In case nobody noticed, Chelsea won last Saturday, seeing Bolton Wanderers off 3-0 on a lovely day at Stamford Bridge in which basically nothing went wrong. This meant that instead of discussing the club's latest crisis, the reportage this week has focused on quotes taken out of context and random character assassinations, which is fun. As it turns out, Chelsea are actually a football team, and we have another one of those pesky football matches coming up on Saturday.
I know it's hard to take a break from the made up soap-opera crap for which I'm sure Dante would have come up with an extra level of hell, but needs must. Chelsea take on West Bromwich Albion away from home, looking to turn a good result last week into a streak.
Game Date/Time: Saturday, March 3rd, 3:00 PM GMT (10:00 AM EST).
Venue: The Hawthorns, West Bromwich.
TV: FOX Soccer Plus (USA ).
The biggest injury facing Chelsea is the continued absence of centre back John Terry, who is still missing after undergoing knee surgery last week. But you knew that already. He's not going to be back anytime soon, so let's get used to David Luiz and Gary Cahill at centre back. According to the Guardian, Jose Bosiginwa will also miss this one with a hamstring injury. That kind of sounds like something to celebrate until you remember that it was his cross that lead to Florent Malouda's winner the last time we played West Brom. Expect both Didier Drogba and Daniel Sturridge to start despite picking up minor knocks over the past week.
The Baggies are also suffering from a few injuries. Jerome Thomas is probably going to miss out, and it would be surprise if Chris Brunt made a comeback in the lineup after a long layoff. Paul Scherner, on the other hand, will probably get the start. The occasionally-dangerous Zoltan Gera is a long-term absence for the hosts.
According to the BBC, Chelsea have won fifteen straight matched against WBA, although that streak was very nearly snapped at Stamford Bridge in our second match of the season. We know what we're getting here - the team will be well organised, keeping nine men behind the ball as much and possible while looking to hit it forward to Peter Odemwingie on the counterattack.
The past few matches have seen the Baggies lay demolition jobs of Wolverhampton, who are bad, and Sunderland, who are not - they're perfectly capable of playing decent, expansive football if they so choose. I don't see that happening against Chelsea, however, because we (on paper, if sometimes not on the pitch) are a class above, and we should be expecting to keep a clean sheet if David Luiz doesn't do anything silly. Fortunately, the defender looks like he got of the calamitous stupidity out of his system during Brazil's midweek friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina, so that's a relief.
The main question here is Chelsea's ability to break down their opponents. The Blues have two modes of attack which will probably see a lot of joy - through the middle with Juan Mata playing between the lines and then using Ashley Cole and a left winger to cross for Daniel Sturridge at the back post, with Didier Drogba looking to occupy the defensive line.
So the tactical situation lends itself nicely to a 4-2-3-1. However, that might not be the way to go here, because form matters and Chelsea did indeed look excellent against Bolton Wanderers in the 4-3-3, now that they've finally managed to get the Michael Essien-Ramires-Frank Lampard trio onto the field at once. Mata will move around enough to provide a spark, and we;ll be able to find Sturridge plenty of times in the match without an overload on the left flank.
In other words, let's keep it simple and start with the same lineup as we did against the Trotters:
Chelsea (4-3-3): Petr Cech; Ashley Cole, David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic; Michael Essien, Frank Lampard, Ramires; Juan Mata, Didier Drogba, Daniel Sturridge.
I'm wary of this match, because West Brom are playing very well recently, but if the Blues show that last Saturday wasn't an aberration, they'll be in great position to claim fourth spot outright this weekend. Join us right here for the game thread.