It’s Chelsea’s first Saturday game of the season. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton preview our match at West Bromwich Albion…
Chelsea face newly promoted opponents for the first time this season and in the 5.30pm Saturday slot that produced mixed results on the road last season. Wins at Burnley and Watford were followed by three straight losses at Manchester City, Newcastle and Sheffield United.
Both teams were reduced to 10 men last weekend and beaten, but while the Blues enjoyed an emphatic midweek pick-me-up in the Carabao Cup, the Baggies remain winless after bowing out on penalties.
Their venue The Hawthorns is also a happy hunting ground for the Blues, who scooped all three points from the past three visits, scoring eight times.
Chelsea have not lost an away game in the month of September since 2016.
— KEY STAT
Chelsea team news
There were positives right across the pitch against Championship Barnsley in midweek. Thiago Silva’s front-footed anticipation and first-time passing added to the Blues’ tempo, and fellow debutant Ben Chilwell weighed in with an instant assist after 11 weeks out to help Oli Giroud to his first of the campaign.
The importance of training ground work was evident in the telepathy between Tammy Abraham and Kai Havertz, with some astute assists and finishing.
Havertz was ‘Kainamite’ all night, putting in the most tackles as well as scoring three goals from four shots, all on target.
With the injury list reducing week by week, Frank Lampard now has big selection choices to make. With the former Leverkusen man excelling in the number ten role and Abraham seizing his chance as striker, the head coach may fancy deploying Timo Werner wide left to accommodate the pair.
The Baggies looked dangerous in attack even after Kieran Gibbs’ dismissal at Everton, but sometimes hesitant defending eventually led to them shipping five. Saturday night could come down to who is most clinical when chances are presented.
Mendy on the map
Edouard Mendy has been confirmed as the latest reinforcement to Frank Lampard’s squad, and he could make his bow this weekend. Arriving from Rennes, the 6ft 6in goalkeeper follows in the sizeable footsteps of Chelsea’s greatest ever goalkeeper, Petr Cech, now the club’s technical and performance adviser. And as John Terry once said: ‘Well if big Pete’s happy, I’m happy.’
The big-handed Mendy managed to keep nine clean sheets in 24 Ligue 1 games last season for the Red and Blacks, who finished third. With his exceptional reach he intercepted more than one in ten of every cross into the box, too. A bonus is that as the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations has been put back to 2022, the Senegal international will be available during January and February.
Baggies under Bilic
Slaven Bilic’s biggest adaptation to the higher level of football has been a switch to a back three from four, but he has largely used last season’s personnel in defence and fielded the same starting 11 for both league games.
Something has to change this weekend as his usual left wing-back, Kieran Gibbs, is suspended for violent conduct. Midfielder Kyle Edwards may step in. Their right wing-back is likely to be Darnell Furlong, son of former Blues striker Paul, now an academy coach at Queen’s Park Rangers.
During their promotion run, West Brom’s lone striker Hal Robson-Kanu was instrumental in making Bilic’s 4-2-3-1 formation click, creating space anywhere across the final third, dribbling past defenders, and bringing wingers into play.
Since they returned to the top flight the line had been led by Callum Robinson, a summer signing from Sheffield United. Young winger Grady Diangana, who was involved in 15 Championship goals while on loan from West Ham, has made the move permanent.
Chelsea’s record against promoted clubs
Saturday’s hosts were runners-up in the Championship last season, finishing 10 points behind Leeds. Following defeat at Sheffield United last season Chelsea have lost three of our past 28 Premier League encounters home and away with teams who arrived in the top flight the previous spring, along with 18 wins and seven draws.
Since their elevation to the Premier League in July, the promoted clubs have conceded goals at a rate of 3.7 per game. Last season over the 46 Championship matches Leeds let in 35, West Brom 45 and Fulham 48 – all around one goal per game.
Goals conceded by promoted sides
Fulham 7 in two matches
West Bromwich 8
Total 22 in 6 matches
When is Frank Lampard’s press conference?
Our head coach will speak to the media today (Friday) around 1.30pm. You can catch his pre-match views on the 5th Stand app or this website.
How to watch Chelsea matches this season
Saturday’s game is live on Sky Sports. To see where all the Blues games can be viewed where you live, check the Premier League website’s television guide, updated through the season.
Chelsea TV’s matchday shows – including early team news, exclusive interviews and analysis – are on the 5th Stand app, Facebook Live and the official YouTube channel.
Scaling the heights at the Hawthorns
Chelsea clinched the Premier League title at the highest possible altitude on Friday 12 May 2017. Famously, the Hawthorns is the most elevated stadium in the country and Michy Batshuayi did the honours for Antonio Conte’s side with seven minutes to go. There was only one visit after that before Albion went down. That was an Eden Hazard-inspired 4-0 drubbing in November 2017.
On a night of 27 Carabao Cup goals ‘Kainamite’ Kai Havertz opened his Chelsea account with the first treble strike of his professional career. This prompted the question: what is the German for hat-trick?
It is actually ‘hattrick’, though the answer as not as simple as that. Unlike in Britain, a ‘lupenreiner’ (perfect) or ‘klassischer’ (classic) hat-trick is what really counts in the Bundesliga. The three goals have to be scored in one half and without anyone else finding the net in between.
His countrymen would describe Kai’s achievement on Wednesday as a ‘Dreierpack’ or ‘Three-pack’. For future reference, a brace is a ‘Doppelpack’ and (let us not rule it out) five goals in one game is a ‘Funferpack’.
Brana and Conor
Making their debut in the Baggies’ Carabao Cup shoot-out defeat on Tuesday were a past Chelsea hero and a potential future star: Branislav Ivanovic, 36, once a stalwart of the Blues’ defence, and on-loan 20-year-old Conor Gallagher.
Midfielder Gallagher is unavailable for Saturday’s game against his parent club, but the Serbian may face the team with whom he scooped the lot between 2008 and 2017: three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, the Champions League and Europa League.
Premier League fixtures
Brighton v Man Utd 12.30pm (BT Sport)
Crystal Palace v Everton 3pm (Amazon Prime)
West Brom v Chelsea 5.30pm (Sky Sports)
Burnley v Southampton 8pm (Sky Sports)
Sheffield Utd v Leeds 12pm (BT Sport)
Tottenham v Newcastle 2pm (Sky Sports)
Man City v Leicester 4.30pm (Sky Sports)
West Ham v Wolves 7pm (BT Sport)
Fulham v Aston Villa 6pm (Sky Sports)
Liverpool v Arsenal 8.15pm (Sky Sports)
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