Sat 17 Nov 2012 15:00 (Attendance: 25,933)
It is a fixture with plenty of sub-plots but the main theme for the Blues is the need to return to winning ways in the league. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton begin the preface…
Manager Roberto Di Matteo returns to an old stomping ground this weekend, and a fixture that must have mixed memories for him. Eight months ago it was his last as Chelsea's assistant first team coach, and elevated to the main role he went on to lift the FA Cup and Champions League in just three months.
The Blues' hosts on Saturday have also improved. Just like the song thrush from which they take their 'Throstles' nickname, West Brom are far more visible this winter.
Talk of their success, occupying a Europa League slot, is everywhere. Their manager, former Chelsea player and coach Steve Clarke, has had to dampen down talk of Europe. Yet apart from the two weeks either side of Hallowe'en the Baggies have been a top-six side all season.
John Terry scored his 50th goal for Chelsea last weekend - he became the club's first player to score in 14 different seasons - yet he was injured and we somehow Liverpool left with a share of the points.
The defence has not been able to claim a clean sheet in six outings and upfront goals are harder to come by. It is a testing time and the schedule does not become any easier for a while, with nine matches in December, seven of them away from the Bridge.
The Londoners are in decent form away from home, though, with just one defeat in the league since our last visit to the Hawthorns.
With the last internationals of the calendar year played, Chelsea's unbeaten record in matches following the FIFA breaks so far is played three, won two, drawn one. The most recent of those was the 4-2 victory at Spurs, whose squad also has considerable demands from national associations and European competition.
West Brom, with half a dozen key players also playing friendlies in midweek, have lost both post-internationals games played away from the Hawthorns. Steve Clarke has already suggested a few of his travellers will not make Saturday's kick-off.
This fixture was a turning point last season - Andre Villas-Boas's last match in charge of the Blues. It is also a meeting of old friends on both sides.
Di Matteo and assistant Eddie Newton took the Baggies up to the Premier League as runners-up in 2010 (pictured below), and several players - Jonas Olsson, Youssouf Mulumbu and Chris Brunt included - remain key men under Clarke.
He, of course, is revered at Stamford Bridge for his years of service as a player and coach. He played a vital role in the José Mourinho years and knew more than most what league title triumphs meant to the club and supporters.
Virtually his parting contribution of a 22-year on/off association was on the pitch at the Luzhniki Stadium, motivating and organising the Chelsea players during extra time and penalties at the Champions League final in 2008. He will have enjoyed watching Munich 2012.
This week, as West Brom manager, Clarke recalled a salutary lesson learned as a Blues defender: riding high around this time of year in 1987 - sixth-placed and four points off top slot - only to succumb to relegation via the play-offs in May 1988.
History favours Chelsea in this fixture. That defeat in March was the first at the Baggies' home in 29 years. Their only home loss this campaign, however, was an unfortunate one, delivered in stoppage time by Man City's Edin Džeko.
Despite the lack of shutouts only two sides have a better defensive record than the Blues (and West Brom).
|Goals against tally after 11 games|
|Manchester City||10 goals conceded|
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Arsenal v Tottenham 12.45pm - Sky Sports
Liverpool v Wigan 3pm
Manchester City v Aston Villa 3pm
Newcastle v Swansea 3pm
QPR v Southampton 3pm
Reading v Everton 3pm
West Brom v Chelsea 3pm
Norwich v Manchester United 5.30pm - ESPN
Fulham v Sunderland 4pm - Sky Sports
West Ham v Stoke 8pm - Sky Sports
|Barclays Premier League table top six|
Click on tabs above for more briefing.
Having slipped to third, Chelsea travel to the team in fifth. All the Blues may have to be at the top of their game to achieve victory, says former winger Clive Walker.
'Don't underestimate Steve Clarke's West Bromwich Albion. That's what I think Robbie Di Matteo will be drilling into his players' heads,' says Walker. 'They look a team that's quite capable of stopping us in our tracks and we must not let that happen.
