Premier League 2015-16, Match Preview: Chelsea VS West Bromwich
While no one is saying it’s a must-win match for the reigning titleholders, the Blues face West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns on Sunday needing those three points to stay within touching distance of the top of the table.
A season-opening draw at home versus Swansea City and a 3-0 hammering by Manchester City at the Etihad last Sunday have left Chelsea already five points adrift of the Citizens and fellow six-point clubs Leicester City, Liverpool and Manchester United. Mourinho dismissed the scoreline as “completely fake,” but the lack of depth on the back line was again exposed – this time to the point where captain and veteran centre back John Terry was replaced at halftime.
“We normally train very well but this week we trained better than ever. Why? Because we are not happy,” said Mourinho, who will be coaching his 300th match in all competitions for Chelsea. “I’m not happy with the results and the players are not happy with the results.
“Do we have to improve? Obviously, always, but we are calm. Not happy but calm. We need to be unhappy because that feeling makes you work, but to be calm is important.”
With the crises restricted to on-field issues, Chelsea addressed those in the transfer window, acquiring Ghanaian fullback Baba Rahman from German side Augsburg before landing forward Pedro from Barcelona on Thursday.
The pair came with a combined price tag of nearly £43 million, but Mourinho lauded the Spanish international’s professionalism after he netted the match-winner in Barca’s UEFA Super Cup victory in extra time over Sevilla.
“For many years he won everything playing with Messi, Iniesta, all these stars, but he wants more and I’m really happy with that attitude,” Mourinho said. “When I’m told a player wants to leave Barcelona or Real Madrid, these giant clubs, there is always a question mark because I always ask myself why they want to leave.
“This is a moment for him to enjoy a different life, a different step, a different challenge.”
Mourinho confirmed goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois will start after the Belgian served a one-match suspension for his red card against Swansea, and both new signings will be available.
The schedule makers did Tony Pulis’ side no favours in the early going as the Baggies (0-1-1) are also on one point and will have played both Chelsea and Manchester City – who beat them 3-0 in their opening match at The Hawthorns – among their first three fixtures. West Brom played newcomers Watford to a scoreless draw last Saturday, failing to register a shot on goal at Vicarage Road, and have yet to find the back of the net this season.
“Well, we were disappointed with the performance against Man City, and then you see what Man City did to Chelsea and then it puts it in a little perspective,” Baggies boss Pulis said. “The Watford game, we were disappointed in the first half but in the second half we were better.”
West Brom rejected an offer by Tottenham Hotspur for Saido Berahino on Tuesday, but the Spurs may make another offer for the striker before the close of the transfer window. The Baggies are reportedly close to a deal with Spurs defender Federico Fazio, and Pulis insisted there is no connection between the two.
“That deal has got absolutely nothing to do with Saido’s position at this football club. We want Saido to stay at this football club,” Pulis said. “(Fazio) is a very, very good defender. He’s coming from a top club in Tottenham and he wants to play regular football and show he can compete.”
The Hawthorns has proven to be a bogey ground of late for Chelsea, who are winless in their last four league matches (0-1-3) there after a heavy but meaningless 3-0 defeat in last season’s corresponding fixture. Berahino had a brace before Chris Brunt added a third for the Baggies, who played a Chelsea side that had already clinched the title.
The Blues have not gone the first three matches of a season without a win since 1998.