Predicted Chelsea Lineup vs. West Brom
Chelsea travel to the highest football stadium in England at the weekend. At 552 feet above sea level, West Brom`s ground the Hawthorns, sits 517 feet above Stamford Bridge. That's the geography lesson out of the way.
When Chelsea arrive, Antonio Conte will hopefully have settled in his mind, the starting XI for a game that will be laden with Tony Pullis` cynicism. Previous games against the Baggies, have been littered with tactical fouling and time wasting as they look to play the 'underdog` card. It's deemed okay to persistently foul the Eden Hazard`s of the world if you're not as technically gifted.
Of course, we all remember the last time Chelsea traveled to the West Brom, at the end of last season. Michy Batshuayi`s 82nd minute goal clinched the Premier League title for Antonio Conte in his first season in England.
Conte`s starting XI for that game lined up in his favoured 3-4-3 formation. Having flirted with a 3-5-2 set up at times this season, he's likely to go with his preferred 3-4-3 option for this game.
Assuming knocks and niggles don't affect any of the squad, and they all successfully make it through the remaining internationals, Conte`s first pick is inevitably Thibaut Courtois. The Belgium international is beginning to get back to his best following a shaky start to his season. Not only that, but he was also the only player to really speak out following the Roma debacle.
As captain, Gary Cahill retains his place in the team. Like Tibo, Cahill has not pulled up trees this season but Conte still has faith in the Englishman. With David Luiz`s loss of form and tantrums ringing in Conte`s ears the Brazilian should make the step up from the stand to the bench. Andreas Christensen has, for now, marked that central defensive spot as his own. Cesar Azpilicueta, who, like the rest has had difficult moments recently, will take up his familiar right sided position.
In midfield Conte has to decide who partners N`golo Kante. The little Frenchman reigned supreme on his return to the side against Manchester United last time out. If Tiemoue Bakayoko is fit after injury his knee at Cobham, he'll start ahead of both Cesc Fabregas and Danny Drinkwater. Bakayoko had a storming game against Jose Mourinho`s Nemanja Matic, all his game lacked was a decent finish.
Marcos Alonso will run the left wing back position and Davide Zappacosta, fresh from Italy`s World Cup exit, will take the right side.
With some serious creativity needed to find a way through West Brom`s defence, Conte will look to Pedro and Eden Hazard to unlock the Baggies door. Getting on the end of that creativity will be Alvaro Morata, whose deft header won the game against United. With his personal assistant Cesar Azpilicueta playing there's every chance the two Spanish amigos could once again link up.
How do you see Conte setting his team up?