Having made a disappointing start to the defence of their title, Chelsea will be desperate to pick up their first win of the season against West Bromwich Albion, another side with just one point from a possible six.
The hosts did at least respond to their poor opening showing against Manchester City by keeping a clean sheet and finishing all square away to Watford in their previous match, but it was a performance that lacked inspiration going forward. Indeed, boss Tony Pulis’ decision to change both his centre-backs for the game at Vicarage Road paid off, as his team were largely forced on the defensive by the breezy and inventive Hornets, who carried the greater threat for long spells.
Saido Berahino played as part of a midfield five and missed the best chance of the game by heading inexplicably wide late on, but during the week he has been the subject of a transfer bid from Tottenham. Despite the recent acquisition of record signing Salomon Rondon and Pulis’ pledge to do more business before the deadline, he is critical to how Albion will fare this season and in their chances of getting a result here. The aim from the start will be to frustrate the champions.
The big match at the Etihad Stadium last weekend was surprisingly one-sided, and several vulnerabilities were exposed in the Chelsea defence as they fell to a 3-0 loss which left many questioning their ability to defend their crown. Along with a poor pre-season, a lack of summer signings has been cited as a potential factor in their early struggles, but that seems to have been addressed with the additions of Augsburg defender Baba Rahman, and Barcelona forward Pedro Rodriguez, who had been heavily linked with rivals Manchester United.
Much was made of Jose Mourinho electing to substitute John Terry at half-time, but it was clear that something had to change after Man City had dominated and created numerous other chances aside from the one they had taken. There was a slight improvement in the second half and Eden Hazard nearly grabbed an equaliser, but some uncharacteristically kamikaze defending allowed their title rivals’ superiority reflect more clearly in the score-line. Although West Brom will be keen for a first goal as well as a first win, the pressure is all on the Blues here.
Rondon could make his first start for West Brom after coming off the bench at Watford, and Arsenal loanee Serge Gnabry is in line to make his debut.
Chelsea could give debuts to both Rahman and Pedro, but are without Oscar and Victor Moses. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois returns after serving a one-match ban.
Last Meeting: West Brom were one of just three teams who were able to beat Chelsea last term, collecting a convincing 3-0 win in the penultimate round of fixtures. Saido Berahino starred, opening the scoring with a superb shot from the edge of the box before converting a penalty shortly after half-time, which came after the bizarre sending off of Cesc Fabregas. Chris Brunt rounded off an impressive evening for the Baggies by thumping home from a tight angle.
Played for both – Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea signed the highly-rated Belgian for big money in the summer of 2011, but he was rarely given the chance to prove himself in the first team and only made 10 league appearances in three years. He went on loan to West Brom in his second season and was a revelation, finishing among the Premier League’s top scorers in 2012-13 with 17 goals in 35 outings.
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