West Brom v CHELSEA: Preview

Date: Friday 12th May, 2017
Venue: The Hawthorns
Kick-off: 20:00 BST

This time last season I just wanted it over and looking ahead to tonight’s game, there’s a part of me that still wants it over – but for very different reasons – because, if last season was all beer and bad kebabs, this year is all about champagne and caviar. Well ok, maybe not the caviar but the champagne is certainly chilling in the fridge, thanks to the Chelsea boss.
Antonio Conte has been an absolute inspiration this season – and not just because he has us winning again but because of the manner in which he’s done it. Conte has taken us to within one win of the Premier League title but more than that, he’s done it with humility, integrity and bucket loads of character. His management of the same abject group of players who finished last season in tenth place has been nothing short of superb, and for me, he deserves much more credit than any manager who fails to get past the finish line again.
I digress though because we’re not at the celebration stage yet, we’re still one win away from the title and between us and the three points we need are West Brom. They themselves will want to put a decent finish to the season together after a recent run of poor form. They don’t do badly against us at The Hawthorns and could end up with their best Premier League points total if they finish the season strongly, so we won’t want to give them too many set-pieces if those champagne corks are going to be popped before Monday!

MANAGER’S VIEWS
Going into tonight’s game, West Brom manager Tony Pulis says “We’re doing our damnedest to make it a competitive game and a good game. I don’t think Antonio Conte will expect anything different. You’ve got to give Antonio and the players great credit for having a chance of lifting the double. They deserve to be where they are. They’ve been the most consistent team in the league this year and they come to our place with a chance of winning it. We’ll give it our best. We’re still chasing a points tally that will keep us in eighth position, so we have a lot to play for.”
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte meanwhile, says “I have a contract with Chelsea for two more years. It is logical when you start work in a new club for the will to be to continue to work and try to improve your work in many years, and for sure this is my will. But now the most important thing is to reach our target. To arrive at this moment, with this great opportunity, we worked very hard for the whole season and now it’s important to be ready and try to take this step and then to celebrate together.”

SQUAD NEWS
For West Brom, Matt Phillips (hamstring) is out, although Hal Robson-Kanu (hamstring) and Jonny Evans (ankle) are both fit.
For Chelsea, N’Golo Kante (hamstring) is available again, so Conte has a fully fit squad to choose from.

TEAMS
WEST BROM (Possible line-up): Foster, Dawson, Evans, McAuley, Wilson, Yacob, Fletcher, Livermore, McClean, Brunt, Rondon
CHELSEA (Possible line-up): Courtois, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso, Pedro, Hazard, Costa

LAST SEASON
West Brom 2-3 Chelsea (23rd August 2015)

CURRENT FORM (PL)
WEST BROM: DLLLL
CHELSEA: WWWLW

OTHER STUFF
~ West Brom lost at home to Chelsea for the first time in five games in the corresponding fixture last season
~ Chelsea’s only defeat in the last eight Premier League meetings came at The Hawthorns in May 2015
~ Chelsea are vying to complete the double over West Brom for the first time in six seasons.
~ There has not been a goalless draw in 89 top-flight encounters since March 1924.
~ West Brom have the worst record in the division since the start of April, earning just two points from six matches.
~ West Brom ended a club record run of five league games without a goal with a 2-2 draw at Burnley last weekend.
~ West Brom have lost 1-0 in each of their last three games at The Hawthorns
~ A Chelsea win would secure their fifth Premier League title in the last 13 seasons
~ Chelsea can earn three successive Premier League clean sheets for the first time in 2017.
~ Chelsea are the division’s highest scorers with 75 goals.
~ John Terry could become the first player from outside of Manchester United to win the Premier League five times.

PREDICTION
BBC Sport: West Brom 0-1 Chelsea
Sky Sports: West Brom 1-1 Chelsea
SportsMole: West Brom 1-3 Chelsea

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