West Brom v Chelsea preview: N'Golo Kante set to return as Blues seek to seal title
Last Updated: 12/05/17 4:51pm
N'Golo Kante is set to return as Chelsea look to secure a second Premier League title in three seasons when they take on West Brom on Friday Night Football, live on Sky Sports.
The French midfielder missed last Monday's win over Middlesbrough with a thigh injury, but it was just a precaution and he is set to feature as the Blues go looking for the victory they require to clinch the title.
Antonio Conte's side lead second-placed Tottenham by seven points and need just three points from their three remaining games to be sure of silverware.
The Italian boss, who won three successive Serie A titles with Juventus, is seeking a fourth consecutive championship in domestic football, and a first in his first season in English football.
"This could be another big, big step for me," Conte added. "At the start of the season it wasn't easy. We faced a lot of problems and we had to solve a lot of problems.
"When you finish 10th in the league it means that the problem is not only one, but there are a lot of problems. The problem is not only one person. I have to say thanks to my players because it's not easy to adapt to a new method, new philosophy and also to work very hard, to change totally your work, if you compare the work this season to the past.
"I think we're doing a really good job, but I want this job to become great and then fantastic. We have two big opportunities this season to finish this season in the right way."
Chelsea might be closing in on glory but West Brom boss Tony Pulis has vowed his team will make it tough.
He said: "There are three points riding on it for them and us. We're doing our damnedest to make it a competitive game and a good game. I don't think Antonio will expect anything different.
"We'll give it our best. We have a responsibility to our supporters. We're still chasing a points tally that will keep us in eighth position, so we have a lot to play for."
West Brom defender Jonny Evans is fit to face Chelsea. The Northern Ireland international came off in last week's 2-2 draw at Burnley with an ankle injury but will play, with Chelsea one victory away from winning the Premier League.
Matt Phillips (hamstring) is out of the game at The Hawthorns on Friday while Hal Robson-Kanu will be in the squad after his own hamstring issue.
Conte has a fully fit squad to choose from but may consider tinkering with his personnel to accommodate Cesc Fabregas, who was man of the match after replacing Kante in the starting XI against Middlesbrough.
West Brom have won three of their last five Premier League games against Chelsea at the Hawthorns (D1 L1) - this after losing each of their first five between 2003 and 2011.
The Blues have lost just one of their last eight Premier League games against the Baggies (W4 D3), a 3-0 defeat in May 2015 in a game played after Chelsea had already won the division.
None of the 21 Premier League meetings between these sides have ended goalless - the Baggies have only played more games without a nil-nil against Arsenal and Spurs (22) in the competition.
Diego Costa has scored in three of his five Premier League appearances against West Brom, scoring three goals in total.
Since winning 13 consecutive matches against West Bromwich Albion in all competitions between 1993 and 2011, Chelsea haven't won back to back games in any of their last 10 meetings. They can achieve this with a win in this game, having won 1-0 in the reverse fixture in December.
Chelsea have had a player sent off on their last two Premier League trips to the Hawthorns - John Terry last season and Fabregas in 2014-15.
The Baggies have only scored a goal in two of their last nine Premier League fixtures, failing to score at all in their other seven matches since the start of March.
Since the start of April, WBA have won only two points from six Premier League games (W0 D2 L4) - the worst record in the competition in this period.
Should Chelsea win this match, they'll have won 42 points away from home in the Premier League this season (the most) and it'll be the highest tally of away points by a side in a PL season since Manchester United won 42 in 2011-12.
If Chelsea win this match then they'll seal their sixth top-flight league title and their fifth in the Premier League era. Only Manchester United (13) have won more Premier League titles.
Should Chelsea win the title, Conte will have won the league title in four successive seasons as a club coach after winning the Serie A title with Juventus in 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14.
Conte would be the fourth Italian manager to win the English top-flight title after Carlo Ancelotti (2009-10), Roberto Mancini (2011-12) and Claudio Ranieri (2015-16). The Italian would also be the fourth manager to lift the Premier League trophy in his first season in England (Mourinho 2004-05, Ancelotti 2009-10 and Pellegrini 2013/14).
I think this will be a hard game for Chelsea. West Brom have been on a poor run but they have been a little unlucky. They'll make it very difficult, be as good as ever on set-plays, and if they can score first then Chelsea may have to wait until Monday night to win the title.
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-1 (15/2 with Sky Bet)
Chelsea are just 4/11 with Sky Bet to wrap up the Premier League title with a win, as West Brom go up against odds of 8/1 to deny their visitors by claiming the points and 18/5 to secure a draw. Conte's men are, however, not favourites for next season's title, with Manchester City (9/4) and Manchester United (5/2) both shorter odds than their price of 7/2.
Diego Costa (11/4) is closely followed by Eden Hazard (7/2) in the first goalscorer betting, while the Baggies' main threat Salomon Rondon is enhanced from 11/1 to 12/1 to net first in Sky Bet's Price Boosts.