Club News

Clarke: We need to focus on us

Baggies boss gives his thoughts on return to his former club

STEVE Clarke has urged his players to ignore the troubles surrounding Chelsea and Rafa Benitez - and focus on their own jobs in tomorrow’s Stamford Bridge clash (ko 3pm).

The seventh-placed Baggies head for West London on the back of successive wins over Liverpool and Sunderland.

Albion also beat the Blues 2-1 in November thanks to goals from Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie.

And they now go in search of their first-ever Barclays Premier League away point against Chelsea, who have won seven, drawn four and lost two on their own patch this term.

“We beat them earlier in the season and we played really well that day,” said the Hawthorns boss, who will be returning to the club where he spent 20 years as a player and coach.

“We put on a good performance – one of our best of the season – it was a great win for us.

“But it’s a different game at Stamford Bridge.

“Chelsea are a team full of talent and their home record by and large is very, very good.

“So, it’s a difficult place to go but we’re confident, we’re in a good place and we’ve managed back-to-back wins in the Premier League, which is never easy.

“We will go there looking to add to our points tally.”

Clarke added: “I didn’t hear Rafa's audio, I just read it, and a transcript is different from hearing what he said.

“I didn’t see a lot wrong in what he said.

“If you’re manager of a club like Chelsea you know what comes with the territory.

“You have great players and you’ve always got a chance of winning major competitions.

“Everybody keeps telling me that Chelsea are struggling but they’re doing okay.

“Rafa Benitez was put in as manager to take the club to the end of the season and I’m sure that will happen.

“My connection with Chelsea is a big part of my past.

"Twenty years out of nearly 50 is a big part of my life.

“But I want to win every week, I don’t have any greater hunger to win at Stamford Bridge.

“I just want to win as many games as I can. I’m a professional.

“When you go to any of the bigger clubs, early on you have to stay in the game and that’s what we’ll focus on.

“The atmosphere, and whatever the Chelsea fans do or the media want to build up around it, is not a concern for us.

“We have to focus on what we do.”

The Baggies are now just two points behind sixth-placed Everton and seven adrift of Arsenal, who currently occupy the last guaranteed Europa League spot in fifth.

And, with 11 games remaining, Clarke admits it is a tough task to overhaul the Gunners and Toffees.

“I’m not sure the European spot is there,” he said.

“It only goes down to fifth in the league and at this stage we’re a little bit away from that.

“It’s not something we will rule out because we’re going to try to get as many points as we can between now and the end of the season, but if we look at the teams above it will be difficult to catch them.”