Tue 11 Feb 2014 20:00 (Attendance: 24,327)
The league leaders travel to the West Midlands with the season two-thirds completed. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton assess the latest away challenge…
Still a little hoarse from celebrating the weekend's scorelines? Chelsea's ascent to the Barclays Premier League summit was a largely unexpected pleasure. The league's biggest sharpshooters, Manchester City, were firing blanks again at Carrow Road and the Gunners were spiked at Anfield.
With results elsewhere the Blues are now nine points clear of the team in fifth place - effectively 10, taking into account the goal difference advantage - and building up a stranglehold on a Champions League place. With 39 more points still attainable, Chelsea are now the only side capable of matching our own record Premier League tally of 95, set in 2004/05.
Tonight's opponents West Bromwich Albion will be equally fired-up, though: they stumbled 1-3 at Selhurst Park and slumped into the relegation zone.
Chelsea are leaders for the first time since August and it is no coincidence that has happened while the defence has become formidable again. Just two goals have been conceded in the 11 matches in all competitions since the disappointing Capital One Cup defeat at Sunderland.
Our next win will be the 150th during Jose Mourinho's two spells at Stamford Bridge and the next goal scored will be the 400th under his management. His record is:
Played 221, won 149, drawn 46, lost 27; goals scored 399, goals conceded 146.
Pepe Mel, eventual successor to former Chelsea man Steve Clarke at the Hawthorns, arrived from Spain with a reputation for forging attractive teams under difficult circumstances.
He conducts media conferences in Spanish via a translator but the fact he had been taking English lessons before the call from the Midlands signified his ambition to switch to the Premier League.
He has not had an easy start to life in the Black Country: two points from a possible 12 since 20 January, with a drop from 13th to 18th in the table. It is not the kind of continuity the Hawthorns' board was seeking. The former Real Betis boss's appointment was delayed by a few weeks because he initially preferred bringing in his own backroom staff. Instead he is dovetailing with incumbents such as Keith Downing and Dean Kiely.
The Baggies are unbeaten in their last four games at the Hawthorns and have achieved home draws with Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton this season. However, their tally of four victories all season represents the joint worst in all four English divisions - and half were achieved against opponents reduced to 10 men.
The brilliant Belgian now has a dozen Premier League goals this season.
THE RACE FOR THE PREMIER LEAGUE GOLDEN BOOT
Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 23
Sergio Aguero (Man City) 15
Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) 15
Eden Hazard 12
Yaya Toure (Man City) 12
Loic Remy (Newcastle) 11
THE RACE FOR THE PREMIER LEAGUE GOLDEN GLOVE
Petr Cech 11
Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal) 11
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) 10
Tim Howard (Everton) 9
Jussi Jaaskelainen (West Ham) 8
It is odd how the fixtures continue to fall in Arsenal's favour. Chelsea and Albion had 76 hours apiece to prepare for tonight and the Blues are the only top four side playing this evening. In contrast the Gunners, who kicked off early on Saturday, also have an extra day's rest - which is 27 hours more than their visitors on Wednesday, Manchester United, who played on Sunday afternoon.
Defending champions United have failed to win in three of their last four league matches. The Gunners have won just one of their five games against last season's top four.
Man City were beaten 1-0 away by Sunderland in November and have not scored for two games. Liverpool spanked Fulham 4-0 at Anfield the same weekend and the Whites have earned just one point in 14 games against top half teams.
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Cardiff v Aston Villa 7.45pm - BT Sport
Hull v Southampton 7.45pm
West Brom v Chelsea 8pm
West Ham v Norwich 7.45pm
Arsenal v Manchester United 7.45pm - BT Sport
Everton v Crystal Palace 7.45pm
Fulham v Liverpool 8pm
Manchester City v Sunderland 7.45pm
Newcastle v Tottenham 7.45pm
Stoke v Swansea 7.45pm
|Barclays Premier League table - top eight|
Click on tabs above for more Briefing
Having benefited from the slip-ups of others in the top third of the table it is vital Chelsea press home the advantage again this evening. Jose Mourinho will be determined to remain top as the league campaign makes way for the FA Cup this weekend, and his side return to Eastlands while Arsenal host Liverpool.
Tonight's opponents have already been turfed out of the cup by Crystal Palace and have the luxury of an 11-day gap before their next match action, the crucial visit of fellow relegation strugglers Fulham. After tonight Pepe Mel is using a blank weekend to take the squad to his homeland for warmth and to drill some defensive organisation into them.
