For the first time this season, Eden Hazard and Chelsea will enter a match leading the Premier League when they visit West Bromwich Albion, with the Baggies hoping to claw out of the relegation zone with an upset at The Hawthorns (kickoff 3:00 p.m. ET, with a live stream available via NBC Sports Live Extra).
To do that, Pepe Mel’s side will have to hand Chelsea their first league defeat since Dec. 7’s visit to Stoke City. Since, Jose Mourinho’s Blues have taken 26 of a possible 30 points, a streak that vaulted them over Arsenal and Manchester City after Saturday’s 3-0 win over Newcastle.
As in most Chelsea games, the star of the match was Eden Hazard. The 23-year-old Belgian scored three times, bringing his season total to 12 – good for fourth in the Premier League. Combined with Oscar and Willian, Hazard leads the best attacking midfield in England.
Having given up nine goals in four games under Mel, the Baggies don’t seem capable of slowing them down, their winless run under the newly hired Mel seeing West Brom slide into the drop for the first time since September. With six goals since the former Betis boss was hired, Albion has proven capable going forward, but after giving up three to a previously goal-starved Crystal Palace, the Baggies continue their search for solutions at the back.
Ahead of today’s match, Mel also has doubts up front. Nicolas Anelka and Stephane Sessegnon are both unavailable, with defender Jonas Olsson joining the attacking duo on the sidelines.
For Chelsea, John Terry is expected miss his is second straight match, while Fernando Torres should return.
West Bromwich Albion: Foster; Reid, McAuley, Dawson, Ridgewell; Amalfitano, Yacob, Morrison, Brunt; Bifouma, Berahino
Subs: Myhill, Lugano, Dorrans, Vydra, Anichebe, Gera, Mulumbu
Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Matic; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Eto’o
Subs: Schwarzer, Cole, Lampard, Mikel, Schurrle, Salah, Torres