Time: 5:30 PM BST (9:30 AM PST), Saturday August 14th
Location: Stamford Bridge, London
Preamble: It's time to kick off this year's Premier League season, and like last year we open up against a relatively small club at home, and should expect a comfortable win. But the Baggies will hardly roll over just because we're anticipating a stroll through the park, and if last year's opener is any indicator of what's to come we could be in for a tight game. Of course, last year was a full year ago and the last few matches at Stamford Bridge have been amongst the most relaxing games in Chelsea history, but we're Chelsea fans and thus supposed to be slightly on edge.
Opposition: West Bromwich Albion coasted to second place in last year's Championship, finishing behind Newcastle on 91 points. Although they were potent on the attack last year, they gave up an alarming amount of goals - 48 in total, only 11 better than league average. Some quick number crunching gives us expected goals for and against, with the 'Baggies' coming in at roughly average on the attack but in dire straits defensively at 20 goals worse than average this season.
Roberto di Matteo is the man to lead the West Midland's third finest club into battle, and what a man he is. The ex-Chelsea midfielder, forced into retirement due to injury, has risen from League One to the Premiership in just two years. The Chelsea faithful will not have forgotten that it was di Matteo's strike against Middlesbrough in the 1997 FA Cup final that ushered the Blues into our current golden age, and he should expect a warm welcome as he steps onto the Stamford Bridge pitch. He'd have been hoping for tamer opposition than Chelsea for the opening game of the season, but things aren't going to get much better for him as he must navigate Manchester United, Arsenal, and Liverpool in his next three away games.
With the departure of Slovenian captain Robert Koren, it will be up to Graham Dorrans, who should be fit following a groin problem, to hold the centre together and shape the attack. The highly rated Scotsman will have to deal with the attention of a fully-fit Michael Essien if he wants to make an impact on the game, however, and I would put my money on the Ghanaian dealing comfortably with Dorrans in the latter's first ever Premier League game. None of the other WBA players will cause too many sleepless nights for Chelsea, but first and second choice goalkeepers Scott Carson and Boaz Myhill are both capable of keeping teams off the scoresheet single-handedly.
Also, their crest has a very cute little thrush on it.
Injury Report: Frank Lampard is expected to miss the game after picking up an ankle injury against Hungary, and Jose Bosingwa is also out with a long-term knee injury. Centre back Alex and number one keeper Petr Cech are both fit and ready to start, and should both slot back into the lineup.
Stat Report: With a projected goals scored of 91, Chelsea should be expected to score almost three goals a game against the Baggies, and West Brom should in turn probably score about one against the Blues. Expect a fairly high scoring game: 3-1 Chelsea is my prediction, even without Lampard conducting the attack.
Hope to see all y'all in the game thread tomorrow!