Steve Sidwell has praised the impact of Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea this season.
The former Albion midfielder and current under-16s coach has covered the Blues on a number of occasions in a media capacity and feels the former PSG boss – who took the reins at Stamford Bridge in late January – can lead the club to former glories.
“While I was disappointed to see Frank Lampard lose his job, the hierarchy made a calculated risk in changing manager but it’s one that I’m confident will pay off,” he said. “While you always get a reaction from players after a new man comes in, Chelsea have built up a real head of steam.
“From what I’ve seen they look more structured; they’re less open defensively and more fluid from back to front – and are benefiting from a manager who we know has bundles of experience from his time at PSG and Borussia Dortmund.
“That bodes well for the future but, more immediately, I’m sure they’ll make the top four this season and, for me, they’re the team to beat in the Champions League.
“I fancy them going all the way and if you look at their squad, aside from Manchester City, it’s probably the best in England and possibly Europe. The Chelsea team that won it in 2012 were nowhere near favourites, and although more will be expected this time, in these one-off games they’ve got every chance. What was looking like a difficult season is now looking very promising.”
While Sidwell has his colours tied to Albion’s mast, he is also happy to fly the blue and white flag of Chelsea, having supported the club since a boy. He went on to fulfil a dream when he signed for Jose Mourinho in 2007, although he would remain at Stamford Bridge for just one season.
“I got a lot of stick at the time, with people saying I was only going there from Reading for financial gain, but nothing could have been further from the truth,” he adds. “I supported Chelsea as a kid, as do a lot of my family, so when the club came calling – and a manager of Jose Mourinho’s standing wants you – I didn’t have to think twice.
“I’ve always been someone who would rather try something and it not work out, rather than not try it at all and have regrets, so it was still a season I took plenty from.
“While we didn’t have the best of times, with no silverware, I came away with bundles of experience. I’d worked under a world-class manager and when you’re around players like Terry, Lampard, Ballack, Essien, Makelele, Drogba, you take on board how they go about their day-to-day business.
“It was no secret how hard Lampard trained day in, day out, to get to the levels he achieved in terms of goals and trophies, and that really made an impression on me. At the age of 24, 25, it made me realise just how hard I had to work if I wanted to be a success at the highest level.”
Sidwell went on to play a further 150 games in the Premier League for Aston Villa, Fulham and Stoke before seeing out his career with the Seagulls. Despite his allegiances to the west London club, he is confident the Albion can pick up three vital points on Tuesday.
“I back us against anyone, and I mean that. Other than Man City, we’ve gone toe-to-toe with most clubs and given a great account of ourselves, and that doesn’t change against Chelsea.
“We’re playing good football and if we can take our chances, you never know what could happen on the night. Just look at what West Brom did at Stamford Bridge. If we can produce that kind of display then we have every chance.”