Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion each had fantastic starts to their English Premier League campaigns, but now both teams are in desperate need of points to hold on to their current place in the table.
The Blues have a slim hold of fourth place with Arsenal lurking two points back, while the Baggies are just one point ahead of Liverpool in seventh.
If the season ended today, both teams would have a chance to compete in Europe next season, pleasing each set of supporters.
But there is still work to do, and here is all the info on the upcoming match.
Where: Stamford Bridge, London, England
When: Saturday, March 2, 10 a.m. ET
Watch: Fox Soccer Channel
What They’re Saying
Fighting for a spot in one of the European competitions is a storyline that connects these two clubs, but as ESPN FC’s Phil Lythell notes, there is little else that the two teams have in common:
Are there two more contrasting clubs in the Premier League than West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea? One ran by a Russian oligarch, the other by an English accountant…
Chelsea spend £50 million on a striker, three seasons into the Premier League, West Brom has spent less than £20 million on all of their signings. West Brom have had their fair share of controversy lately with the Peter Odemwingie sage but that is completely out of the ordinary, for Chelsea that sort of thing appears to be a regular occurrence.
Chelsea Player to Watch: Eden Hazard
For all of Chelsea’s shortcomings this season, the future is bright with Hazard and Juan Mata orchestrating the attack. Both are supremely skilled players who are equally dangerous as goal-scorers and distributors.
Hazard started the season in incredible form, but then took a back seat to his Spanish teammate. Mata dazzled for a long stretch, but now the young Belgian is in better form.
He has recorded either a goal or an assist in five of his last seven matches, while Mata has gone four games without being involved in a successful strike.
West Brom’s back line will not break easily, and Hazard will need to continue playing at a high level for Chelsea to achieve a desired result.
West Bromwich Albion Player to Watch: Peter Odemwingie
Romelu Lukaku has been the Baggies’ best goal-scorer this season and has found the back of the net 12 times. Manager Steve Clarke would love to have him available to face his former employer, but the young Belgian is on loan from the Blues.
Due to this, he is prohibited from playing in Saturday’s fixture. Clarke would like to have Shane Long as his backup option, but the Irishman’s availability is in doubt because of an ankle injury, as the Associated Press’ Ryan Willox notes (via Yahoo Sports).
This leaves Odemwingie as the Clarke’s best option up to top, even though the 31-year-old has faced severe criticism for attempting to bypass his club and orchestrate a move to Queens Park Rangers.
A fine performance in this match would certainly help the Nigerian win back some support from the fans, and with a depleted set of attackers, his presence will be crucial to West Brom’s chances at a victory.
Matchup to Watch: West Brom attack vs. Chelsea Defense
Without Lukaku and Long, it may be a long day for West Brom supporters.
The Chelsea attack boasts an impressive amount of creativity and flare, and if the Baggies are bogged down in their own defensive third for the majority of the match, it is unlikely that they will be able to keep a clean sheet.
If the second-choice set of forward players sputters and the Blues are allowed to dominate possession and dictate the pace of the game, Chelsea will hold on to its spot in the table.
The West Brom attack must put pressure on the Chelsea back line in this game. If it fails to do so, the score line will be lopsided.
Prediction: Chelsea 2, West Bromwich Albion 0
The Blues will avenge their loss to West Brom earlier in the season as the Baggies are unable to muster enough firepower to test Petr Cech and the Chelsea defense. Hazard, Mata and company will have plenty of opportunities, and they will get on the scoresheet.
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