West Bromwich Albion have this evening been dealt a major injury blow during the early stages of their Premier League clash with Chelsea.
The two sides are currently locked in action at Stamford Bridge, with Antonio Conte’s men desperate for all 3 points following a dismal run of form which saw the Blues fall to consecutive 3-goal defeats at the hands of Bournemouth and Watford.
Tonight’s result could prove particularly decisive regarding Antonio Conte’s future in the English capital, with widespread claims over the last week that a loss will see the Italian tactician sacked by Chelsea.
West Brom, meanwhile, have fallen to defeats in their last 2 Premier League outings, the latter of which came in hugely disappointing fashion at home to fellow strugglers Southampton.
Ahead of tonight, the Baggies sat rock bottom of the English top-flight table, a full 5 points behind 19th-placed Stoke City.
The lineups for tonight’s crucial matchup were announced an hour prior to kick-off, with a number of notable inclusions and absences for hosts Chelsea.
Andreas Christensen returned to the heart of the Blues’ defence following a spell on the sidelines, while Olivier Giroud earned his first start for the Premier League champions up front.
Cesc Fabregas was also included from the start, stepping in for the suspended Tiemoue Bakayoko, while Alvaro Morata was fit enough for a place on the Chelsea bench.
However, Marcos Alonso was a notable absentee, with the Spaniard having been a surprise late scratch from the Blues’ squad for their clash with Watford last week as a ‘precautionary measure’.
Team to face WBA: Courtois; Azpilicueta (c), Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Zappacosta; Pedro, Giroud, Hazard.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 12, 2018
West Brom boss Alan Pardew, meanwhile, opted for the following, with Daniel Sturridge joining Salomon Rondon in a dangerous-looking forward line for the Baggies:
— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) February 12, 2018
However, in a massive blow for the visitors with just 2 minutes on the clock, Danny Sturridge went to ground clutching his hamstring following an innocuous challenge from Cesar Azpilicueta, with the 28-year-old eventually succumbing to the problem and making his way down the Stamford Bridge tunnel with frustration etched across his face.
Jay Rodriguez was introduced as Sturridge’s replacement, with the Liverpool loanee’s slim hopes of earning a place in England’s World Cup squad taking a possibly fatal blow.