Chelsea vs West Bromwich Albion – Stamford Bridge – February 12, 2018 – 20:00hrs – EPL Preview
To say that Chelsea's morale has suffered a brutal jolt would be an understatement. For a team that was coasting along merrily in a 16-match stint that saw as many as 11 wins and just one loss, a couple of back-to-back defeats to two struggling teams like Bournemouth and Watford by 3-goal margins have left them in tatters.
The Blues are fortunate to still find themselves in the Top 4 and have an opportunity to redeem themselves when they host bottom-placed West Bromwich on Monday night.
While Chelsea could not make the best of a 65 per cent ball-possession in the Bournemouth game, thanks to some very poor finishing, the Blues were outplayed in every department in their following 1-4 loss to Watford.
Chelsea, though, have been somewhat handicapped by the absence of Alvaro Morata, out sick, and an injured Willian, but that's lame excuse for such hugely embarrassing losses.
Giroud has to deliver for Blues
The beleaguered Antonio Conte is thus currently banking on the ex-Arsenal striker, Olivier Giroud, featuring in the starting XI for the Monday clash with Morata looking a doubtful participant.
It is expected that Eden Hazard will play a supporting role behind the Frenchman in a 3-5-1-1 formation. Willian should be back from his injury spell and complement the trio of himself, Danny Drinkwater and Marco Alonso playing behind striker Hazard. Of the makeshift forward three that featured in the Bournemouth debacle, Pedro, Eden Hazard and Ross Barkley, two are out injured and don't look likely for the West Brom clash. Defensive mid-fielder and playmaker Tiemoue Bakayoko is out for Monday's game thanks to a red-card earned in the Watford match.
Baggies suffering from Injuries
Injuries plague the West Bromwich side, too. Jonny Evans and Grzegorz Krychowiak (with thigh & back injuries), Kieran Gibbs, Hal Robson-Kanu and Jake Livermore (all hamstring) are in the injured list but almost all of them look set to return for the Stamford Bridge clash. Coach Alan Pardew will be depending on Salamon Rondon and the meaty new loan acquisition from Liverpool, striker Daniel Sturridge, to get him goals. The defensive quartet of Craig Dawson, Gareth McAuley, Ahmed Hegazi and Allan Nyom have been shaky of late, leaking as many as six goals from their previous two games – defeats to Manchester City and Southampton.
The Baggies are presently at the bottom of the table and have nothing to lose when they face 4th-placed Chelsea on Monday. That's what makes them very dangerous.
The arrival of the mercurial Daniel Sturridge will lend them the much-needed firepower upfront to unsettle a Chelsea side who are at their weakest presently.
Last Chance for Conte
For Conte, this could be the final chance to stay on at Stamford Bridge. For Chelsea, a win is a must if they are to stay within the Top Four or they face the prospect of being pipped from their present position by Tottenham who are just a point behind.
Chelsea look the favorites to win, but Pardew's boys will be looking to spring a third nasty surprise in a row for the hosts.