Who: Chelsea at West Bromwich Albion
What: English Premier League, Week 12
Where: The Hawthorns, West Bromwich, Sandwell, England
When: Saturday, November 17, 2012
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast
Time: 15:00 p.m. GMT/10:00 a.m. ET/7:00 a.m. PT
Television: Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Deportes (USA)
Worldwide Live Streams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Referee: Michael Oliver
2-Way Odds: Chelsea -1 +155, West Brom +1 -200
2-Way 0.5-Goal Odds: Chelsea -0.5 -120, West Brom +0.5 -110
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -120, West Brom +300, Draw +260
Total: Over 2½ -140, Under 2½ +110
Source: Bovada (Kahnawake, Canada)
Decimal Odds: Chelsea 1.95, West Brom 3.90, Draw 3.30
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 1.70, Under 2½ 2.00
Fractional Odds: Chelsea 19/20, West Brom 29/10, Draw 23/10
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 13/20, Under 2½ 11/10
Source: sportsbook.com (Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles)
After two straight league draws and a drop from first to third place in the English Premier League table, Chelsea will look to right the blue ship on Saturday at West Bromwich Albion against a vastly improved Baggies side.
West Brom (6-2-3, 20 points) currently sits in fifth place in the standings and has received some pretty balanced scoring from its roster so far with Peter Odemwingie, Shane Long, James Morrison and Romelu Lukaku all scoring three goals to date.
Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea and unable to participate here, has primarily been used as a substitute by Baggies’ manager Steve Clarke. Talk of the Belgian striker’s return to Stamford Bridge in the winter transfer window has cropped up due to a “get-out” clause in his contract and the sporadic play of Blues’ starting striker Fernando Torres.
Despite all the speculation on Lukaku’s future whereabouts, Clarke refuses to look that far ahead.
"What happens in January happens in January,” the West Brom skipper said in a recent interview. “That's no concern of mine at this present time. Romelu has been a good substitute for us and he has been patient and every now and then you have to give him a chance to play."
The Baggies have been very solid on home soil this season (5-0-1, 12 goals for, 4 goals against)—their lone loss came to defending league champions Manchester City—but will have to try to beat the Blues without starting goalkeeper Ben Foster, who is still recovering from minor groin surgery.
In his stead, Boaz Myhill will start against the European champions and the 30-year-old Welshman was pretty impressive in his first Premiership start in 18 months last weekend in a 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium.
What will the final result be on Saturday at The Hawthorns?
A win in this one would put WBA one point back of Chelsea in the standings (24-23) and possibly in a UEFA Champions League qualifying spot should Everton (5-5-1, 20 points, +7 goal differential) lose or draw at Reading.
This club has certainly proved it’s no fluke after 11 weeks, and the latest Bleacher Report EPL Power Poll by world football lead writer Michael Cummings and crew has the Baggies justifiably ranked at No. 5.
Thick in the middle of a brutal stretch in its schedule, Chelsea (7-3-1, 24 points) should be on its best behavior and the Blues would be wise not to look forward to Tuesday’s pivotal Champions League match against Juventus in Turin (Fox Soccer Channel, 2:45 p.m. ET/11:45 a.m. PT).
Chelsea is undefeated away from west London (3-2-0, 9 goals for, 4 goals against) and should be in a foul mood despite being undefeated in its their last four matches in all competitions (2-2-0) since a controversial home loss to Manchester United on October 23.
One Blues player who needs to have a good showing here is striker Torres who has started receiving some heat again in the media despite co-leading the team with four goals in EPL play—the same number Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimoović had in his country’s 4-2 friendly win over England on Wednesday.
Two players hopefully ready to return for Chelsea on Saturday are veterans Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard—both who have been the focus of many rumors these last two months that they are leaving the club—although Lampard’s availability is still in doubt.
One guy definitely out is John Terry, who tore ligaments in his knee in last Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Liverpool. But reports on the captain’s expected recovery time was good for Blues fans, as he should be back in a matter of weeks and not out for months or possibly the season as some first feared.
Gary Cahill should again fill in for Terry at center-back and will help goalkeeper Petr Čech try to keep the club’s league-leading goals against total on the road (4) exactly where it stands right now.
In the advanced midfield, Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo will again likely start his three mini-musketeers Juan Mata (4 goals, 6 assists in EPL), Eden Hazard (2 goals, 5 assists) and Oscar, but one big question, as it has been lately, is how much playing time Daniel Sturridge and Victor Moses will see.
For gamblers, all the trends point to Chelsea, but the oddsmakers are showing some respect to the upstart hosts here in the three-way line (+300).
The Blues have won 18 of their last 21 games with WBA (18-2-1), 12 of the last 13 and have outscored the Baggies 27-5 in the last 10 meetings (9-0-1) with that lone loss (1-0) coming the last time these two faced off on March 3 at The Hawthorns.
That loss would end up being the straw that broke then-manager André Villas-Boas’ proverbial back and led to the promotion of Di Matteo who then successfully led Chelsea to the FA Cup title, its first-ever Champions League crown and qualification for this season’s European tournament.
Despite the two 1-1 draws to Swansea City at Liverpool, the Blues have been involved in some relatively high-scoring games lately, going 9-2 to the over in all competitions in their last 11 with an average of 4.55 goals being scored per match in that span, thanks in great part to their 5-4 extra time win in the Capital One Cup over United and two six-goal games (Wolves, Spurs).
AccuScore, a firm that run thousands of individual computer-simulated games to predict the possible outcome for most sporting events, gives Chelsea a 38.9 percent chance of winning here, the Baggies a 32.9 percent shot at The Hawthorns, and a 28.1 percent chance of a draw in this match.
But we are men and not computers, Bubba, and who likes to bet a draw or an underdog when you’re a Chelsea fan anyway? Exactly.
Knowing that the Blues have owned West Brom recently, let’s ride that winning trend and also take a shot on the over as the pace in this baby should be pretty fast. And the last time a Chelsea match had less than two goals in it was almost two months ago versus Stoke City, where the Blues won 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.
This one won’t be easy with the Baggies now believing in themselves and no doubt the Midlands crowd will be raucous so as your agent I strongly suggest you just sit back and watch but if you must bet it, I’ll completely understand.
And let’s just hope Chelsea isn’t comfortably numb with its somewhat decent start and overlooks WBA or is looking ahead to Juventus on Tuesday.
After two straight league draws, winning games like this one will now be imperative for Di Matteo and the Blues from now on.
BETS: Chelsea -120, Over 2½ -140
PREDICTION: Chelsea 2 West Bromwich Albion 1
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