Mel faced Mourinho's Real Madrid four times previously as a manager, losing three with an aggregate five goals for, 10 against. His Real Betis side took the lead in two of those games but only held on once, a 1-0 win at Estadio Benito Villamarin in November 2012, despite Mourinho making two half-time substitutions to remedy the situation.
The Portuguese will be determined to improve on Chelsea's successive defeats in this corner of the Black Country but West Brom are the Premier League's prime one-point poachers this campaign. Never higher than mid-table, they have drawn six times in 14 games against sides from the top 10 of the Premier League.
As was the case with visitors Newcastle at the weekend, neither of the Baggies' goalscorers that day are available this evening: Stephane Sessegnon is recuperating from a groin operation and Shane Long has since switched to Hull City.
Influential centre-back Jonas Olsson sustained a hamstring injury nine days ago and is unlikely to feature. Nicolas Anelka, one of the heroes of Chelsea's 2009/10 Double season, is out with a gashed knee.
In Anelka's absence Victor Anichebe has been starting as a lone striker in their 4-2-3-1 system - they had been trying a 4-4-2 with Matej Vydra partnering the Frenchman. It was the former Evertonian who scored the Baggies' equaliser in their recent home draw with Liverpool.
New signing Thievy Bifouma scored in the 1-3 at Crystal Palace with his second touch for new club Albion - the fastest ever by a Premier League debutant. Fellow substitute and striker in that damaging defeat, Saido Berahino, is their league top scorer with four and he has hit six goals in five U21 European Championship qualifiers for England this season. One or both could be handed starts.
Attacking midfielder Zoltan Gera, who played very well on the left in the Throstles' 2-1 win here last season, returned not too long ago from a cruciate injury and is being used sparingly.
Roberto Di Matteo's starting back four that day (his last in the league for Chelsea) was, from left to right, Ryan Bertrand, David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta, with Mikel and Oriol Romeu in midfield and Victor Moses, Eden Hazard and Daniel Sturridge behind Fernando Torres. Hazard scored his only header for the Blues to date from Azpi's cross.
The Belgian notched up his second career hat-trick on Saturday and his first in blue. He now has six goals in his past eight Premier League appearances and has struck twice in the three meetings with Albion. He now has 21 all-time Premier League goals for the Blues: one more than Hernan Crespo, the same as Gianluca Vialli and Mark Stein.
He is in remarkable form and will have watched the Baggies' defending at Selhurst with relish. Goalkeeper Ben Foster was, perhaps, fortunate not to be shown any colour card when conceding a penalty for Palace's third.
The Throstles appear disorderly at set-plays and vulnerable in defensive midfield, where the Blues have been so strong in recent weeks, especially since the return of the imperious Nemanja Matic. At 6ft 4in the Serb has bolstered a team bettered only by Stoke in aerial battles won.
Chelsea's fast, incisive and fluid open play should also cause the hosts problems, especially if Olsson does not make the team. However, Chris Brunt and Youssouf Mulumbu (pictured below) form a hard-working and very physical defensive midfield screen.
Of the two full-backs, right-sided Billy Jones (an injury doubt) likes to run with the ball but can lack discipline at times and may find himself under pressure to rein in his attacking side. Mel sacrificed the less athletic left-back Liam Ridgewell during half-time at Selhurst and switched to three at the back.
Fernando Torres is available for selection tonight for the first time since leaving the field injured during our 3-1 win over Manchester United. He had scored in successive away games at Hull and Southampton prior to that setback.
Ramires was rested at the weekend and could return on the right of midfield. A slight muscle problem will keep John Terry out until Saturday evening's return to the Etihad. Newcastle was the first Premier League game the skipper had missed all season. Gary Cahilll and David Luiz, who looked an equally assured centre-back partnership, should continue their roles.
WE HAVE HISTORY
West Brom are seeking a third successive home league victory against Chelsea for the first time in over 80 years.
The previous two defeats at the Hawthorns were the last Premier League games in charge for Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo respectively. Prior to that the Blues had won the previous 13 meetings between the clubs, including a 100 per cent record in the Premier League.
On one visit in November 2008 Chelsea rewrote the history books. Luiz Felipe Scolari was the manager and he had extended the promising away league record he inherited into a formidable one.
The Brazilian's Blues faced Tony Mowbray's side intent on winning with the additional incentive of equalling Tottenham Hotspur's 48-year-old record of 10 consecutive victories on the road.
