West Brom v Chelsea – The Hawthorns at 13:30 live on Sky Sports 1
Today’s Premier League actions kicks off with a basement battle as 19th placed West Brom host 17th placed Chelsea, in a very early season relegation six pointer…..Ok, so it is a touch early to call it a relegation six pointer, but I just could not help myself.
Both these sides have started the season in really poor form, it is almost as if the campaign starting a week earlier than usual was a complete shock to the system and they have been left playing catch up to better prepared teams.
Tony Pulis’s West Brom can perhaps be excused a little for their 3-0 opening day defeat at home against a rejuvenated Manchester City side, who could easily have scored more goals against a defence which looked uncharacteristically disjointed.
Although they picked up their first point of the season at Watford in the second game of the season, it was very much a back’s against the wall defensive performance, where they were lucky to come away from Vicarage Road with a clean sheet.
Pulis will obviously have been pleased to see his team’s defence regain some of its more typical composure under pressure but at the other end of the pitch, two shots on target from 180+ minutes of football is quite simply horrific.
There is some hope for Baggies fans that the shots and goals will come, because the manager has tried hard to address his squads lack of firepower in the transfer window. Rickie Lambert and Salomon Rondon have been brought in up front, while James McClean and Serge Gnabry (on loan) should bring some much needed pace to midfield.
Their guests today Chelsea have also struggled to find their form in these very early stages of the 2015/16 season. They uncharacteristically let the lead slip twice at home against Swansea on their opening day of the season and then, they were made to look like West Brom when Manchester City tore them apart 3-0 at the Etihad in week two.
Jose Mourinho had previously decided against (had been told by Mr Abramovich) any major new signings when it was quite clear to all that the squad lacked experienced, strength in depth.
But, the Blues moved quickly to secure both Barcelona’s Pedro and full back Baba Rahmen from Augsburg. These two high quality signings are exactly what Jose’s squad needed and with over a week left before the window shuts, there could yet be more new arrivals, such as John Stones, at Stamford Bridge.
The last time these two teams met was at the end of last season, after the Blues had already secured the Premier League title and their minds were clearly elsewhere as West Brom ran out comfortable 3-0 winners that day (bit of trend developing there it seems).
Having picked up just one point from their opening two matches, you can guarantee that Jose’s players will be 100% focused on winning at the Hawthorns today and the Baggies will need every ounce of their defensive capability to stop the champions today.
Looking at the betting markets today, Chelsea have been priced up at around 1.57 for the win and that looks a little on the short side in my opinion. They went off at 1.71 at the Hawthorns in May and despite losing that game, they were in much better form than they are now.
Also, the Blues will probably not include new signing Pedro and Oscar is also unavailable after picking up a minor injury recently. Pulis has his whole squad available to him today but will most likely adopt a safety first approach, which could see him deploy a 4-5-1 set up in the hope of hitting Chelsea on the break.
The Asian handicap line for this match has been set at +/-1 and there seems to be a touch of value on the home team with 1.90 and slightly more available in the markets. But, are West Brom capable of keeping this one close today?
Since Pulis took over the Baggies have certainly improved at the back and especially against the better sides, when they know they have to set up and focus on the defensive side of their game.
At home last season only five teams beat them by more than a single goal and with Chelsea having a minor crisis of confidence at the moment, I am happy to take them here in the hope that West Brom produce a solid performance in front of their own fans.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: West Brom +1 at 1.95 with Eastbridge
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