The Baggies return to Premier League action on Saturday evening as Chelsea visit the Hawthorns in what will be another tough test for Slaven Bilić’s side.
The first half performance at Goodison Park last weekend did provide some positives for Albion, although the result was obviously disappointing and eight goals conceded in two games is a worrying statistic.
Wednesday’s exit of the Carabao Cup at the hands of Brentford was also a blow, although there were further positives with the performances of Conor Gallagher and Branislav Ivanović. While Gallagher cannot play against his parent club on Saturday, we could see the Serb play against Chelsea for the first time, a club for which he made 377 appearances over nine seasons.
Bilić has a decision to make as to whether to keep the 3-4-3 formation that he has used for the first two Premier League fixtures or potentially switch to the 4-3-3 that was used against Brentford. The added complication is that Kieran Gibbs will serve the second of his three match suspension for his red card against Everton, so the Croat must decide whether to bring in Conor Townsend or switch Dara O’Shea over to the left back slot that he has occupied on occasion. That decision will inevitably influence, or be influenced by, the chosen formation and whether Ivanović is considered fit enough to start.
I feel that Sam Field’s performances in the two Carabao Cup ties must have put in him contention for a league start, particularly given the below par displays of Romaine Sawyers. Gallagher will almost certainly come in next week, but perhaps Field could get a start against Chelsea, particularly if Bilić opts for a 4-3-3. With Krovinović expected to re-sign in the next few days, the midfield could have a very different look for the trip to Southampton.
As for the visitors, they have opened with a win at Brighton and a home defeat to Liverpool while one of their summer signings, Kai Havertz, grabbed a hat trick in their 6-0 Carabao Cup win over Barnsley in mid-week. Havertz, whose transfer from Bayer Leverkusen could cost as much as £71m, and Timo Werner, who joined from RB Leipzig for just under £50m, were joined at Stamford Bridge this week by another big money signing, goalkeeper Edouard Mendy from Rennes for around £22m. With that transfer only confirmed on Thursday, he may not make his debut at the Hawthorns and perhaps Albion will have one last chance to take advantage of the out-of-form and under-fire Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Lampard has been busy over the summer having also secured the signings of Ben Chilwell from Leicester City for £45m, Thiago Silva from PSG and Malang Sarr from Nice bringing their summer spending to close to £200m. How the other half live?
With even the most optimistic of Albion fans finding it difficult to argue that the boys can get a result on Saturday evening, this is one last free hit for Bilić and the team before the season starts to get serious next weekend. The trip to Southampton is followed by games against Burnley, Brighton and Fulham in October and, if the Baggies are to avoid getting cut adrift, they will need to get a reasonable points total from those four games.
While a positive result may be unlikely, a positive performance will do a lot for the team’s confidence ahead of a crucial run of fixtures.
The last time that Chelsea visited the Hawthorns proved to be Tony Pulis’s last game in charge of the Baggies. The Blues, then managed by Maurizio Sarri, won 4-0 to hammer the final nail in the Welshman’s coffin matching their biggest ever win on Albion soil. Since then, Albion have changed their manager three times, four if you include Jimmy Shan, whereas Chelsea’s trigger happy owner has made just one change with the appointment of Frank Lampard in summer 2019.
Back in 2012, the Hawthorns was a graveyard for Chelsea managers with André Villas-Boas and Roberto di Matteo being sacked following defeats at the Shrine, although the other Chelsea manager to lose a Premier League match at the Hawthorns, José Mourinho in May 2015, did so having already secured the Premier League title.
Those three victories are the only ones that the Baggies have recorded in their last 34 meetings with Chelsea in all competitions dating back to 1983. With only 5 draws in those games, it’s fair to say that the west Londoners have had the upper hand in this fixture of late!
It wasn’t always the case, of course, and the Baggies have put four or more past Chelsea at the Hawthorns on no less than seven occasions, although the most recent was in April 1972 when goals from Len Cantello, Tony Brown, Ally Brown and future Albion boss, Bobby Gould, saw the hosts beat the playboys from the King’s Road 4-0 in a rare goalfest under Don Howe.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
12 Feb 2018 – Premier League
Chelsea 3 (Hazard (2), Moses)
West Brom 0
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
18 Nov 2017 – Premier League
West Brom 0
Chelsea 4 (Morata, Hazard (2), Alonso)
18 May 2015 – Premier League
West Brom 3 (Berahino (2, 1 pen), Brunt)
Albion’s Record against Chelsea
|Premier League Record|