Antonio Conte is under huge pressure at Chelsea - and West Brom have a habit of seeing off Chelsea bosses. Michael Cox and Alan Thompson preview the Monday night clash.
"Could Pardew go for a 3-4-3 of his own, and attempt to press Chelsea the way Watford did last Monday?"
Chelsea v West Brom
Monday 20:00 GMT
Sky Sports Premier League / Main Event
Conte on the brink?
It was in mid-February last season that the reigning Premier League-winning manager, Claudio Ranieri, lost his job at Leicester City. It feels like there's a chance of something similar happening against this season - Antonio Conte, less than a year since winning the Premier League with the second-highest points total we've seen in the 25 years of the top-flight, is now under serious pressure.
It seems extraordinary, but Chelsea have been in desperately poor form since the turn of the year, and there's eternally a sense that the Blues' players tend to give up on managers quickly. For now, Conte remains. But West Brom, who recorded wins over Chelsea to mark the end of both Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo's tenures, might be sniffing a hat-trick here.
After experimenting with 3-5-2 in the first few months of this season, Conte has now returned to the 3-4-3 of last season. There's been a problem, though, with Eden Hazard being deployed as the centre-forward which means he simply doesn't pick up possession in the zones he thrives in, and Chelsea struggle to create chances. It's unlikely he'll be fielded there again here.
Giroud's full debut?
Alvaro Morata is unlikely to return to the side here, which means Olivier Giroud seems set to make his first start. Pedro is another one rated doubtful, so Willian may play from the right flank. It's the Hazard-Giroud combination that is most exciting for Chelsea, though, and it's easy to imagine plenty of quick one-twos getting the Belgian in for goalscoring chances.
There will be an enforced change in central midfield, because Tiemoue Bakayoko is suspended following his dismissal against Watford last Monday - although on the evidence of his half-hour performance, that won't be much of a blow to Chelsea. Danny Drinkwater is an option, but in a side desperately lacking creativity, Conte surely has to go with Cesc Fabregas, and forget about the Spaniard's perceived tactical limitations.
Marcos Alonso should return on the left, while at the back David Luiz will continue in the absence of Andreas Christensen, now preferred as the spare man, but out injured.
Pardew to copy Watford's approach?
Alan Pardew's West Brom start as underdogs here, and are looking to bounce back from last weekend's dramatic 3-2 loss to Southampton. Eight days of rest means they should be fresh here, which should mean high-energy pressing and perhaps a surprise tactical plan too.
That could mean a three-man defence to match Chelsea, which Pardew used for the 1-1 draw at Arsenal late last year - and surely not the 4-4-2 that would probably be outwitted down the flanks against Chelsea's 3-4-3. With Salomon Rondon in good form, Jay Rodriguez also in the goals and Daniel Sturridge unlikely to be left out, could Pardew go for a 3-4-3 of his own, and attempt to press Chelsea the way Watford did last weekend?
Grzegorz Krychowiak is likely to return in midfield alongside the Premier League's all-time appearance record holder Gareth Barry, probably with Kieran Gibbs returning on the left and Matt Phillips out on the right.
Defensively, Jonny Evans could be out injured, leaving Craig Dawson, Ahmed Hegazy and Gareth McAuley to fight against Giroud. Hazard, moving inside from the left, will be a greater threat.
I fancy West Brom to get something here. They're much improved under Pardew, Chelsea look in poor form, and with a proactive approach I believe West Brom can start well at a nervy Stamford Bridge. Chelsea's strength in depth means they might turn things around, but I'm going for West Brom to be ahead at half-time, at [8.0].
The Betfair Trader's View - Alan Thompson
Back to back defeats in what were really winnable games for Chelsea has seen the atmosphere around the club drop, and the pressure crank up on Antonio Conte any more slip ups and he will probably not even see out the season. Such are the problems at the club it may well be worth having a little nibble in the Manager Market Specials – Next Manager To Leave Position, where he is currently heading the market. Against West Brom only a win will please and there is zero margin for error.
The Baggies suffered another loss last weekend and are four points away from safety prior to this weekend’s games and that’s a gap that could potentially grow before this game. Regardless of what happens elsewhere they knew even a victory here will see them remain bottom of the league but they will feel like now is a good time to visit Stamford Bridge. A point would be deemed a great result.
However, they are double figure underdogs for a reason and the reality is they will be up against it, they have only won once on the road this season, back in August but they have taken points away at Tottenham and Liverpool this campaign.
Playing last this weekend, Chelsea could be out of the top four at kick off and that should be all the incentive they will need to see of the bottom placed side. But at [1.39] they are far too short in the match odds they should be nearer [1.5], that price also makes them unbackable (for me) in the Asian handicap markets. The total goals looks to be too low also, with Over 2.5 trading at [1.85], I was hoping for nearer evens.
Chelsea to win to nil is an option at anything better than [2.24] but I think I will take a chance with a couple of correct scores, Chelsea to win 2-0 at [7.4] and 3-0 at [10.5]. Dutching these gives a price of approximately [4.3].