London (AFP) – Chelsea can put an indifferent start to their Premier League title defence further behind them by extending a winning streak at troubled West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
Antonio Conte’s side are nine points adrift of leaders Manchester City after just 11 games.
Yet the champions have won their last four domestic fixtures and can move from fourth to second should Manchester United and Tottenham, the clubs directly above them fail to win their fixtures.
Conte saw his side comprehensively beaten in the Champions League by Roma at the end of last month but the 1-0 Premier League defeat of Manchester United that followed was an indication no permanent damage had been sustained in Italy.
Certainly wing-back Victor Moses thought so.
“As a team, whatever happens, we stick together and do the best we can,” said Moses.
“People have been a bit too harsh but we don’t need to think about that or concentrate on what people have been saying.
“These criticisms are the kinds of things that makes a player stronger.
“We know we just need to believe in ourselves and prove them wrong then win as many games as we can. We are 100 per cent together. We are like brothers here.”
The 26-year-old Nigerian international said despite the gap between them and City they believe it is not insurmountable.
“We are nine points from Man City but we believe in ourselves and we believe that something can happen further down the line and that we will find ourselves back at the top,” said Moses.
“We still believe in ourselves and in the manager we have got so we will keep working hard and see where it takes us.”
Chelsea will face a West Brom side in crisis, with manager Tony Pulis facing increasing calls from supporters for his removal.
Away fans turned on the Welshman during the 1-0 defeat at Huddersfield Town before the international break and, while the Hawthorns hierarchy have previously remained steadfastly behind him, a heavy defeat to Conte’s side could be the final straw.
The Baggies have won just twice in 20 Premier League games stretching back to last season and have not tasted victory since winning the opening two games of the current campaign.
With Spurs to follow in their next game next weekend, Pulis’s side know they could find themselves in the bottom three heading into December and that could force the club’s Chinese owners into a change despite his record of never being relegated as a manager.
He has suffered a further blow in the build-up to this weekend’s game with midfielder James Morrison potentially ruled out until Christmas following surgery on an achilles tendon.
Chairman John Williams has responded to emails from fans calling for Pulis’s head by thanking them for their support.
“I will, together with the board, make decisions to the best of my ability and always in the interest of the club,” he wrote in reply.
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