Troubled Chelsea may find themselves out of the Champions League places should they fail to take three points at home to West Brom.
The current European champions may have secured passage through to the FA Cup quarter finals with victory at Middlesbrough in midweek but that success was thrown into turmoil by interim boss Rafa Benitez’ post-match interview, which criticised both the club’s supporters and board of directors for their failure to sufficiently back his position since his arrival as Roberto Di Matteo’s replacement in November.
The Spaniard all but conceded defeat in the race to finish second following defeat at Manchester City last week but despite his critical statements, appears secure at Stamford Bridge until at least the end of the season.
The Blues are expected to recall Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta, who both missed the Middlesbrough win, with John Terry and Ashley Cole expected to make up the rest of the back four. Frank Lampard, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata are also expected to return while Benitez must choose between Fernando Torres, who opened the scoring at the Riverside and the fully-fit Demba Ba.
West Brom have improved of late after a worrying run of form to take impressive consecutive victories at Liverpool and then at home to Sunderland last week. Crucial to those wins was the presence of on-loan Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku, who found the back of the net three times. However, the Belgian, who is now the Baggies’ top scorer, is ineligible to take the field against his former club on Saturday.
Shane Long is struggling with an ankle injury but should lead the line while Peter Odemwingie may feature due to Lukaku’s absence. Left-back Goran Popov serves the final game of his three-match suspension.
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