Chelsea news: Vital West Brom win saves Antonio Conte and the Blues' season — for now | Goal.com
Chelsea players may have saved Antonio Conte's job and their season with a timely performance against West Brom at Stamford Bridge — all while keeping an eye on the upcoming Barcelona game.
Monday's opponent may have been the last-placed club in the Premier League, but Chelsea were on the brink of a serious crisis and Eden Hazard stepped up to provide two stunning strikes that eased the pressure on Conte.
Victor Moses scored the second goal after some nice midfield play from Cesc Fabregas, who returned for the much derided, and suspended, Tiemoue Bakayoko.
Conte's long-term future remains in doubt, but in the short term Chelsea will stick with him, especially with a stabilising result going into a difficult run in late February and early March which also sees them face both Manchester clubs away from home.
A 3-0 win against West Brom is a huge confidence boost and Olivier Giroud performed admirably in his first start for the club while Alvaro Morata returned from his back injury to play a part versus the Baggies.
Willian also got on the pitch as he returned from his hamstring injury, with Conte wanting to get his unfit players ready for the Barcelona ties in the Champions League.
Andreas Christensen's return was a key presence too, with David Luiz bullied by Troy Deeney last week after becoming a fringe player under Conte this season.
Chelsea are now only three points behind second-place Manchester United in the league and have leap-frogged Spurs back into fourth, while they remain in two cup competitions.
The crisis looks to have temporarily subsided, but Manchester City remain in a league of their own with a 19-point lead over Chelsea. They can make it mathematically impossible for the current champions to win the league with five more wins.
Meanwhile, the FA Cup is up next and it is probably Chelsea's best chance of silverware. Conte has had the favourable draw of Hull City at home and a decent win there can complete some form of rehabilitation for Chelsea going into the Barcelona game next Tuesday.
A Chelsea crisis always looms large and it is hard to have total confidence that Conte will stay beyond this season, but one thing that remains permanent is Hazard's class.
Hazard proved that for Conte he remains the club's main man with his 15th goal of the season, striding away from Morata's 12 strikes to become the club's top scorer.
He has seven in 2018 alone and will be key to Conte and Chelsea's aims this season. Conte remains able to put together a respectable season for Chelsea with a top-four finish and a good run in one or two of the cups, but it is unlikely that the doubts over his future will go away.
Chelsea haven't exactly got their swagger back, but their fight and effort has helped the club avoid yet another embarrassment — and that can be built upon.