'That's why I believe a key factor will be the mental approach of each team. At our best we have looked fluent and together, but a lot of our players are still finding out about each other. You sense that the kind of team confidence is coming but not always there yet; that comes from extended runs of good results.
'West Brom's rise has not come so much from one or two top performers as their team mentality and work ethic.
'Of course, the likes of powerful midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu (pictured below) have been decent this season, but there are teams we have faced with better individuals. Saturday is about us locking horns with them all over the park because Clarkey has obviously got something going on there.
'I'm sure he would like to prove a point against his old club. He will know our scouts have been watching them play a certain way but he has the players to change tactics and it would not surprise me if he made a few tweaks to his system to throw us. West Brom's team is not quite as familiar to our lads as some other contenders for European places will be.
'In the early stages, which can be so important, Clarkey could throw a spanner in the works. So we have to ensure that we dictate the tempo and flow: front foot, early on.
'West Brom have used quite a tight-knit few players to date and Clarkey is saying a few internationals picked up knocks. We'll take all the help we can get.
'People have latched onto the fact we've not scored so many in recent games, but this Chelsea team, with the creativity on offer, will create chances all season.
'It needs a good, high tempo start and to have the killer instinct. They're still bonding and finding the formula.
'Obviously we are letting in easy goals too easily. In years gone by we would have won the last two league games. We are switching off - a series of mistakes and all of a sudden we have a setback. This season we seem to need to get two goals at least to kill teams off - that could be the case this weekend.
'Obviously John Terry's absence through injury doesn't help at the back but David Luiz and Gary Cahill have done okay when JT has been unavailable. Branislav Ivanovic is equally good in there and Cesar Azpilicueta showed good signs of settling into English football when he played. I would imagine Brana will return to right-back though.
'West Brom do not launch it. They don't really have the typical hold-up man either. They have hard-working forwards who run the channels. Our back line has to be spot on watching for the ball slipped through to the man behind.
'Romelu Lukaku is unavailable of course, and he's played quite regularly for them and caused problems even for the likes of Man City.
'They use the width well and tend to have a good tempo and movement to their game when they're in possession. The problem they face is when they lose the ball too close to their own goal, which is what Chelsea have to be looking to force with good pressing.
'Sometimes the Baggies can almost move the ball too quickly for their own good. Fernando Torres, Oscar and Eden Hazard are terrific at robbing the opposition high up the pitch. I feel that could be West Brom's Achilles heel. Ben Foster will also be missed, though they have Boaz Myhill to come in.
'I think we will push up on them, squeeze play, and have Petr Cech ready to play as a sweeper. We cannot sit deep; if we do, we could have problems.
'We need to dictate play, ensure our most dangerous players see a lot of the ball. When they do, our quality attacking players need to be on top of their game.
'I'd love to see Torres playing with the same confidence he had at the start of this season. He's still working hard for the most part and strikers thrive on regular starts. His luck will turn and we will see a different player then.'
Squad fitness news
Ashley Cole may return after a hamstring strain but Frank Lampard (calf) remains out, as is John Terry (knee). David Luiz recovered from the illness that kept him out of the Liverpool game to play for Brazil midweek.
West Brom are without first-choice goalkeeper Ben Foster (groin) so Boaz Myhill will play.
There is a doubt over defender Gareth McAuley who was injured on duty for Northern Ireland but midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu (hamstring) may be fit after missing the internationals.
Click on tabs above for more briefing.
WE HAVE HISTORY
In March 1954 Ted Drake and Chelsea hosted a stellar West Brom managed by Vic Buckingham. Years later Drake would serve as assistant to Buckingham in spells at Fulham and Barcelona. But for this midweek league meeting it was Chelsea's novice versus the Double-chasing Baggies.
Chelsea's demolition of the 'team of the year' would raise headlines as the shock of the season. It began in the ninth minute, with Roy Bentley's dummy and Derek Saunders' side-foot home warming the 46,000 fans.
Three minutes later centre-forward Bentley tricked his way to another opening, drawing the keeper Norman Heath before crossing for Johnny McNichol to convert into an empty net. The Blues seemed eager to avenge FA Cup defeat a few months earlier.
