Chelsea Will Need Centre-Backs on Full Alert to Win at West Brom

Ryan DayCorrespondent IMarch 2, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 25:  Gary Cahill (L) of Chelsea holds off David Ngog (R) of Bolton Wanderers during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Bolton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge on February 25, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

By all accounts and purposes, Saturday afternoon's match between Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion looks like a gift from the football gods for fans in west London.

After all, West Bromwich Albion is in the bottom half of the table with only a few poor results separating them from the relegation zone. In theory, Chelsea should be able to assume victory and use this weekend's match to rest up for the real competitors coming up on the fixture list—Napoli and Manchester City being the next two.

But if Chelsea fans think West Bromwich Albion will be a pushover, they need to think again. The last time these two teams met, Chelsea had to battle back for a 2-1 win—at Stamford Bridge!—after Shane Long scored to give the visiting team the lead in before the fifth minute.

West Bromwich Albion is a team that has absolutely dominated in recent weeks. With Chelsea having to travel to The Hawthorns—a stadium where Manchester City couldn't score a goal—they will need to do several things to secure three points and (possibly) have any chance of overtaking Arsenal for the fourth-place spot in the English Premier League.

But the first point on Saturday's checklist needs to be making sure that centre-backs Gary Cahill and David Luiz are at full strength and well aware of the dangers their hosts can bring.

West Bromwich Albion has one of the most underrated offenses in the Premier League as of late. In the last six fixtures, the Baggies have collected 48 shots on goal for an obscenely high average of eight shots on goal per match. In that same time span, they've also scored 14 goals for an average of nearly 2.5 goals per match.

Those are the kinds of averages that teams like Arsenal and Tottenham put up. But it's also something West Bromwich Albion has been doing.

Knowing that, Cahill and Luiz have to work together like they did last weekend against Bolton—limiting chances in the front of goal. Bolton forwards Darren Pratley and David Ngog were given very little time in front of goal, chased away by centre-backs who stood their ground and were disciplined enough to stay to their zone.

It showed in the final scoreline as Chelsea won 3-0 and Bolton had managed just one shot on goalkeeper Petr Cech.

To grab a much-needed three points and make a jump in the league table, Chelsea will need to let forwards Peter Odemwingie and Shane Long—who have combined for 15 goals this season—settle for off-target shots from far outside the penalty area.

If West Bromwich Albion are given an inch from Chelsea's centre-backs, they'll take a yard—and perhaps the three points manager Andre Villas-Boas and the rest of his Chelsea team so desperately need.