Manchester City and Chelsea currently have the same number points in the league table, with Chelsea having one game in hand.
Jose’s men are expected to get three more points in their next game and extend their lead, but that won’t be a cakewalk when they visit the Britannia Stadium to face Stoke City.
Let’s have a look at the Stoke side in our Opposition Scouting Report:
THE TEAM AND THE RECENT FORM
Stoke City F.C. is a professional English football club, based in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Founded in 1863, it is the second oldest football club in the world, after Notts County. The club is also one of the founding members of the Football League.
Their one and only major trophy to this date came in 1972 when they beat Chelsea by 2-1 in the final of Football League Cup. They were also the runners-up in the 2011 FA Cup, beaten by Manchester City in the final.
Currently, they have 19 points from 16 games played, which include 5 wins, 4 draws and 7 losses. With a poor goal difference of -3, the team managed by Mark Hughes have scored 18 goals and conceded 21. They have just 2 wins in their last 7 games, losing 3 and playing a draw in the other 2. The two wins include victories over two big North London clubs, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspurs.
FORMATION AND STYLE OF PLAY
Mark Hughes has always preferred a 4-2-3-1 formation for his team. Four men at the back, with two defensive midfielders shielding are not afraid to go forward if the situation demands. While the three attacking midfielders only have one focus, to serve their lone forward.
With Victor Moses ineligible to play, Bojan Krkic can play on the left side of midfield, whose runs down the flank and crosses searching for Peter Crouch, can keep Chelsea’s back four busy.
Pressing and aggressive, that’s how their playing style can be best described. Unafraid to make tackles, the Potters are known for their pressing game off the ball, and when they do have possession, they make their physicality count instead of playing technically. This approach towards the game is not expected to change, even against Chelsea as it gave them an impressive victory over another team from London in Arsenal.
STRENGTH – KEY PLAYERS
Peter Crouch: The 33-year-old former England striker has done a reasonably good job for the team so far this season. His presence has encouraged his team to play long ball football and indulge in a more passing-based game. In 17 appearances this season, he has scored 5 goals for the Potters. Against Chelsea, he might prove to be their man when it comes to winning aerial duels and causing trouble to Courtois with headers through set-pieces, owing to his height.
Bojan Krkic: The ex-Barcelona man and La Masia product was very much unlikely to join a mid-table English team like Stoke City after having played for one of the Spanish giants. But wherever his fate brought him, he has certainly excelled at that place. Although he has scored only two goals this season, both his goals were crucial ones with one being against Tottenham and the other against Arsenal. This, in turn, marked the Potters’ 2 wins out of a total 5 this season.
The likes of Peter Crouch, Mame Diouf and Bojan Krkic can make their attack look dangerous. But whether they are Bojan’s electrifying runs down the flanks or Crouch’s long range efforts, they have always found it difficult to find that final touch and finishing prowess in front of goal. Just 18 goals scored in 19 games, goes to show the lack of killer instinct. They ought to change this against Chelsea, if they do not want to award Courtois with another clean sheet.
The Potters are known for their aggressive play and let’s be honest, it can cause trouble to us as well. But this can also backfire and lead them to committing fouls in dangerous areas. According to WhoScored.com, committing fouls in dangerous areas and giving away useless goals continues to be their big weakness.
HEAD TO HEAD
The two teams have met 85 times overall. While Chelsea have won on 42 occasions, Stoke have had 24 occasions to celebrate. On 19 occasions, the two teams have settled for a draw.
In the last five meetings between the two, Chelsea have been dominant with 4 wins. On one occasion, Stoke got better of them when they played host to Jose’s men at the Britannia Stadium last season, registering a 3-2 victory over the Blues.
Surely an away fixture even against a team like Stoke can’t be taken easily. But on Monday night, Jose Mourinho and his team will have to give it all to avenge last season’s loss. A win is even more important to Chelsea to restore a three-point lead over 2nd-placed Manchester City, with the Citizens behind the Blues only on goal difference.
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Edited By: Vikram Vadiganeni