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Throw-back - Frank's the daddy as Lampard leads Baggies battering


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On Saturday, Chelsea take on West Bromwich Albion in a crucial Premier League encounter.

In last season's corresponding game, Eden Hazard scored a contentious 94th-minute penalty - earned after Ramires allegedly dived - to earn Chelsea a barely-deserved point and deny Albion what would have been their first win at Stamford Bridge in 35 years.

Albion, to an extent, avenged that cruel equaliser with a late leveller of their own in the reverse fixture, when Victor Anichebe scored three minutes from time to rob the Blues of two points that would have gone a long way towards their title tilt last term.

Those two games had an uneasy feel about them. They were the sort of game that Chelsea constantly struggled in. José Mourinho's proud unbeaten run - ironically ended later in the season anyway by another of the league's supposed "smaller" sides in Sunderland - was just about preserved by Hazard's late intervention, but that type of fixture typified the sort of game that cost Chelsea the title in 2013/14.

Tomorrow's game has a totally different atmosphere about it.

Despite coming into the game having not lost to Chelsea since Demba Ba's goal eased the growing pressure on Rafael Benitez during that nightmarish regime - with that win being the only one recorded by Blues since 2011 - and also being buoyed by a recent good spell of form (one sub-par performance against Newcastle aside), the Baggies come into this game as firm underdogs.

That label of "second favourites" is something usually associated with many a team coming to visit Stamford Bridge, but the Baggies have been ever so unlucky on their recent trips to West London; having drawn here last year, narrow defeats in 2011 and 2013 have reaffirmed the level of belief that, considering Chelsea's relative inability to beat the league's poorer sides, that teams like Albion are now able to come into these games thinking they can genuinely earn a result.

That might have been true last season, and certainly during the periods of instability overseen by the likes of Villas-Boas, di Matteo, Benitez and company - but those were different times. That was a different Chelsea.

There is a taste of sublime confidence in the air at Stamford Bridge. Not since back-to-back titles were won under Mourinho first time around has there been such a firm belief that this season will be silver-lined come May. The Chelsea juggernaut is in full motion and many will feel that West Brom will simply be the next side to be ground underfoot by the Mourinho Machine.

The last time such optimism was apparent within Chelsea Football Club coincides with a previous fixture played between these two sides, back in 2005...

... that day, the world took notice. Having, in the previous season, recorded the highest number of points ever attained by a Premier League club, with the most wins achieved and the least goals shipped of any side in English top flight history (in a 38-game season, at least), the Blues began the 2005/06 season in insipid style, relying on a stunning Hernán Crespo goal to finally shrug off the irritation of newly-promoted Wigan Athletic.

In the next game, Mourinho shuffled his deck. Cudicini, Essien, Wright-Phillips and Joe Cole all started as Mourinho demonstrated his frankly ridiculous squad depth. Essien in particular shined on his home début as Chelsea ripped a ragged Albion to pieces.

"We gifted Chelsea the game", complained Baggies boss Bryan Robson. "If Real Madrid came here and gave two goals away they would not come back into the game".

Frank Lampard opened the scoring in the 23rd minute, and celebrated by announcing the arrival of baby girl Luna. The goal was a thing of beauty to behold - the finish was typical Lampard; a late surge into the box to crown a flowing move. Didier Drogba had torn through the Albion defence, his cross was sublimely dummied by the impressive Essien, and Lampard duly dispatched the ball past Chris Kirkland.

Joe Cole scored the second after a determined bit of play from Shaun Wright-Phillips. Though he never lived up to his big-money transfer fee, in this, his full début for the club, the England international looked like he would become a fixture in the side given the quality of his first handful of appearances for Chelsea.

Chelsea continued to dominate after the break, and Cole almost doubled his tally when he struck an effort across the face of goal after 54 minutes, with Drogba just unable to get a toe to the ball as it flashed across the face of goal. Kirkland then made a fine double save from Drogba's header and Essien's powerful follow up as Chelsea pressed for the game-killing third goal.

And it needed more desperate defending to halt Drogba, who then set up Essien for a shot which was blocked.
Chelsea's third was only a matter of time, and it came after 67 minutes when Asier del Horno turned the ball back for Drogba to hit the target from close range. The champions then wrapped up the points as Lampard scored his second of the game and Chelsea's fourth after strong wing play from substitute Arjen Robben.
Chelsea, in 2005/06, had an aura of invincibility. Though not quite there just yet, the Blues are edging closer and closer towards having what is arguably the strongest squad in Premier League history, or at least matching the class of the early Abramovich years.
Maybe, in ten years time, we will similarly look back on the 2014/15 season as a year where Chelsea devastatingly wrestled the title away from the chasing pack by Christmastime.
Mourinho had this to say after the Albion game, back in 2005:
"We played well. We looked very confident and compact, there were no defensive problems and we used the ball very well.
"We had control of the game and always looked dangerous. The result expressed what happened on the pitch".
Those comments, one hopes, can be applied to any of the Blues' performances as they enter the frequently chaotic and no less frenetic winter period. Should that be the case, then there is a strong argument indeed that this new Chelsea side can match the sheer ruthlessness of the class of 2005/06.
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When I lived in Birmingham never actually went to West Brom ,,I lived only a few hundred yards from St Andrews and the guy I stayed with was an ex Brum player , I also taught within a mile of Villa Park and saw many of their home games

Where I work now is literally outside of Villa Park. Hate working on Saturdays for that reason!

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