In fact Chelsea were the first to threaten, Florent Malouda setting up Frank Lampard for a drive that was pushed round by Scott Carson. Carson was tested again soon after by the marauding Malouda himself.
However there was no stopping a rare left-foot screamer from Jose Bosingwa 10 minutes before half-time. Carson reached the 30-yarder but could do nothing to stop it billowing the net.
Four minutes later Nicolas Anelka (now on the Hawthorns playing staff) put the visitors further ahead, latching on to Malouda's head-down inside the box and finishing neatly.
The match was ended as a contest in first half stoppage time when Anelka made it 3-0, squeezing a smart shot past the goalie from Salomon Kalou's pass.
Although a succession of Chelsea players had the opportunity to add to the scoreline there were no further goals. (The Blues would extend the club record to 11 successive league wins before drawing 0-0 at Everton just before Christmas.)
Our last 10 league meetings at the Hawthorns
1984/85 - Chelsea won 1-0old First Division
1985/86 - Chelsea won 3-0old First Division
1988/89 - Chelsea won 3-2old Second Division
2002/03 - Chelsea won 2-0Premier League
2004/05 - Chelsea won 4-1Premier League
2005/06 - Chelsea won 2-1Premier League
2008/09 - Chelsea won 3-0Premier League
2010/11 - Chelsea won 3-1Premier League
2011/12 - West Brom won 1-0Premier League
2012/13 - West Brom won 2-1Premier League
The reverse fixture this season
9 November 2013 Barclays Premier League
Chelsea………..……2 West Brom.………..….…2
Eto'o 45 Long 60
Hazard 90+5 pen Sessegnin 68
Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion in all competitions
Games played 130
Chelsea wins 54
Baggies wins 42
Head to head in the league at The Hawthorns
Games played 57
Chelsea wins 21
Baggies wins 23
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 achieved six successive away clean sheets: 2,267
West Brom's last home league defeat: 66
Arsenal won a trophy: 3,188
Liverpool won the league: 8,683
Chelsea have the tightest defence in the Barclays Premier League conceding only 20 goals in 25 games including 11 clean sheets.
Since the November international break, the Blues have won 35 points from a possible 42. No team has won more in the same period.
Chelsea have gained 14 points from losing positions this season, still the best record in the Premier League.
The Blues have won 13 of the 15 league games we have opened the scoring.
Chelsea are nine points up compared to the corresponding 25 fixtures last season.
We have kept nine clean sheets and conceded just two goals in our last 11 league and cup matches.
We have won 21 points from a possible 36 away from Stamford Bridge this term.
|Last six results|
|Jan 11||Hull (a)||W 2-0|
|Jan 19||Manchester United (h)||W 3-1|
|Jan 26||Stoke (FA Cup h)||W 1-0|
|Jan 29||West Ham (h)||D 0-0|
|Feb 3||Manchester City (a)||W 1-0|
|Feb 8||Newcastle (h)||W 3-0|
League games since
An away win: 0
An away draw: 3
An away defeat: 4
|Chelsea's next three games|
|Sat 15 Feb||Man City (FA Cup 5th round) away||5.15pm|
|Sat 22 Feb||Everton home||12.45pm|
|Wed 26 Feb||Galatasaray (Champions League) away||7.45pm|
Frank Lampard's next converted penalty will be his 50th for the Blues.
Frank's next goal will be his 250th in his club career (Chelsea 209, West Ham 39, Swansea 1).
If selected, Fernando Torres will make his 100th Premier League appearance for Chelsea.
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
West Brom have won one of their last 16 matches in all competitions and 15 in the Premier League, winning 10 points from the last possible 45.
The Baggies have kept just one clean sheet in their last 15 Premier League matches.
Albion's 29 Premier League goals have been scored by 16 players, 17 if you include own goals.
West Brom have not won any of the 16 games their opponents scored the opening goal. They also haven't won any of the matches they have been losing at half time.
The Baggies have won 14 points from a possible 36 at the Hawthorns this term. Their three wins were against Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Newcastle, five draws with Arsenal, Aston Villa, Hull, Everton and Liverpool and four defeats to Southampton, Swansea, Manchester City and Norwich.
West Brom have lost 11 points from winning positions this season. Only Liverpool, Stoke, Southampton and West Ham have dropped more.
