West Brom will not think about Chelsea troubles, says Clarke

The 49-year-old says the Baggies will not get caught up in the crisis surrounding the west London club when they travel to Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon
West Brom boss Steve Clarke has called on his squad to concentrate on themselves when they take on crisis club Chelsea this weekend.

The Blues have endured a controversial week, with interim boss Rafa Benitez hitting out at the club's board and supporters still opposed to his appointment following the FA Cup win over Middlesbrough on Tuesday.

But, with the Baggies going into the game with the chance to complete a first-ever Premier League double over the European champions, Clarke has urged his side to focus.

“We beat them earlier in the season and we played really well that day,” Clarke told the club's official website.

“We put on a good performance – one of our best of the season – it was a great win for us. But it’s a different game at Stamford Bridge.
20/1 West Brom are 20/1 to beat Chelsea 1-0 with bet365

“Chelsea are a team full of talent and their home record by and large is very, very good.

"So, it’s a difficult place to go but we’re confident, we’re in a good place and we’ve managed back-to-back wins in the Premier League, which is never easy.

The Scot also revealed that he sympathises with Benitez, admitting that the harsh criticism the Spaniard has faced at Chelsea "comes with the territory".

“I didn’t hear Rafa's audio, I just read it, and a transcript is different from hearing what he said," Clarke added.

“I didn’t see a lot wrong in what he said. If you’re manager of a club like Chelsea you know what comes with the territory.

“You have great players and you’ve always got a chance of winning major competitions. Everybody keeps telling me that Chelsea are struggling but they’re doing okay.

“Rafa Benitez was put in as manager to take the club to the end of the season and I’m sure that will happen."

The former Liverpool and West Ham coach went on to speak fondly of his 20-year stint at Stamford Bridge, however, referring to his time there as a "big part" of his life.

“My connection with Chelsea is a big part of my past," he said. "Twenty years out of nearly 50 is a big part of my life.

“But I want to win every week, I don’t have any greater hunger to win at Stamford Bridge. I just want to win as many games as I can. I’m a professional.

“When you go to any of the bigger clubs, early on you have to stay in the game and that’s what we’ll focus on.

“The atmosphere, and whatever the Chelsea fans do or the media want to build up around it, is not a concern for us.

“We have to focus on what we do.”

The Midlands club have defied expectations this term and currently sit seventh in the Premier League, but Clarke is wary of suggesting qualification for Europe competition is on the cards.

“I’m not sure the European spot is there,” he added. “It only goes down to fifth in the league and at this stage we’re a little bit away from that.

“It’s not something we will rule out because we’re going to try to get as many points as we can between now and the end of the season, but if we look at the teams above it will be difficult to catch them.”