At 2-0 West Brom were not out of it, Paddy Ryan twice hitting the woodwork. Two goals in three minutes around the half-hour mark ended their hopes. First Albion players appealed in vain for offside as Eric Parsons chested down for Les Stubbs to finish. Then amateur Jim Lewis - playing because Frank Blunstone was not allowed army leave - beat Heath to make it four.
Chelsea's fifth and final goal was a work of art, beginning with fine combination play down the right between McNichol and Parsons, who crossed for Lewis. With Albion's back line lethargic, the outside-left nodded down for Bentley, who hammered the ball into the net.
Back to modern times and last season's win by West Brom ended our unbeaten run against the Baggies of 21 games, stretching back to November 1983 in the League Cup. The Blues had won the previous 13 meetings between the clubs including all 11 in the Premier League.
Our last 10 league meetings at the Hawthorns
1978/79 - West Brom won 1-0 - old First Division
1984/85 - Chelsea won 1-0 - old First Division
1985/86 - Chelsea won 3-0 - old First Division
1988/89 - Chelsea won 3-2 - old Second Division
2002/03 - Chelsea won 2-0 - Premier League
2004/05 - Chelsea won 4-1 - Premier League
2005/06 - Chelsea won 2-1 - Premier League
2008/09 - Chelsea won 3-0 - Premier League
2010/11 - Chelsea won 3-1 - Premier League
2011/12 - West Brom won 1-0 - Premier League
Other match last season
20 August 2011 Barclays Premier League
Chelsea………..……2 West Brom.………..….…1
Anelka 52 Long 4
West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea in all competitions
Games played 127
Chelsea wins 53
Baggies wins 41
Head to head in the league at The Hawthorns
Games played 56
Chelsea wins 21
Baggies wins 22
Biggest league win at The Hawthorns for each team
West Brom 4-0 Chelsea - 01/05/1920, 12/12/1931, 04/09/1937, 13/12/1958, 14/04/1962, 27/04/1972.
West Brom 1-4 Chelsea - 30/10/2004
Chelsea kept a clean sheet in the Premier League: 56
Steve Clarke last held a trophy: 265
Arsenal won a trophy: 2,737
Liverpool won the league: 8,232
Visit tomorrow for part two of the Briefing.
Chelsea are unbeaten away in the league this term. Our last defeat was at Liverpool in May, six games ago.
The Blues are 10 points better off after 11 games compared to the corresponding games last season.
Liverpool was the eighth occasion we opened the scoring in a Barclays Premier League game this term and the second game in succession we didn't go onto win the game.
Chelsea have won just two points from the last nine available.
Although we haven't kept a clean sheet in six Premier League matches (eight in all games), only Stoke and West Ham (five) have kept more than Chelsea's four.
|Last six results|
|Oct 23||Shakhtar Donetsk (Champions League a)||L 1-2|
|Oct 28||Manchester United (h)||L 2-3|
|Oct 31||Manchester United (League Cup h)||W 5-4 aet|
|Nov 3||Swansea (a)||D 1-1|
|Nov 7||Shakhtar Donetsk (Champions League h)||W 3-2|
|Nov 11||Liverpool (h)||D 1-1|
Premier League scorers
Mata 4, Torres 4, Ivanovic 3, Lampard 3 (2 pens), Cahill 2, Hazard 2 (1 pen), Cole 1, Moses 1, Ramires 1, Sturridge 1, Terry 1. Total 23
League games since
An away win: 1
An away draw: 0
An away defeat: 5
|Chelsea's next three games|
|Tue 20 Nov||Juventus (Champions League) away||7.45pm|
|Sun 25 Nov||Manchester City home||4pm|
|Wed 28 Nov||Fulham home||7.45pm|
1 League championship, in 1920
5 FA Cups, last in 1968
1 League Cup, in 1966
2 FA Charity/Community Shields (1 shared), last in 1954
This season is West Brom's best ever start to a Premier League campaign.
