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|
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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.