7 at Stamford Bridge.
With his confidence higher than John Terry’s socks following his Champions League antics, Eto’o to fire the Blues to three points. 3-1.