West Brom v Chelsea match preview

by - November 17, 2017

The final international break of 2017 is now over and everyone can concentrate back on domestic footballing issues for the next 4 months. During this period we will witness up to half of the Premier League season as well as the Champions League up to the quarter final stage, 3 rounds of the FA Cup and the rest of this season’s League Cup matches.

For all clubs this is a key period within the season. It includes the hectic festive program and will see managers juggling squads dependant on injuries, suspensions, form, level of competition, etc.

At this point last season, Chelsea had just started on their all conquering winning streak in the Premier League as Antonio Conte used the lack of interruptions to gel his squad into a dominant 3-4-3 formation. This culminated in The Blues celebrating their sixth league title with a Friday evening victory away to West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns.

Coincidentally Chelsea start the next session with a trip back to the West Midlands and thoughts will be of the celebrations at the final whistle in front of The Smethwick End on their previous visit.

The hosts currently lie in 16th place in the Premier League and are on a dreadful run with no victory in their last 9 league matches having started the season so brightly with back to back 1-0 victories over Bournemouth and Burnley.

Their last match was a disappointing 1-0 defeat away at 10 man Huddersfield Town. The pressure is building on manager Tony Pulis who had previously guided The Baggies to 3 mid table league finishing positions. However, his side have only scored 9 goals in their 11 Premier League matches this term and this uninspired run was exasperated with a negative 5-3-2 formation with included 3 defensive central midfielders against the Premier League new boys. Rodriguez and Robson-Kanu lacked support and any penetration up front throughout. It was only very late on in the match, and after The Terriers had been reduced to 10 men and the powerful Rondon had been introduced to The Baggies attack that West Brom managed to mount any sustained pressure but Huddersfield’s defence and in particular Jonas Lossl in goal were more than up to the challenge.

A lot of the prematch talk about the Chelsea line up will centre around David Luiz, as supporters and the media hope to find more clues as to the state of the player’s relationship with his manager after being dropped from the squad for their victory over Manchester United. The biggest shame of this will be any loss of focus on how well the players who actually played performed and their richly deserved win over their former manager and title rivals. If Luiz was omitted and replaced by Christensen purely based on tactical differences then surely the young Dane will keep his place in the starting line up. Pulis’s teams are usually most effective from set plays and this is where Christensen’s defensive strengths are exemplified.

The rest of Conte’s decisions regarding formation and line up will focus on how to break down what will very likely be one of the most defensive sides he will be up against this season. An early goal for The Blues could lead to a more open and entertaining affair but the longer it takes to make a break through, this could easily deteriorate into a dour and nervous afternoon.

Let’s hope for all those watching, we all get to witness the former.

Written by Jon Ellis, Chelsea FC home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on twitter: @ClitheroeBlue

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