The pressure on Luiz Felipe Scolari to resolve his team's poor home form is building as Chelsea prepare to face West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge in a match that would normally be considered a foregone conclusion. Scolari's side are second in the Premier League and through to the last 16 of the Champions League but even so the talk in west London is of problems rather than festive celebrations ahead of a packed Christmas programme.
Chelsea have already dropped 12 points at home in the league this season, including defeats against title rivals Arsenal and Liverpool, making the arrival of a revitalized West Brom side a test of character. They have also drawn their last two matches - even though victory in either would have sent them to the top of the table - and had captain John Terry sent off in a goalless stalemate against Everton.
"We have to get things right now," admitted the midfielder Frank Lampard, who will captain his side in Terry's absence. "We can't waste another chance to go top of the league. We know our home form has been suspect but West Brom is a game where we have to say 'right we're back on form' and win it." The big challenge for Scolari is to find a new formation that can unlock opposing defences at Stamford Bridge even when rivals pack their midfield and refuse point blank to attack.
And the answer is likely to come in the form of Didier Drogba who is now fit again and ready to partner Nicolas Anelka in attack after a length recovery period from a knee injury. The Ivory Coast striker, in fact, has been left on the bench for the last six games but Chelsea have spent that time working on a new 4-1-3-2 formation that should enable them to be a stronger force in home games in the long run.
Lampard said: "Didier is fit if the manager chooses to play him and the players have to adapt. The midfielders we have here are top players and we have to adapt and cater for Didier and Nicolas. "If we have two up front like that then you have to get the ball to them because they will win games for you. We also have to start matches quicker and shoot more often because we have to find a solution to our home form."
Branislav Ivanovic will replace suspended Terry in defence against West Brom, who beat Manchester City in their last game, and Scolari, right, must decide who to drop from his midfield in order to accommodate Drogba up front. Joe Cole could be the unlucky man. But however they do it Chelsea know they need to win - or face a very difficult start to 2009. firstname.lastname@example.org