Chelsea, Clubs, English Premier League, Story, West Bromwich Albion

Eden Hazard is starting to look like his old self again after starting the season with an injury as Chelsea took apart West Brom 4-0.
Chelsea correspondent Liam Twomey grades Antonio Conte and how his side have performed so far this season.

WEST BROMWICH — Antonio Conte praised his Chelsea players for making easy work of West Brom after a comprehensive 4-0 victory at The Hawthorns that piled the pressure on opposition manager Tony Pulis.

Eden Hazard scored twice while Alvaro Morata and Marcos Alonso also found the net as Chelsea recorded their biggest away win since beating Stoke City by the same score in September.

Throughout the match Pulis was assailed by boos and hostile chants from West Brom supporters, who want to see him sacked for presiding over the club’s worst start to a Premier League season since the 2005-06 campaign that saw them relegated.

Conte defended Pulis and instead focused on his own team, insisting that Chelsea’s rampant start to the match was the biggest contributing factor to the final score.

“It was very important for us to start this very busy period with a good win — especially against West Brom,” Conte said. “We struggled a lot last season in both games [against them]. We won 1-0 in both games but we struggled a lot. I think this game became easy because we started very well, with a great concentration and focus and with great solidity. We [also] showed a great link between our strikers.

“This game became easy because we played very well. West Brom for me is a really good team, a strong team physically. It is difficult to play against them, they have good tactical organisation and a really good manager with good experience.

“To win in this way is very important for our confidence, especially now as we have important games [coming up].”

West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis gestures during match against Chelsea
West Brom have a ‘really good manager’ in Tony Pulis despite Saturday’s scoreline, says Antonio Conte.

Pulis admitted his future rests with West Brom’s owners after the joint-heaviest defeat of his tenure to Chelsea left his position looking increasingly perilous.

Albion have now gone 11 games without a victory, and will be in the relegation zone on Sunday if West Ham beat Watford, leaving Pulis to deliver a realistic assessment of where he stands.

“The big thing is, this is not about me, the chairman, the owners or anything like that, it’s about the football club and what is the right decision for the football club,” Pulis said. “This club will be here well past when you’ve gone, I’ve gone, it’s about doing the right thing for the football club.

“I’ve been in the game long enough to know if you get bad runs then that’s what happens. They have to make a decision. I met with the Chinese owners on Friday night, they are wonderful people but I know, as well as everyone else, you have to get results, that’s what it’s about.”

Chelsea’s four-goal cushion enabled Conte to bring off key players Cesc Fabregas, Hazard and N’Golo Kante well before the final whistle — a bonus for Conte as he prepares to navigate a trip to Azerbaijan to face Qarabag in the Champions League on Wednesday, before resuming Premier League action against Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday.

“On Wednesday, this will be the most important game of the season,” the Italian admitted. “A win puts us into the next round of the Champions League. To start our path in this way was very positive.”

On the scheduling of the Liverpool match for Saturday, Conte added: “Now we have another problem. We play Qarabag away on Wednesday and then get back to London at five or six o’clock [in the morning], but we have a great game against Liverpool on Saturday.

“Is this normal? I don’t think so. If someone wants more balance in this league they must pay great attention before they prepare the fixtures.”

Conte was able to pick the same starting XI to face West Brom that defeated Manchester United convincingly a fortnight ago, and after the match he spoke of his relief that Chelsea’s early-season injury problems are easing.

“We are in a good physical condition,” Conte continued. “[Victor] Moses is progressing well. I hope to have him back very soon, from [Sunday] I hope, [in time for] the game after Qarabag. It is very important to have the senior players in good form and without injury.

“We started this season with many problems but we are trying slowly, slowly to find the right solution. I am very happy, especially for the performance and commitment of my players.”

Information from Press Association Sport was used in this report.

Liam is ESPN FC’s Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.

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