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Blues aiming to fend off chasing pack

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    Chelsea (2/7) will be hoping to stay leaders of the Premier League this weekend with a win at struggling West Brom (11/1).

    The Blues make the trip to the West Midlands on the back of a shock Carling Cup defeat at the hands of Championship side Burnley.

    Baggies boss Tony Mowbray has made no attempt to play down the size of the task facing his side, as they come up against a Chelsea team with a 100 per cent record on the road – he said: “They are a joy to watch and in all departments they are top of the shop.

    “It’s top versus bottom so it won’t get any tougher for us but that’s why we’re here in the Premier League. It’s the first of the big four that we’re playing at home so we’ll see how we approach that having played the others away from home.”

    The game could signal a return to Premier League first team action for Didier Drogba, who was involved in a coin-throwing incident against Burnley in mid-week.

    With a chance to make amends for his mid-week misdemeanours, the Ivorian hitman is priced at (3/1) to score the opener.

    Co-leaders Liverpool (8/13) are hot on Chelsea’s heels, level on 29 points and they face an arguably more difficult trip to play Bolton Wanderers (5/1) in a north-west derby.

    The Reds fared no better than Chelsea in their mid-week Carling Cup exertions, going down 4-2 in a humbling defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.

    But the game marked the welcome return of hot-shot Fernando Torres after a hamstring injury – the Spanish Euro 2008 winner is the club’s leading league scorer.

    Torres is (7/2) to score first, with Liverpool also bringing back the likes of Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso after they were rested in mid-week.

    Meanwhile, Manchester United (1/7) have some ground to make up as they now lie eight points off the pace with a game in hand.

    The champions host Stoke City (14/1) at Old Trafford and goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar says his team are well aware of the potential threat caused by the dangerous throw-ins of Rory Delap.

    He told Sky Sports News: “We’ve been working on it of course and we’ve got one or two ideas. Of course you have to focus on the set-pieces from the opposite team and normally those of corner kicks or free-kicks and these are throw-ins so that’s a different approach.”

    Cristiano Ronaldo has been in fine goal-scoring nick in the league since his return from an ankle injury in September, already having netted six times.

    The Portuguese international is reportedly close to signing a new contract after an unsettled summer – he is 3/1 favourite to open the scoring at Old Trafford with Wayne Rooney available at 11/4.

    After the Arsenal (1/2) youngsters memorable showing in a 3-0 Carling Cup win over Wigan Athletic, boss Arsene Wenger may be tempted to introduce even more of his starlets into the starting line up for the home match with Aston Villa (6/1).

    The Gunners top league scorer Emmanuel Adebayor is 7/2 to break the deadlock, with Mexican sensation Carlos Vela 9/2.

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