Mel: We must not switch off
Published 10/02/2014 | 19:02
West Brom head coach Pepe Mel has warned his players that anything other than a full 90-minute performance will not be good enough to beat Chelsea on Tuesday.
Since his appointment as successor to the sacked Steve Clarke, Mel has seen the best and the worst of the Baggies during his four games in charge, producing decent football only in patches.
It was the same again on Saturday at Crystal Palace as the first half was abysmal, resulting in a 2-0 deficit at the interval.
Mel's team finally came alive after the break, with debutant Thievy Bifouma pulling one back, only for a potential comeback to be stymied by a debatable penalty.
With Chelsea on a run of nine victories and a draw from their last 10 matches in all competitions, it is hard to see anything other than another Blues success.
Mel said: "In the first half against Palace we didn't understand the match.
"It was the same at Aston Villa (in a 4-3 defeat on January 29). We need to focus.
"In the second half (at Palace) we played well, with good mentality. The problem is we only played for 45 minutes."
In claiming just two points from his four games at the helm, and with Albion back in the bottom three since mid-September, Mel may have bitten off more than he can chew.
The 50-year-old Spaniard is still attempting to implement a greater degree of flowing football which he is convinced is the way to go if the club are to beat the drop.
Asked as to how tough the situation is for him right now, Mel added: "Football is a big game.
"Today it's white, tomorrow it's black. For me it is very important for my players that they think it is possible to win.
"Hard work will help us manage that, although the most important thing for me is we play for 90 minutes.
"If we play for only 40 or 60 minutes then it is impossible to beat Chelsea.
"So tomorrow I want to see my players play as one team together, pressing together and dropping off together in set-plays.
"Of course it is disappointing to be in the bottom three. We need to win to move up the table, and this is what I and my players are working for."
Defender Billy Jones is the latest doubt for Mel with a knee injury, and if ruled out will join Nicolas Anelka, Stephane Sessegnon and Jonas Olsson on the sidelines.
Chelsea are looking to maintain their lead at the top but Jose Mourinho knows any of the title contenders could falter when least expected to this campaign.
"Maybe the teams not in the top four will be very influential in the league," he said.
"Normally, people are pushed to say Chelsea against Arsenal, or Arsenal against City, or Liverpool against City. These are the matches that decide things. But maybe they aren't.
"In other leagues, it is like that. Madrid v Barcelona decides the title. Benfica v Porto decides the title. It's not the same situation here. The title is decided match after match.
"Every game is important. If we don't win tomorrow, it's not just about the title contenders to jump to the leadership again. It's also about Tottenham to win, Everton to win, and closing also the gap. At this moment, every point is important."