Chelsea FC vs West Brom: Predicting the Blues' Starting XI for Trip to Hawthorns

Saura BhattacharjeeAnalyst IMarch 1, 2012

Chelsea finally managed to register a win with their 3-0 thumping victory over Bolton last week.

The win not only helped the Blues end their unwanted streak of five winless matches and get back in the race for a top-four finish but also helped ease pressure on manager Andre Villas-Boas. The Potuguese tactician has been under immense pressure for being in charge of the squad in their worst possible season in a decade.

The Blues have looked unconvincing all season, and their present misadventures see them facing an early Champions League exit. The Blues are already out of the Premier League title race by quite a distance and look uncertain to keep their fourth place intact.

West Brom, on their part, look set to stay another season at the top division. The Baggies are a tough nut to crack with Chelsea having toiled in their previous fixture to grind out a 2-1 win. This time when the two teams face each other, there will be much at stake for the Blues to lose, and Villas-Boas will not want to waste any points.

While the Blues prepare to take on West Brom this weekend and try get their season back on track, let's take a look into the possible starting lineup that Villas-Boas might field.

Petr Cech (Goalkeeper)

The Czech international did not have much to do in last week's win against the Wanderers. Though the usually-disciplined goalie has been impressive this season, his occasional errors cannot be overlooked. His mistakes have cost Chelsea valuable points, and the calm Cech has looked nervy at times.

Villas-Boas is undoubtedly going to play his first choice, and Cech will be looking to play his part in ensuring the Blues keep the elusive clean sheet against the Baggies.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 25:  Didier Drogba of Chelsea celebrates scoring his sides second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Bolton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge on February 25, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Ma
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Ashley Cole (Left Back)

The Englishman has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. As per reports, Cole had a training ground spat with manager Villas-Boas which might finally lead to his departure from Chelsea come summer.

The 31-year old left back has looked slow, error-prone and lacking the sharpness of earlier seasons. Villas-Boas had suffered badly having benched Cole along with Frank Lampard and Michael Essien against Napoli, and he will not likely make the same mistake, handing Cole the starting role.

David Luiz (Central Defender)

The Brazilian silenced his critics with a solid performance against Bolton last week, even notching up a brilliant goal. The highly-rated youngster has showed flashes of brilliance, though his impressive forms have been marred by occasional errors and rash tackles.  

Luiz has earned the faith of his manager this season and has sealed his place in the starting team. He is likely to keep his place against West Brom.

Gary Cahill (Central Defender)

While Chelsea fans may be worried about the loss of their captain fantastic for more than a month through injury, one person must be happy at Stamford Bridge. The man is Chelsea's newest recruit, Gary Cahill.

The former Bolton man, who arrived at Chelsea in January, has had his fair share of first team starts with John Terry missing out through his knee injury. The English international has been quite impressive in his role at the heart of Chelsea defense. With Terry out, Villas-Boas is likely to partner Cahill up with Luiz in the middle of his defense.

Cahill will be looking to impress his manager and try guarantee himself a first-team role.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 25:  Andre Villas-Boas the Chelsea manager watches from the touchline during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Bolton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge on February 25, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mas
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Branislav Ivanovic (Right Back)

The Serbian was pretty impressive last weekend against the Trotters, keeping Miyachi at bay as well as playing his part in the Chelsea attack. Jose Bosingwa is likely to be back for contention, and given Villas-Boas's love for his fellow countrymen, Iva could lose his place. However, in view of his last outing, it seems Ivanovic will get another starting lineup role.

Ramires (Central Midfield)

The Brazilian's pace and tireless runs into opposition defense has been a vital factor for Chelsea this season, and Ramires has sealed his spot at the heart of the Chelsea midfield. His absence through injury saw Chelsea struggle to keep up pace in their midfield, and Villas-Boas is surely to field his in-form player when the Blues visit West Brom.

Michael Essien (Central Midfield)

 The Ghanaian looks fully recovered from his long injury and slowly seems to be getting back to his old destructive self. Against Bolton, Essien was the Blues' spine, helping the Chelsea defense as well as moving upfront to assist the forwards.

The "Bison" is one of the best in the world at his role as a holding midfielder, and Villas-Boas will be looking to play his world-class midfielder in an effort to help him recover fully and attain his full efficiency.

Raul Meireles (Central Midfield)

The Portuguese international has been rather unimpressive in the last few months after delivering some top-class performances earlier in the season. His dismal form could be attributed to Villas-Boas benching the ex-Liverpool man and handing Frank Lampard a first-team start against Bolton.

When Chelsea travel to West Brom on Saturday, Villas-Boas might keep the aging Lampard on the bench ahead of their FA Cup replay against Birmingham next week, giving the ex-Porto man a chance to up his performance and impress.

Daniel Sturridge (Right Wing)

The youngster continues to excel and seems to get better with every match. Sturridge has almost made the right wing role his own, though he seems displeased at not getting a role at the tip of the Chelsea attack.

His menacing runs inside opposition defenses whenever he has possession make him one of Chelsea's most dangerous attacking threats. His blistering pace along with his dribbling abilities has seen him become a vital Chelsea player in the Villas-Boas era.

Didier Drogba (Striker)

The Ivorian has claimed back his spot at the front of Chelsea's attack since his return from the African Nations Cup. His absence had been felt with Fernando Torres continuing his poor form in front of the goal, which led to Chelsea going five matches without a win.

Drogba, on his part, underlined his return to Chelsea with a solid performance, scoring a goal as well as assisting one. Against Bolton, he looked sharp and in peak form as he tormented the Bolton defenders with his pacy runs and strength.

With Torres far from getting back his goal-scoring boots, Villas-Boas will hand the fiery Ivorian the goal-scoring duties at the tip of Chelsea's attack.

Juan Mata (Left Wing)

The Spaniard has been one of the best Chelsea players this season. His quick runs mixed with brilliant vision of the game and an eye for the goal have seen the former Valencia man develop into a vital player for Villas-Boas's Chelsea squad.

Though sometimes he looks lackluster and inconsistent, there is no denying the fact that Mata has been AVB's biggest signing this season. There is no doubt about Villas-Boas handing his best player a starting role to the left of Drogba.


Ross Turnbull, Ryan Bertrand, Frank Lampard, Fernando Torres, Florent Malouda, Jose Bosingwa and Oriol Romeu.


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