Chelsea - West Brom Preview: Embattled Benitez seeking win to lift Stamford Bridge gloom
The under-fire Blues boss will be desperately looking for a return to winning ways in the Premier League to boost the club’s Champions League qualification hopes
By Rhys Turrell
Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole
Moses, Mata, Hazard
Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell
Dorrans, Morrison, Brunt
Interim Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez looks set to make numerous changes to the team that defeated Championship side Middlesbrough in the FA Cup on Wednesday night, with the likes of Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Demba Ba all set to return.
Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta (leg) missed the win on Teeside and is unlikely to be involved, but centre-back Gary Cahill (virus) could be available for selection after also missing the win at 'Boro.
One man who definitely will not be involved is central midfielder Oriol Romeu (knee), who is out for the remainder of the season.
West Brom boss Steve Clarke will be without striker Romelu Lukaku who is ineligable to play against his parent club.
However Baggies striker Shane Long (ankle) should be fit to start at Stamford Bridge after resuming training midway through the week.
Defender Goran Popov (ban) serves the final match of a three-game suspension for spitting at Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker, while midfielders Zoltan Gera and George Thorne (both knee) are out for the rest of the season.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Chelsea's last two managers have been sacked after defeats to West Brom. Andre Villas-Boas was axed after a 1-0 defeat at the Hawthorns in March 2012 and his replacement Roberto Di Matteo departed the club after a 2-1 defeat in November of the same year.
- Rafa Benitez's win ratio of 51.9% makes him the Blues' ninth most successful manager in the Premier League area. He is lower than the likes of Avram Grant (66.7%), Luiz Felipe Scolari (55.6%) and Claudio Ranieri 53.3%.
- Chelsea have been awarded more penalties (nine) than any other side in the Premier League this season.
- Blues midfielder Frank Lampard (right) is now just three goals shy of equaling the club's all-time scoring record of 202, which was set by striker Bobby Tambling in the 1960s and 70s. He is 13/10 to score anytime with bet365.
- West Brom have conceded 32% of their goals on the road after the 80th minute this season.
- In seven of their last eight Premier League wins the Baggies have scored exactly two goals.
- The Black Country side have a win ratio of less than 25% for the month of March. They have four wins in 20 games.
|William Hill: £25 in free bets|
|Sign up with bet365 for a free bet up to £200|
|Sign up to Paddy Power for £250 in free bets|
Top 3 Predictions
Chelsea FC 2-0 West Bromwich Albion
- 17.23 %
Chelsea FC 3-1 West Bromwich Albion
- 15.07 %
Chelsea FC 2-1 West Bromwich Albion
- 11.88 %
|Premier League (EPL)||11 Feb 2014||West Bromwich Albion 1 - Chelsea FC 1|
|Premier League (EPL)||9 Nov 2013||Chelsea FC 2 - West Bromwich Albion 2|
|Premier League (EPL)||2 Mar 2013||Chelsea FC 1 - West Bromwich Albion 0|
|Premier League (EPL)||17 Nov 2012||West Bromwich Albion 2 - Chelsea FC 1|
|Premier League (EPL)||3 Mar 2012||West Bromwich Albion 1 - Chelsea FC 0|
|8 Mar 2014||Chelsea FC 4 - Tottenham 0||EPL|
|1 Mar 2014||Fulham 1 - Chelsea FC 3||EPL|
|26 Feb 2014||Galatasaray 1 - Chelsea FC 1||UCL|
|22 Feb 2014||Chelsea FC 1 - Everton 0||EPL|
|15 Feb 2014||Manchester City 2 - Chelsea FC 0||FA|
|12||John Obi Mikel||Midfielder|
|-||Sebastien Gabriel Tamaş||Defender|
After yet another poor showing from £50 million man Fernando Torres in the FA Cup on Wednesday night, striker Ba will be expecting a recall to the starting XI at Stamford Bridge. With his pace, height and strength Ba has already proven himself to be a greater goal threat than the expensive Spaniard, and with the likes of Mata and Hazard likely to be creating chances for him, many will be expecting the Senegalese to add to the four goals he has for the club.
While Claudio Yacob and Youssouf Mulumbu have formed a vital partnership in the heart of the Baggies midfield, it is Ireland striker Shane Long who Steve Clark will be looking at to find the net and fire the visitors to victory. Long averages roughly one goal every three games, and with his ability to lead the line on his own proving fruitful on the road for the Black Country side this season, he will once again be expected to spearhead visitors’ attacking play on Saturday.
West Brom will fancy their chances of an upset at Stamfrod Bridge after the drama of this week. If the home side start sloppily they could find themselves coming unstuck, but with the likes of Mata, Hazard and Ba in attack they will pose a threat throughout and should wrap up a fairly comfortable win.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed