The Blues return from the international break with a chance to go seven points clear at the top of the Premier League table. Chelsea host West Brom on Saturday, with second placed Southampton not in action until Monday. But, in order to stretch their gap they’ll need to beat a West Brom side against whom they’ve struggled in recent times.
The Pensioners have taken just five points out of a possible 15 against West Brom in the last few meetings, winning just one of their last five. West Brom almost won this fixture last season, until a very dubious Eden Hazard penalty secured a 2-2 draw for Chelsea and kept Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten home record as Blues boss alive for a little longer. Given those performances, Chelsea will need to do a lot better this weekend if they’re to get their 10th win of the season.
Mourinho’s men will have many of their top players jetting back in from international duty, which could help West Brom here. The majority of the Chelsea side were in international action, and could come back slightly jaded. Despite that, the Blues currently have no injury problems, so they’ll have plenty of options for Saturday.
Thibaut Courtois should continue in goal, with the usual back four of Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta ahead of him. John Terry spent the break on holiday in Dubai, so he should be particularly well rested for this one.
In midfield, the first choice pairing of Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic should start. Fabregas picked up an injury before the break which kept him out of the Spain squad, much to Mourinho’s delight, but he should be back in time for the West Brom game. Mourinho recently called Matic the team’s best player, which is high praise given the quality in the Chelsea squad.
Eden Hazard and Oscar should start in midfield, with Andre Schurrle likely to play wide on the right. Willian is another option there, but he’ll likely play in the Champions League next week instead. Other than him, it’s hard to see Mourinho resting anyone else, as he’ll be looking for more league points to maintain their impressive start.
Diego Costa also missed out on the Spain squad, with the player not selected by boss Vincente Del Bosque. Mourinho claimed to have no knowledge of why he was left out, but it’s likely his comments about the strikers’ injuries stemming from international duty played a part. After two weeks of training with the Blues, Costa should be fit enough to start here and in Schalke next week, and Costa would have certainly made a difference in that West Brom game last season.
Mourinho will be glad to have his first choice team available, and he’ll be looking to maintain that as the Blues approach the demanding Christmas period. First things first, he’ll be looking for three points against West Brom.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 3-1