With the Premier League back on the agenda following the international break, Antonio Conte will be hoping Chelsea’s hard-fought win over Manchester United last time out, can be the catalyst to his charges’ pursuit of Manchester City. The Blues sit nine points behind Pep Guardiola’s high flyers and need to close the gap as quickly as possible.
Questions had been raised following the defeat to Roma in their last Champions League game over the suitability of Conte’s 3-4-3 formation, but the Blues were back to their resolute best against Jose Mourinho’s United. The availability of key players such as N’Golo Kante and Alvaro Morata will integral to Chelsea’s success this season, with their presence and tactical understanding a clear asset against the Red Devils.
Thibaut Courtois wasn’t called upon until the final minutes of the clash with Manchester United but kept the Red Devils at bay in an impressive show of concentration.
Davide Zappacosta and Marcos Alonso provide valuable width in their wing-back roles and their ability to get up and down the pitch at will is crucial to the 3-4-3 formation; and, in the absence of Victor Moses, they should get the nod at the Hawthorns.
The absence of David Luiz against Manchester United was well documented and the Brazilian seemingly has some work to do to get back into Antonio Conte’s plans. Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill look set to continue in the heart of the Blues’ defence.
N’Golo Kante made a highly impressive return to first-team action against Manchester United and his energy in midfield will be invaluable against the Baggies. Tiemoue Bakayoko and Cesc Fabregas also look set to keep their places in the middle of the park with Danny Drinkwater also coming into contention following his decision not to report for England duty.
Eden Hazard excels in the free role presented to him by the formation and the Belgian has been the standout player for the Blues in recent weeks, whilst Alvaro Morata bagged his first goal since September against United and led the line with vigour – a role he will need to adopt again against the notoriously robust West Brom.
Predicted Starting XI
Where the Game Will Be Won or Lost
The win over Manchester United eased the temporary pressure on Antonio Conte, but he will need to see an equally strong performance in this potential banana skin at the Hawthorns. West Brom have failed to win a Premier League game for over two months but are always a tricky side to break down and possess a wealth of top-flight experience in their ranks. Provided they can play their game however, the Blues should possess too much quality in key areas for Tony Pulis’ men.
West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns is never an easy fixture – for any side – and Chelsea won’t be able to have it all their own way. If they can get the ball down and play as well as maintaining defensively responsible, the Blues should get on top and register a crucial 3 points.
West Bromwich Albion 1 – 2 Chelsea