Chelsea moved to the top of the English Premier League after beating Newcastle 3-0 at home last Saturday, making the most of Arsenal’s 5-1 capitulation at Anfield and Manchester City’s failure to beat Norwich at Carrow Road. Jose Mourinho refuses to put pressure on his players, maintaining that City remain the big favorites for the league, but his team will look to take another step towards the title against West Bromwich Albion at Hawthorns this Tuesday.
The Portuguese manager has claimed that City’s strength in depth could prove to be the most important factor in the title race. But with his own side’s injury problems easing up, the ‘’Special One’’ has now himself more alternatives, as the most critical stage of the season is approaching fast, with only Marco van Hinkel as a long term absentee. Let’s take a look at his options for the match against Albion.
Petr Cech is ever-present at Chelsea again this season, having started in all of the Blues’ league fixtures so far. The experienced keeper will surely retain his place at Hawthorns.
Mourinho made a change to his back four last time out against Newcastle, with David Luiz taking the place of John Terry, who was out with a muscular injury. It was the first league match that the club captain has missed all season, and Mourinho has confirmed that he will be out against the Baggies as well. David Luiz replaced Terry against the Magpies and is expected to keep his place alongside Gary Cahill in the centre of defense.
Branislav Ivanovic could play on the right once again on current form, while on the left Cesar Azpilicueta will probably get the nod, leaving Ashley Cole on the bench as in previous games. If Mourinho decides to rest Ivanovic, then Azpilicueta will play on the right, with Cole returning to start at left back.
It’s anyone’s guess really how Mourinho will shape his midfield for this match. What seems most certain, is that the manager will stick with his system of two midfielders shielding the back four and three in front of them providing depth and a link between defense and attack. In the last game against Hull, Frank Lampard and Nemanja Matic played in front of the back four and did a good job, so they could retain their places. But if Mourinho judges that it could be a risk starting Lampard for a second match in the space of four days, he has other options like playing Ramires alongside the impressive Matic.
Willian (right), Oscar (centre), and the magician Hazard (left) were the choices of the Portuguese coach for the three positions behind the striker against Newcastle. The same trio started the January 11 game at Hull, a match that could be used as a template for Mourinho for his decisions on West Bromwich. The Chelsea manager is spoilt for choice there though, with Ramires, John Obi Mikel, Willian, Andre Schurrle and even Mohamed Salah staking their claim to start. Especially the young Egyptian was impressive coming as a substitute on Saturday and could play as a right winger, with Hazard moving behind the striker and Willian starting on the left.
We’ll go with the selection of the last match though. Why change a winning team after all? Mourinho will have the opportunity to rotate his squad in the FA Cup game against Manchester City next Saturday, so he could be tempted to keep an unchanged midfield against West Brom, with three points at stake.
Samuel Eto’o has stared the last few games as Chelsea’s lone striker and maybe it’s not a coincidence that the team’s results have picked up ever since. We can see no reason for Mourinho to change, even if Fernando Torres is expected to be back from injury.
Probable Chelsea XI vs West Bromwich Albion (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Azpilicueta – Lampard, Matic – Willian, Oscar, Hazard – Eto’o.