Chelsea v West Brom preview
Blues take on Baggies in season opener at the Bridge
By James Riach. Last Updated: 14/08/10 1:15pm
Ancelotti: West Brom challenge
Premier League new-boys West Brom have a baptism of fire on the opening day of the campaign when they travel to champions Chelsea.
Baggies manager Roberto Di Matteo returns to his old club on what could be a tough afternoon for his side, with the Blues looking to continue where they left off last season.
Chelsea have won 10 of their last 11 opening-day games, while West Brom have only come out on top once in their last 12. To make matters worse for the Hawthorns outfit, the Blues have not lost any of their last 55 fixtures against newly-promoted sides.
The statistics may not make pretty reading for Di Matteo, but on his return to Stamford Bridge he may be buoyed by his opponents' lacklustre performance in the Community Shield last weekend.
Carlo Ancelotti's men were beaten 3-1 by Manchester United at Wembley and have not had the best of pre-season campaigns.
It may count for nothing come kick-off on Saturday though, as Chelsea's last competitive game at home ended in an 8-0 thrashing of Wigan to clinch the title.
A league and FA Cup double was secured by Ancelotti last term, although the Italian coach has tinkered with his squad throughout the summer.
Michael Ballack, Joe Cole, Juliano Belletti and Deco have all left, while centre-half Ricardo Carvalho has recently completed his switch to Real Madrid where he will be reunited with former boss Jose Mourinho.
The only arrival to date has been Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun, and Ancelotti will once more be relying on the usual spine of his side to produce results.
Ashley Cole looks like he is staying put despite speculation linking him with a move to Madrid, and it will be interesting to see how he performs along with England team-mates John Terry and Frank Lampard, who of course had dismal summers with the Three Lions in South Africa.
Another man who will have been disappointed with his showing in the World Cup is Didier Drogba. Last season's Premier League top-scorer with 29 strikes to his name is fit to face the Baggies and the Ivorian powerhouse will be a major threat to West Brom's goal.
Blues goalkeeper Petr Cech faces a race to be ready after suffering a back problem in pre-season. The Czech shot-stopper missed the Community Shield defeat and Hilario is once again on standby if he fails to make it.
Alex is back from a calf problem but Branislav Ivanovic could play alongside Terry in central defence with Paulo Ferreira coming in at right-back.
Michael Essien's return to the fold will be a major boost to Chelsea, as the Ghana international missed a large part of last season with a long-term injury.
West Brom midfielder Graham Dorrans is winning his fight to be fit for the crunch clash.
Dorrans has been under treatment this week for a groin strain that forced him to withdraw from the Scotland squad for their friendly against Sweden.
But he has been able to return to training and Di Matteo is optimistic that he will be available. Di Matteo, who is set to hand debuts to left-back Nicky Shorey and central defender Pablo Ibanez, has a decision to make over who will start in goal and who will lead the attack.
England international Scott Carson, who will again captain the team this season, faces a challenge from Wales international Boaz Myhill following his arrival from Hull City.
Carson is expected to get the nod to start at Stamford Bridge with Ishmael Miller poised to lead the attack as a lone striker ahead of Roman Bednar.
Possible starting XIs:
Chelsea: Cech, Ferreira, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Essien, Mikel, Lampard, Kalou, Anelka, Drogba.
West Brom: Carson, Jara, Olsson, Ibanez, Shorey, Mulumbu, Brunt, Morrison, Dorrans, Thomas, Miller.
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