West Brom have drawn 11 of their 25 Premier League games this season, more than any other side
Manager Pepe Mel
Days in charge: 29
|Albion's Last 10 Year League History|
|2003/04||86||2nd||League Division One||2|
|Last six results|
|Jan 4||Crystal Palace (h)||L 0-2|
|Jan 11||Southampton (a)||L 0-1|
|Jan 20||Everton (h)||D 1-1|
|Jan 29||Aston Villa (a)||L 3-4|
|Feb 2||Liverpool (h)||D 1-1|
|Feb 8||Crystal Palace (a)||L 1-3|
Premier League scorers (29)
Berahino 4 (1 pen), Long 3, Amalfitano 2, Anelka 2, Anichebe 2, Brunt 2, McAuley 2, Sessegnon 2, own goals 2, Lugano 1, Morrison 1 (pen), Mulumbu 1, Olsson 1, Ridgewell 1, Thievy 1, Vydra 1, Yacob 1.
League games since
A home win: 2
A home draw: 0
A home defeat: 4
Completed January transfers
Ins Bertrand Traore (Bobo-Dioulasso, undisclosed), Nemanja Matic (Benfica, undisclosed), Mohamed Salah (Basel, undisclosed), Kurt Zouma (Saint-Etienne, undisclosed)
Outs Juan Mata (Man Utd, undisclosed), Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg, undisclosed), Sam Walker (Colchester, undisclosed), Ryan Bertrand (Aston Villa, loan), Bertrand Traore (Vitesse Arnhem, loan), Patrick Bamford (Derby, loan), Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough, loan), Nathaniel Chalobah (Middlesbrough, loan), Josh McEachran (Wigan, loan), Michael Essien (AC Milan, free), Jon Muleba (Bournemouth, undisclosed), Matej Delac, FK Sarajevo, loan), Billy Clifford (Royal Antwerp, loan), Kurt Zouma (Saint-Etienne, loan), Lamisha Musonda (released), Gael Kakuta (Lazio, loan), George Saville (Brentford, loan extension), Milan Lalkovic (Walsall, loan extension)
Ins Thievy Bifouma (Espanyol, loan)
Outs Shane Long (Hull City, undisclosed), Lee Camp (Bournemouth, free), Kemar Roofe (Cheltenham Town, loan), George Thorne (Derby County, loan)
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Anthony Taylor was the official for our last defeat, at Sunderland in the Capital One Cup in December. His only other Chelsea game this term was our 4-1 home Premier League victory over Cardiff City in October.
There are no suspensions.
A late header from Victor Anichebe cancelled out Branislav Ivanovic's first-half opener and denied us the chance to extend our lead at the top to four points.
Though we were far from our recent fluent best, it had looked like the Serbian's goal on the stroke of half-time would be enough for a dogged three points, but with Baggies pressure mounting they levelled with four minutes to play thanks to Anichebe's glancing header. It was the third straight home game they had recovered from a half-time deficit to draw 1-1.
Good Chelsea chances were few and far between, though Ben Foster did save well from Samuel Eto'o and Willian in the second period. The point moves us two points clear at the top of the table, but Arsenal will have a chance to go back in front tomorrow when they host Manchester United.
Jose Mourinho deemed just one change necessary from the 3-0 win over Newcastle on Saturday, replacing Frank Lampard with Ramires, who had been rested for that win over the Geordies. With Lampard absent from the starting eleven and Terry still unavailable through injury, Petr Cech was our captain for the first time this season. Fernando Torres was back and on the bench, meaning Samuel Eto'o led the line for the sixth game running.
There were four changes to the West Brom team that had started their last game, a 3-1 loss at Crystal Palace, most notably in attack, where Saido Berahino and Thievy Bifouma - a scorer on his debut at Selhurst Park - led the line with Morgan Amalfitano, who started on the right wing. Behind him, Steven Reid came in for the injured Billy Jones.
With the snow tumbling down at a chilly Hawthorns as play got underway, the conditions felt more appropriate for skiing in Sochi than football in the West Midlands.
There was little action of note in the opening stages to warm the heart, though an adventurous if poorly executed effort from Ivanovic - attempted from an awful long way out as Ben Foster was caught out of goal after a bad clearance - appeared to awaken anyone in the ground still frozen from the wintry weather.
Willing and well-timed movement from Eto'o in behind the Baggies backline proved an early theme of our play, but after one such run had created a decent opening for Oscar inside the box, the Brazilian's touch deserted him and the chance was lost. It summed up an error-strewn opening 20 minutes.
