1st March 2013
In the wake of Rafael Benitez’s comments that are likely going to cost him the job, Chelsea play an extremely important match with regards to their top 4 chances. In-form West Brom arrive at Stamford Bridge looking to record a third victory on the bounce, and maybe even revive their own Champions League hopes.
Rafael Benitez can whine as much as he wants to, but there is nobody else he can blame for the position he is in. First of all, he was the one who accepted an offer to become Chelsea interim manager after all the negative things he had said about the club while at the helm at Liverpool, and he had more than enough chances to win back the fans. During his reign, the Blues were eliminated from the Capitol One Cup, defeated in the Club World Cup final and almost dropped out of Europa League. On top of that, Chelsea are now on the verge of slipping out of the Premiership top 4, so maybe the Spaniard is the one to blame for the dismal results. Chelsea somehow managed to defeat severely weakened Middlesbrogh in the FA Cup, and Benitez will now have a number of first team regulars returning to the side. Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Eden Hazard and Demba Ba should all start after they were rested in midweek.
Following several very successful campaigns, West Brom were always expected to continue their uptrend this season, but nobody could predict such a magnificent start to the league campaign. Some amazing showings in the opening exchanges have seen the Baggies even climb to the top 4, although their performances started to drop at the turn of the year. An eight-match winless run threatened to ruin everything Steve Clarke and his men had worked for, but West Brom managed to end the barren run by winning at Anfield, before seeing off Sunderland at their Hawthorns. The team thus returned to seventh in the overall standings and now sit just two points adrift of Everton, but they face an uphill task at Stamford Bridge, with their two key attackers likely to miss out. Red-hot Romelu Lukaku is ineligible to face his parent club, while fellow striker Shane Long is a major doubt with an ankle problem. Defender Goran Popov serves the final game of his three-match ban.
With Chelsea players completely out of confidence and West Brom missing their two top scorers, we could easily see a low-scoring match at Stamford Bridge. Online bookmakers see the Blues as hot favourites here, but my advice is to bet on under 2.5 goals, as that market has much better value than home win.
Verdict: Under 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 3/2
Bookmaker: William Hill