The Baggies have won 15 points from a possible 18 at The Hawthorns this term. Only Manchester City have a better home record.
At The Hawthorns they have won five against Liverpool, Everton, Reading, QPR and Southampton and lost one to a stoppage-time Edin Dzeko winner against Manchester City in October.
West Brom have opened the scoring in eight of their 11 Premier League games so far. They have gone onto win six of them. Only Manchester City came from behind to take all three points.
Only Stoke (one) and Sunderland (three) have conceded fewer goals at home than the Baggies four.
Manager Steve Clarke
Days in charge: 145
ALBION'S LAST 10 YEARS LEAGUE HISTORY
|Since 2002 West Brom have moved seven times between the top two divisions.|
|2003/04||86||2nd||League Division One||2|
|Last six results|
|Sep 30||Aston Villa (a)||D 1-1|
|Oct 6||QPR (h)||W 3-2|
|Oct 20||Manchester City (h)||L 1-2|
|Oct 28||Newcastle (a)||L 1-2|
|Nov 5||Southampton (h)||W 2-0|
|Nov 10||Wigan (a)||W 2-1|
2012/13 Premier League scorers
Long 3, Lukaku 3, Morrison 3, Odemwingie 3 (1 pen), Gera 2, McAuley 1, Mulumbu 1, own goal 1. Total 17.
League games since
A home win: 0
A home draw: 7
A home defeat: 1
WEST BROM MAJOR SUMMER MOVES
Ins Ben Foster (Birmingham, £3m), Markus Rosenberg (Werder Bremen, free), Claudio Yacob (Racing Club de Avellanede, free), Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea, loan), Goran Popov (Dynamo Kiev, loan), Yassine El Ghanassy (Gent, loan)
Outs Simon Cox (Nottingham Forest, £2m), Keith Andrews (Bolton, free), Marton Fulop (released), Paul Scharner (Hamburg, free), Nicky Shorey (Reading, free), Somen Tchoyi (released)
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Michael Oliver is the official for his second Chelsea match this term. He was the referee in our 1-0 win against Stoke at Stamford Bridge in September (Incidentally the Blues' last league clean sheet). Chelsea have won both matches officiated by Oliver to date.
There are no suspensions.
Romelu Lukaku is unable play due to the terms of his loan.
The Blues suffered a first away defeat in the league as the autumn dip continues.
West Brom, a force at home this campaign, scored with headers early in each half with Eden Hazard levelling the match via a deflection off Baggies full-back Billy Jones before the interval.
Chelsea, who made several changes to the starting line-up, had the opportunities in the second half, most notably for Daniel Sturridge who moved from the wing to centre-forward after Fernando Torres was taken off, but he came across a keeper in form, making it an unhappy return to The Hawthorns for Roberto Di Matteo who will be hoping for a better night in his home country on Tuesday.
There is little doubt the midweek internationals, especially those that had taken Juan Mata and the Brazilians to the Americas and back, influenced Di Matteo's team selection. David Luiz did come in for injured John Terry but Oscar and Ramires, plus Mata, were on the bench.
Ashley Cole was also back among the subs after injury. Cesar Azpilicueta and Ryan Bertrand retained their places as the full-backs. Daniel Sturridge started wide right with Victor Moses on the left. Oriol Romeu was alongside John Mikel Obi in midfield.
There was hearty applause for Di Matteo and Eddie Newton from the West Brom fans before kick-off, and handshakes between our bench and current Baggies boss Steve Clarke, but then old allegiances had to be forgotten quickly.
Eden Hazard, back in a central role behind Torres with today's team changes, turned nicely and found Sturridge who had come in from the flank but the England striker's early attempt from 35 yards out was over-ambitious.
On six minutes there was better work from Sturridge in a wider position followed by a penetrating run from Moses. The ball came to Bertrand who would surely have scored had he caught his shot more cleanly. Instead it was cleared off the line.
Having survived that early opportunity, West Brom rubbed it in by going ahead three minutes later, scoring a goal that was down to poor Chelsea defending. It was James Morrison who crossed from the left and David Luiz, initially with Shane Long, allowed the centre-forward to escape behind him for a header past the helpless Petr Cech.
