In-form Chelsea travel to Stoke City to take on a side that are developing a reputation of upping their game when the big boys of the Premier League come visit
Champions Chelsea, having come off a lucky escape against Arsenal, will look to put one over Stoke. The home side are in a poor run of form, not having won any of their 4 previous games – including a morale-shattering loss to Bristol City in the Carabao Cup in midweek.
Known to be raucous when the likes of Chelsea come visit, the bet365 Stadium will surely be rocking this time around too. The form book goes out of the window on such occasions, and it will definitely be the case come Saturday.
A spirited display against Manchester United, preceded by a narrow 1-0 win over Arsenal at home, the Potters may just have found the formula to beat the big boys.
The Blues, on the other hand, are in superb form. They are unbeaten in 6 games, having won 5 of them. A comfortable win against Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup midweek, preceded by a lucky yet well-earned point against Arsenal, the away side are definitely the favourites on paper.
Team news and tactics
The home side are facing an injury crisis in defence. Both Ryan Shawcross and Geoff Cameron have been ruled out, while Kevin Wimmer is 50-50 to start. With Kurt Zouma also being unavailable against his parent club, that leaves Mark Hughes with only one fully fit senior defender to choose from.
The Potters will be expected to line up in a 3-4-2-1 formation with the in form Jese leading the line in attack. Him along with Eric Choupo-Moting will have the responsibility of breaking down that Chelsea defence. Darren Fletcher and Joe Allen will sit in front of the three-man defence, with the latter given more freedom to roam ahead and attack.
The aforementioned problems in defence may mean that Glen Johnson drops back to the right side of the defence, with Mame Diouf and Erik Pieters on the wings.
Like with most big games, Stoke will look to sit deep and hope to surprise their opponents on the counter-attack. They are aided by the fact that they have a pacy front-three, with Xherdan Shaqiri pulling the strings upfront.
Probable lineup (3-4-2-1): Butland (GK), Wimmer, Martins Indi, Johnson; Pieters, Fletcher, Allen, Diouf; Choupo-Moting, Shaqiri; Jese
The Blues, on the other hand, come visiting with only one injury worry – Danny Drinkwater. David Luiz is suspended from this game on account of the red card he picked up against Arsenal last weekend. Tiemoue Bakayoko was involved in a minor car accident, but has been cleared to play this weekend.
Chelsea will line up in their now familiar 3-4-3 formation with Alvaro Morata leading the line in attack. The Spaniard has had a good start to life in England, trying to fill the shoes of the now-departed Diego Costa. Eden Hazard might be fit enough to start his first Premier League game of the season, which should worry the already shaky looking Stoke defence.
They will, as usual, try and dominate possession to try and break down what is looking likely to be a wall of defenders. With their attacking inputs coming not only from the front-three, full backs Marcos Alonso and Davide Zappacosta have had their fair share of goals and assists too.
The weak link, however, may be in the center of defence. With Luiz suspended, either of the inexperienced Andreas Christensen or Antonio Rudiger will fill in for him, which may leave it vulnerable to the pace and guile of Jese.
Probable lineup (3-4-3): Courtois (GK), Cahill, Christensen, Azpilicueta; Alonso, Kante, Bakayoko, Zappacosta; Hazard, Willian, Morata
Player to watch out for
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
The Belgian looks to be getting back into form, producing a flawless display against Forest in midweek. Granted Stoke will be more of a challenge for him, but he does have a habit of standing up when it is most required for his team.
His opponents on the night are an injury-ridden Stoke defence who have not played together often this season – a prospect sure to excite him. His pace, dribbling ability and intelligence may just be too much for the home side to handle on the night.
- Chelsea have won 7 out of their last 8 Premier League away matches
- Stoke City have lost 13 times to Chelsea in the Premier League, more than any other opponent
- Shaqiri and Choupo-Moting have combined to create 9 goalscoring chances – second-highest in the league
- Chelsea have committed a league-high 68 fouls after the first 5 matches in the Premier League
1. Stoke City Asian Handicap +1.0 @1.80
2. Chelsea Clean Sheet – NO @1.57
1. Stoke Draw No Bet @4.00
Stoke City 1-2 Chelsea
Although Stoke will be tough to beat, in the end we expect Chelsea to defeat them. It will not be easy with the players being up for it and the crowd to back them up, but the away side might have too much quality for them.
So, the age-old question of whether Chelsea will be able to do it on a mild, autumn afternoon in Stoke: our answer, yes.