December 07, 2013; 15:00 BST
Stoke City host Chelsea FC in their next Premier League fixture at the Britannia Stadium as both teams look desperate for a win, for very different reasons. The last meeting between these two sides ended in a 4-0 loss for the Potters as two own goals by Jonathan Walters grabbed the headlines. The last time Stoke beat Chelsea was back in 1995 in a League Cup fixture, while their last league win over the Blues came in 1975. The history doesn’t make a good reading for the home side in this fixture and they will have to produce something extraordinary to stop this run.
Stoke City are currently 14th in the league table and just four points above the relegation zone. They have won just one of their 11 Premier League fixtures. The 2-0 victory over Sunderland provided some hope for a turnaround in their fortunes, but they followed it up with a disappointing 4-0 defeat at the hands of Everton. Mark Hughes’ men are coming into this game on the back of a goalless draw with Cardiff at home, which was their 4th draw in the last seven games in the league. Stoke’s home form has been encouraging though, the Potters have lost just one of their seven home games so far, although they have drawn too many of these fixtures. They need to start producing the results soon, or they could find themselves dragged down to the relegation dog fight. But the prospect of facing Chelsea and Manchester United in their next three fixtures won’t be too encouraging.
Chelsea are also in need of a win in this game in order to maintain their pressure on Arsenal at the top. The London club are second in the points table and four points behind the league leaders Arsenal. Chelsea made a relatively slow start to their domestic campaign under new manager Jose Mourinho, but they have produced some good performances recently. The Blues bounced back admirably after dropping points against Newcastle and West Brom, with convincing performances against West Ham, Southampton and Sunderland. The match against Gus Poyet’s side turned out to be a spectacular one as seven goals were scored on the night. Individual brilliance of Eden Hazard proved to be the difference in the end as Chelsea scored four past the Mannone. Mourinho would urge his side to maintain this momentum before they face Arsenal in two weeks.
Stoke City – Team News, Lineup And Formation
Mark Hughes has two injury concerns to contain with ahead of this game. Robert Huth is still out injured, while there are doubts about the fitness of Erik Pieters, who limped off in the midweek clash against Cardiff. This means Hughes will be without two of his first choice defenders for this game, which is a dreadful prospect considering the fact that they will face an attack which has scored 10 goals in their last three outings.
Hughes is expected to make two changes to the side which he fielded against Cardiff. Marc Muniesa will replace the injured Pieters at the left back spot, while Jonathan Walters, who was rested in the last game, is expected to replace Oussama Assaidi. Walters had a match to forget during his last outing against Chelsea and will look to make amends in this game.
The former Manchester City manager will change back to a 4-5-1 formation for this game, to provide extra protection to the defence. Hughes’ primary concern will be to contain one of the best attacks in the league. The presence of Walters on the right flank is expected to add a bit more defensive cover down that wing and will provide Geoff Cameron with a bit of protection against an in-form Eden Hazard. Stoke City have conceded just two goals in their last six home matches, but this record will be severely tested in this game, especially in the absence of Huth.
Mark Hughes has looked to make significant changes to the playing style of Stoke City this season and it brought results early on in the season. Stoke looked to pass the ball on the ground and keep possession, which was in stark contrast to how they played under Tony Pulis. But soon the goals dried up and they went through a period where they scored just once in five league matches. But Hughes made a tactical change against Manchester United and brought in Peter Crouch. He mixed up Stoke’s style of play where they looked for quick transition from defence to attack through the two wingers and also played the ball towards Crouch when needed. This almost brought a good result at Old Trafford as Crouch and Arnautovic terrorized the United defence.
Hughes could once again change back to that similar tactics against Chelsea, where the defence will hold a deep line, invite the away side to attack, and then hit them on the break.
Possible Starting Line up [4-5-1]: Begovic (GK); Muniesa, Wilson, Shawcross, Cameron; Arnautovic, Whelan, N’Zonzi, Adam, Walters; Crouch
Chelsea – Team News, Lineup And Formation
Jose Mourinho is still missing a lot of his key players ahead of his game. David Luiz is expected to return in next weeks, while Marco van Ginkel remains the long term injury concern. There are also doubts about the fitness of Oscar and Samuel Eto’o and the duo are unlikely to start in this match.
Mourinho is expected make two changes to the side which he fielded in the 3-4 win over Sunderland in the midweek clash. Ashley Cole is likely to replace Cesar Azpilicueta at the left back, while Schurrle will look to start this game in place of Willian. Mourinho has earlier insisted that he will change rotate his left backs and after picking Azpilicueta in the last game, Ashley Cole is likely to make his appearance against Stoke. There is also a possibility of Frank Lampard starting from the bench after playing for 90 minutes in the midweek clash – in which case Mikel will replace him alongside Ramires.
Oscar’s absence means Mata will continue to operate through the middle, while Eden Hazard will once again look to spearhead the attack from the left. Mourinho was disappointed about the three goals his side conceded against Sunderland and would expect a better defensive performance in this game. He will be well aware of the threat Stoke possesses from set-pieces and that could be a major concern for the back four.
Stoke City are likely to sit deep in this game, which means Chelsea will have less space in attack. With the opponents looking to crowd the midfield, Chelsea will have to be patient in possession and will largely depend on Mata to find a defence unlocking pass. Stoke’s main threat will come from the wings and this is where Chelsea will have to be careful. Mark Hughes’ side can be dangerous from counter attacks, specially Arnautovic on the right. Ramires and Lampard will have to cover for the full-backs as they move forward in attack and make sure that the Stoke wingers are not able to exploit the space left behind the fullbacks. Cahill and Terry are expected to handle Crouch better than the Manchester United defence did at Old Trafford.
Possible Starting Line-Up [4-2-3-1]: Cech (GK); Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Lampard, Ramires; Schurrle, Mata, Hazard; Torres.
- Stoke City have scored just three goals in 10 Barclays Premier League games against Chelsea, failing to net in the last four in a row.
- Chelsea have won 10 and lost none of the last 12 meetings with the Potters in all competitions.
- Chelsea inflicted Stoke’s heaviest ever Premier League defeat – 0-7 in April 2010.
- The Blues also inflicted Mark Hughes’ heaviest ever Premier League defeat as a coach, with a 1-6 result when he was at QPR in April 2012.
- Hughes has enjoyed just two wins and endured 10 defeats in his 15 matches as an opposition coach against his former club Chelsea.
Player To Watch Out For
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
The Belgium international arguably produced his best performance in a Chelsea shirt against Sunderland. He scored two wonderful goals and provided an assist. The 22-year-old started the season slowly compared to his high standards and is seemingly returning to his best as we enter the business end of the season. Hazard has now scored six and provided three assists in last eight Premier League matches. Chelsea’s strikers have struggled to score goals in the Premier League this season and Hazard’s recent goal scoring form (along with Oscar and Lampard) is covering up for that.
Stoke City 1-2 Chelsea
Stoke City will make it hard for Chelsea and will primarily look to contain in the first half, but Chelsea will manage to score through their superior attack. This will force Stoke to push forward and will leave space at the back for Chelsea to exploit. The home side will get one back in the end, but expect Chelsea to win this by a one goal margin.