Venue: Stamford Bridge
Date: Saturday, 14 August
Kick-off: 1730 BST
Well, it’s been a bloody miserable pre-season capped off with losing in the Community Shield against United last weekend so we can only hope Chelsea are ready to kick-off the season properly against West Brom this evening.
Carlo Ancelotti goes up against a former Chelsea favourite in Roberto Di Matteo and I’m sure our ex-midfielder will be thinking he couldn’t have picked a better time to be playing us after the form we’ve shown in our last four games.
Despite our lack of form ahead of the new season, Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti seems remarkably positive, insisting “It is the right time for this squad. It has good experience and our aim is to be stronger as a team and to put individual skills together better. The best years of my career were between 28 and 32 and now we don’t have a problem with physical conditioning because we can control recovery, so their careers are longer. With the victories in the League and FA Cup last year we have the possibility to open a cycle with this team. We are ready. I think that we know that not all the players are 100 per cent but we are ready to win the title. We have a fantastic motivation to win this again.”
Baggies boss Robert Di Matteo on the other hand, is a little more cautious, stating “As they are champions, I guess it is going to be a difficult game for us. We will be playing the best team from last season and it is probably the hardest game we could get to start the new season. But it would be tough for any club to face Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United in your first four away games. We are in for a difficult time but the season is 38 games and it will not finish after those four away matches. We have to keep in mind that we need to stay positive to and to remain balanced when we win or lose. I do not know whether it will be emotional going back to Stamford Bridge. I know that I am going to be focussed in a bid to get a result. This may be my first game in the Premiership as a manager but the Chelsea game will be about the club and the players, rather than me.”
Petr Cech (calf) and Alex (thigh) are available after recovering from injury, while Didier Drogba could feature despite lacking match fitness following hernia surgery. Full-back Jose Bosingwa (knee) is out with a knee injury while the Blues will give a late fitness test to Frank Lampard, who picked up an ankle knock while on England duty in midweek.
West Brom are optimistic that Graham Dorrans’ groin injury will not prevent him from starting at Stamford Bridge. Defender Pablo Ibanez could feature after overcoming a hamstring problem. England international Scott Carson, who will again skipper team this season, faces a challenge from Welsh international Boaz Myhill following his arrival from Hull. Carson is expected to get the nod to start at Stamford Bridge with Ishmael Miller poised to lead the attack as a lone striker ahead of Roman Bednar.
CHELSEA (from): Cech, Hilario, Turnbull, A Cole, Kalou, Drogba, Terry, Alex, Malouda, Lampard, Essien, Mikel, Benayoun, Anelka, Zhirkov, Kakuta, Sturridge, Ferreira, Bruma, Ivanovic.
WEST BROM (from): Carson, Myhill, Jara, Zuiverloon, S. Reid, Olsson, Tamas, Ibanez, Meite, Shorey, Cech, Mattock, Thomas, Barnes, Morrison, Dorrans, Mulumbu, Brunt, Miller, Bednar, Cox, Moore, Wood.
LAST MEETING (H)
Chelsea 2-0 West Brom (December 26, 2008)
On the up side for us, we’ve got off to a winning start for the past 8 seasons and West Brom have lost all of the previous 8 games against us in the Premier League. On the downside, we’ve looked woeful defensively pre-season and set-pieces was a weak point for us last season, with us conceding 63% of our goals that way. It’s also worth us noting the Baggies won 6 of their games and picked up 26 points from losing positions last season, so we’ll have to hope our defence looks lively today.