Preview: Stoke City vs. Chelsea
League leaders, Chelsea, will make their way north this weekend when they match up against Stoke City.
After a Kante strike to bring Manchester United crashing out of the FA Cup earlier in the week, Conte will be focusing all his attention to increasing the gap at the top of league, with the Semi-Final fixture against 2nd placed Tottenham being five weeks away.
Chelsea will be looking to set the top fours’ pace this weekend as they play before all league rivals, with 5th placed Arsenal holding the Saturday lunchtime slot.
The last time the two sides met was on New Year’s Eve, with the Blues winning 4-2. This game began Crouch’s return to form and Indi scored just 54 seconds into the second half to set the game level. But alas, it wasn’t to be.
Last week’s game against Manchester City was one to remember. A solid defensive performance from the lads gave us an invaluable point as we became the first side to visit the Etihad and level with a clean sheet. A new tactic was employed; a 4-4-2 formation gave Saido his first start and allows Walters to defend from the front. Sobhi put in another great performance, following a beautiful piece of trickery, he did get a booking after kicking the ball away. Ryan Shawcross was awarded MOTM, and rightly too, having out-hustled Aguero and stopped many of his deadly near post shots.
Stoke City: Shaqiri could make a return this week following his never-ending calf issues. Diouf will be out after suffering a knee injury last week, Johnson looks unlikely to return until early April and although we all hope Butland will return soon. It is extremely unlikely it will happen this week. Some good news is that Bruno Martins-Indi is likely to be back this week.
Chelsea: Only injury at Stamford Bridge is Victor Moses, who is also likely to return this week.
Head to Head:
* Chelsea have only won two of their last seven games away to Stoke in all competitions.
* Stoke has managed just two victories in 17 Premier League meetings (D3, L12).
* Stoke are unbeaten in eight league home games (W4, D4). It’s their best run since a 17-match streak in 2012, which ended with a 4-0 defeat by Chelsea.
* The Potters have kept three clean sheets in their last four league games.
* Stoke have won just one of their 12 previous games against teams who began the match top of the Premier League (D2, L9) – that was a victory against Manchester City in December 2015.
* Chelsea’s only defeat in their last 22 league and cup games came at Tottenham on 4 January (W19, D2).
* Chelsea have used the fewest players (21) and made the fewest changes to their starting line-up (24) this season in the Premier League.
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