Stamford Bridge, London
April 05, 2014; 17:30 BST
Chelsea FC host Stoke City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday as they look to keep return to winning ways following two back to back defeats. In fact the disappointing loss against PSG in the midweek, was there third away defeat in a row and interestingly Jose Mourinho’s men have won only one of their last seven matches on the road in all competitions – which certainly isn’t enough for a side with title ambitions.
Chelsea are currently second in the points table in the Premier league – two points behind Liverpool and two points ahead of Manchester City, who have two matches in hand. Their strong hold on the title race has slipped away following poor results against Aston Villa and Crystal Palace. They will now need to bounce back in order to maintain their hopes of catching up with the teams at the top.
Chelsea are welcoming a Stoke City side who have been on fine form recently and have lost just one of their last nine matches in the Premier League. They are currently on a five match unbeaten streak and have won their last three games – including a 1-0 win over Hull City in their last match as Peter Odemwingie scored the winner.
This run of results has seen them climb up the table to 10th and they now have Newcastle United in their sight. But Stoke City don’t really have a great record in this stadium and they have failed to score on their last six visits – losing each one of them.
Team news and tactics
Jose Mourinho doesn’t have any new injury concerns ahead of this match against Stoke City. Ramires will continue to serve his suspension in the Premier League, while Ashley Cole, whose last appearance for the Blues was against Stoke City in the FA Cup back in January, is yet to recover from his knee ligament injury. But the England international is likely to return to the squad during Chelsea’s match against Swansea City later this month.
There were slight concerns about the fitness of David Luiz ahead of Chelsea’s midweek Champions League clash against PSG, following his early substitution in the match against Crystal Place with a knock, but the Brazilian international played the whole ninety minutes in France. Samuel Eto’o missed the trip to Paris as he was yet to recover from his hamstring injury, which forced him to be substituted in the opening 10 minutes of the game against Arsenal. But the former Barcelona striker is expected to be fit and available for selection against Stoke City. Marco van Ginkel remains the only other concern at the moment. The 21-year-old has made good progress recently, but is still long way from making his return to the first team squad.
Jose Mourinho opted to play with a false nine against PSG with Andre Schurrle starting upfront, despite the presence of Fernando Torres on bench. But the Chelsea boss was once again bemoaned his lack of options upfront and is sure to make changes to the team ahead of this game. Mourinho is expected to make four changes to the starting line-up he used in the midweek.
Samuel Eto’o will lead the line upfront, considering he is fully fit ahead of this game. Willian didn’t have a good game against PSG and Mourinho could drop both Schurrle and Willian from the side and opt to hand over Mohamed Salah his first Premier League start. In the midfield David Luiz, who scored an own goal against PSG, and Ramires, who is suspended for this game, will make way for Nemanja Matic and Frank Lampard.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Cech (GK); Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta; Matic, Lampard; Salah, Oscar, Hazard; Eto’o
Unlike Mourinho, Mark Hughes doesn’t have too many selection headaches at the moment as his team has performed quite well and he has nearly fully fit squad to choose from ahead of this game. Robert Huth is the only key member he is missing currently, while Oussama Assaidi is still struggling to regain full fitness.
Hughes is unlikely to make any changes to the starting line-up he used against Hull City in their last game. Jonathan Walters, who has returned from suspension following his dismissal against Norwich City, is available for selection once again But Peter Odemwingie, who has scored three goals in his last three games, has produced some wonderful performances in his absence and Mark Hughes is unlikely to drop him any time soon.
Stoke City have been defensively solid recently, which has largely contributed to their fantastic run of form since March. They have conceded only five goals in their last seven matches – which includes matches against Manchester City and Arsenal. Moreover, considering Chelsea’s lack of goals, Mark Hughes will be confident about pulling out another positive result in this game at Stamford Bridge.
Stoke City will look to restrict Eden Hazard’s influence in the game and right back Geoff Cameron will need help from Steven N’Zonzi and Peter Odemwingie down that flank to contain him. In fact N’Zonzi’s performance in the middle of the park will be crucial for Stoke City and his battle with Nemaja Matic will be one to watch-out for. Stoke City will sit back and absorb Chelsea’ attack, while looking to hit them on the counter attack using the pace of Arnautovic and Odemwingie. Peter Crouch also provides them with a massive focal point upfront and the midfielders can easily take advantage of his hold-up play to release the pressure at the back.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Begovic (GK); Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters; N’Zonzi, Whelan; Odemwingie, Ireland, Arnautovic; Crouch
- After winning eight and losing none of the first 10 Barclays Premier League meetings with Stoke City, Chelsea lost the last encounter earlier this season 2-3 to the Potters.
- Stoke managed to score as many goals in their last match against Chelsea as they had managed in the previous 10 Premier League meetings (3).
- Only Stoke City (15) have recovered more points from losing positions than Chelsea (14).
- Peter Odemwingie has scored in three successive Premier League appearances for the first time since May 2011 (five apps in a row).
- Chelsea have dropped just eight points from the last 75 available at Stamford Bridge (P25 W21, D4).
Player to watch-out for
Asmir Begovic (Stoke City)
Asmir Begovic has arguably been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier Leagues this season. The 26-year-old has been a consistent performer for the Potters since joining them back in 2010 and has been one of the prime reason behind their new found solidity at the back. He has kept eight clean sheets so far in the Premier League and has made 91 saves in 27 starts. The former Portsmouth custodian could come under some severe pressure at Stamford Bridge on Saturday and Mark Hughes will be hoping that his big man can keep them in the game when needed.
Chelsea 1-0 Stoke City
It will be close match but the Blues should win it, narrowly, in the end. Mourinho will expect a reaction from his side after the disappointing results in the last two games, as they look to keep up with Manchester City and Liverpool at the top. Stoke City will be organized at the back and will make it hard for the London club, but Mourinho’s men will sneak a winner before the final whistle.