Referee Michael Oliver spoke to but did not book Long after a rumbustious challenge on David Luiz as the defender tried to start a move forward, but West Brom, without Romelu Lukaku up front, had changed shape to give themselves an extra man in midfield and were enjoying plenty of the ball.
On 30 minutes it fell to Sturridge on the edge of the West Brom area and with little time to react, he did well to shoot first time. Myhill pouched the swerving ball.
Chelsea, when we pushed forward, were frustrated by the many blue-and-white-striped shirts that were amassed in the final third of the pitch, the long shot too often our last resort, and we were almost caught out by a 34th-minute counter-attack - Shane Long firing just inches wide with Cech exposed.
Four minutes later, Chelsea pressure did finally pay off. There was a touch of good fortune initially when Azpilicueta picked up an over-hit pass out wide and he crossed deep to the far post. Hazard was the player rising there to head towards the target, the ball diverted past Myhill by the nearby Billy Jones. Chelsea had enjoyed the breaks on this occasion.
It brought belief to the performance and Sturridge had a worthy right-footed shot soon after.
Moses was causing West Brom as many problems as anyone with his running but he was guilty of blasting over the bar when an advanced Gary Cahill had found him in space close to the end of the half. There was just time left for David Luiz to send a free-kick into the West Brom wall.
Chelsea continued to look sharper following the restart - Moses cutting through the Baggies backline and Sturridge turning and firing on-target, only for Myhill to save, but frustratingly we were undone by another cross just five minutes in.
Long sent the ball over towards the near post and this time it was Odemwingie, goal-side of Bertrand, who was able to nod past Cech to make it 2-1.
We needed to come from behind again, but a couple of balls that bounced around the West Brom six-yard box apart, there were no clear signs of a goal coming.
By the hour point Di Matteo had seen enough and introduced Oscar for Romeu and Mata for Torres with Sturridge moving to centre-forward.
Within minutes Mata had twice lofted balls forward to Sturridge who had narrowly beaten the offside trap to run clear. With the first his header skewed well off-target. The second time the ball was just too strong to be reachable. But there was promise in that play.
It was becoming a cracking game of football as the Blues pushed for a goal while West Brom always carried a threat, but we still trailed with 20 minutes to go. Mikel did well to end a counter-attack on the edge of our area and Bertrand did similar soon after.
There was momentarily hope of a penalty for a challenge by Yacob on Moses, not given, and Mata was making a difference. On 77 minutes he played the ideal pass to send Sturridge in behind the defence. The shot was crisp but Myhill dropped down and saved very well.
Five minutes further on Sturridge couldn't quite bring down another Mata ball. He was, however, continuously finding dangerous positions.
Hazard couldn't beat Myhill from 12 yards after a high ball was only half-cleared. The best chance of a leveller however came to Sturridge with four minutes left on the clock. It was made by Oscar's lay-off but from out wide and on his left foot, the striker screwed his shot wide of the far post.
Chelsea won two corners inside stoppage time but one was missed by Hazard as it was drilled in towards the near post, and the second was played short to Mata. The Spaniard's curled pass towards the far post was a touch too strong and the frustrated Chelsea following behind that goal had to watch on as Cech of all people stretched up a leg to try to keep it in.
The defeat leaves us with two points taken from the last 12 available.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech (c); Azpilicueta, Cahill, David Luiz, Bertrand; Romeu (Oscar 62), Mikel (Ramires 80); Sturridge, Hazard, Moses; Torres (Mata 62).
Unused subs Turnbull, Ivanovic, Cole, Marin.
Scorer Hazard 39.
West Brom (4-2-3-1): Myhill; Jones, Tamas, Olsson (c), Ridgewell; Mulumbu, Yacob; Odemwingie, Morrison (Dorrans 70), Gera (Brunt 70); Long (Rosenberg 80).
Unused subs L Daniels, Reid, Popov, Fortune.
Scorers Long 9, Odemwingie 50.
Referee Michael Oliver.