West Bromwich Albion’s Roy Hodgson-inspired revival will meet its sternest test on Saturday in the form of a wounded Chelsea.
Promoted Midlands outfit West Brom are unbeaten in six matches since Hodgson took charge of the English Premier League club in February.
They have drawn three and won three, including a 2-1 win at home to Liverpool – the club Hodgson was sacked from in January after just seven months in charge.
West Brom might also have beaten Arsenal at home, surrendering a two-goal lead but managing to hold out for a credible 2-2 draw against the Premier League’s second-placed side.
Their run under Hodgson has seen the team climb to the safety of 10th place, seven points clear of the relegation zone.
They beat Sunderland 3-2 away from home in their last match on April 9, but could be hard-pressed to maintain their unbeaten run when Chelsea arrive at the Hawthorns.
The west London club have endured an inconsistent season and, 11 points behind league leaders Manchester United, appear set to surrender their domestic crown.
After already conceding the FA Cup in the fourth round, Chelsea’s Champions League aspirations came to an end with a quarter-final exit at the hands of United on Tuesday.
That loss – 3-1 on aggregate over the course of two legs – will have been deeply felt by owner Roman Abramovich, who covets the European Cup like no other prize.
It remains to be seen if the defeat will cost Carlo Ancelotti his job as manager.
But if the players wish to show their support for the beleaguered coach and perhaps save their own careers at Stamford Bridge, they must perform in the final seven matches of the season – starting at West Brom.
Hodgson has close to a fully fit squad to choose from, with only defender Pablo Ibanez ruled out and midfielder Graham Dorrans in doubt.
Chelsea have a fully fit squad to choose from, with Brazil international David Luiz – suspended for the 2-1 loss at Old Trafford – vying for a return to central defence.
After another disappointing display from 50-million-pound man Fernando Torres on Tuesday – replaced at half-time by Didier Drogba – all eyes will be on who Ancelotti selects in attack.
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