Eto'o again latched on to a Willian pass beyond the West Brom defence and having cutely slipped his marker, the striker played it across the six-yard box in the direction of Ivanovic. A tangle of legs met the ball before it was eventually hacked clear by Claudio Yacob. Not long after, Willian thundered a shot not far over from 20 yards out.
The home side, with new signing Thievy and England Under-21 striker Berahino causing problems, nearly combined to great effect with 27 minutes on the clock. Amalfitano raced clear down the right and crossed well, picking out Berahino at the back post. He cushioned the ball into Thievy's path but the Frenchman opted to take a touch when a first-time shot was required. Brunt's follow-up strike was wide.
Three dangerous Chelsea crosses in quick succession, first from Ramires and then one apiece from Oscar and Hazard, caused problems but nobody in black - the colour of our kit tonight - was in the right spot to benefit.
A struggle of a first half looked like it would end goalless but there was a breakthrough for the Blues before the half-time whistle was blown. Eto'o won a cheap corner and with the additional two minutes of time signalled by ref Anthony Taylor almost up, Willian delivered low. His compatriot David Luiz's near-post run was therefore timely, and it was matched by a delightful flick that worked the ball further towards goal. Ivanovic was on hand to thump the ball home from close range. Just like in the reverse fixture this season, it was in time added on at the end of a half that we had found the net.
Despite the interval lead, Jose Mourinho will have been hoping for better from his side after the break.
The early signs were promising as Oscar went close with a well-hit volley from just outside the box inside a minute of the restart, before Eto'o drew a decent stop from Foster. That chance began when Hazard, the most fouled player in the division, was tugged back by Yacob but play was waved on and Oscar was able to slip Eto'o in. Amalfitano had been booked in the first half for chopping down our Belgian winger and it was no surprise Yacob went the same way. Seemingly struggling with an injury, he was soon replaced by Youssouf Mulumbu.
Foster was in called into action again when Willlian stung his palms from range, the save made harder by a slight deflection off McAuley. This was more like it.
An increasingly fractured game was still lacking quality, but Hazard majestically took on a ball over the top from Ramires and backheeled to Eto'o. From a tight angle the Cameroonian could only fire wide. He was immediately replaced by Torres, making his first appearance since the home win over Manchester United three weeks ago.
The Spaniard was involved immediately after Hazard exchanged passes with Oscar, but the Belgian dithered in sight of the posts. When he eventually got the ball across it fell to Torres and then Willian but the Brazilian's strike was straight at Foster.
West Brom then sparked into life, aided by the introduction of the busy Anichebe, and they could count themselves unlucky not to draw level in a mad spell with just over a quarter of an hour to go. First Brunt shot over after escaping Ivanovic's attention and then our box was inundated by a barrage of corners and crosses. Thievy snatched at a chance when the ball ran clear to him at the back post before Brunt flashed a shot narrowly wide, then Gareth McAuley and his centre-back partner Craig Dawson headed over and wide respectively from extremely inviting positions.
In the midst of that Ivanovic lost his rag and had to be becalmed by captain Cech as the Serbian was booked for protesting a throw-in decision. Mourinho sent on Mikel to try and ease the pressure.
But as the minutes ticked down we sat deeper and deeper, unable to stem the flow of West Brom pressure, meaning there was a grim inevitability about the leveller. Berahino swung in another teasing cross and Anichebe got there before defence and keeper, flicking the ball beyond Cech and into the net via the inside of the post.
Six minutes of additional time were called and it was the home side who threatened in injury time, Anichebe racing clear of Cahill but the defender recovered well to deny the big striker.
Willian also saw an effort well blocked with time almost up but unlike in our home game with the Baggies in November there was to be no decisive late Chelsea goal.
These were two points dropped, but there can be no doubt it was a fair result.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech (c); Ivanovic, Cahill, David Luiz, Azpilicueta; Ramires (Salah 89), Matic; Willian, Oscar (Mikel 78), Hazard; Eto'o (Torres 69).
Unused subs Schwarzer, Cole, Lampard, Schurrle.
Scorer Ivanovic 45+2
Booked Willian 66, Ivanovic 76, David Luiz 81, Matic 88.
West Bromwich Albion (4-3-3): Foster; Reid, McAuley, Dawson, Ridgewell; Yacob (Mulumbu 63), Morrison, Brunt (c); Amalfitano (Anichebe 73), Berahino, Thievy (Vydra 77).
Unused subs Myhill, Lugano, Dorrans, Gera.
Scorer Anichebe 86
Booked Amalfitano 41, Yacob 49, Anichebe 87
Referee Anthony Taylor