Christmas is just around the corner as Blues travel to the Brittania Stadium to line-up against Mark Hughes’ Stoke City in an attempt to secure all important 3 points.
Manchester City, after their 3-0 win against Crystal Palace couple of days back, sits at second position just behind Blues on goal difference. Needless to say, a loss against Stoke City, and we could be displaced from the throne for the first time this season.
Stoke City, on the other hand, continuing their midtable form sits at 13th position in the league table. Mark Hughes side may not be blessed with a quality comparable to Blues, but at home, on a cold Monday night, with their physical play, they can be one of the toughest teams to overcome in the Premier League. Although, they are not as physical as they used to be a couple of seasons back, but they are still tough to beat at home. Just ask Arsenal.
Jose Mourinho wouldn’t want to ruin his Christmas with a loss, leaving the top place in jeopardy and the manager would be fired up to secure a favorable result against the Potters on Monday. With all the players well rested before the game, we expect a full-fledged Chelsea side to start tomorrow, which brings us to the player battles.
Given the physical nature of this fixture, we could well see a quite a few number of individual player battles going on in the field tomorrow. Among them, there are 3 player battles which could very well play a huge part in defining the winner of this game.
DIEGO COSTA vs RYAN SHAWCROSS
A battle with a potential red card written all over it! This is the one battle I, personally, have been waiting for some time. It’s not because Ryan Shawcross is one of the best defenders in the world or anything. Hell, he is not even good enough to be in the English side comprising of Jones and Jagielka at the back. But, given the fiery nature of the player, somewhat similar to Diego Costa, this is the one battle to keep an eye on.
Shawcross has a history of getting into stupid battles, annoying the opposition players and be overly physical with his challenges. Sounds similar? Yes, sounds like Diego Costa. Although without the talent! On Monday night, Ryan Shawcross will have the job of stopping the Spaniard and if you ask me, we should very well brace ourselves for an intriguing battle between the two with a potential sending off in the second half.
Let’s keep an eye on the two tomorrow.
JONATHAN WALTERS vs CESAR AZPILICUETA
Buckle up Cesar, for this is going to be a physical ride against the Irish winger Jonathan Walters. The Republic of Ireland star has been leading the way for the Mark Hughes side this season, both in the goal and assist department. With 6 goals and 3 assists so far, Jonathan Walter has been one of the most influential player for the Potters along with Bojan Krkic in the attacking midfield.
The Tony Pulis signing, Walters scoring record may not be prolific, but his all-round dynamism and havoc-wreaking play is admirable among the fans and the manager alike.
Cesar Azpilicueta, widely regarded as one of the best one on one defender in the Premier League, will surely have a tough time coming up against the strong and physical midfielder making this a very interesting battle to watch out for, regardless of the winner on a cold Monday night.
PHIL BARDSLEY vs EDEN HAZARD
Eden Hazard has put up some brilliant performances this season, but his showings against the Hull City last week in the absence of Cesc Fabregas was the one to remember.
It wasn’t because he had the best game of his career or anything, surely the Belgian had better days. But the Blues had a very tough time breaking down the Tiger’s defense. After the loss to Newcastle it was even more important for us to get a result and that’s when Eden Hazard put his hand up, acting as the main creative outlet for the Blues, to put up a very good performance and secure the important 3 points. Just a reminder how much the Belgian has grown under Mourinho!
So the Belgian, in his usual quest of greatness, will be up against Phil Bardsley on the wings tomorrow night with an intention of destroying the fullback as he has been doing all season.
Phil Bardsley, another regular of Mark Hughes side could be in for a very tough ride when he lines-up against the Belgian, making it an exciting battle to watch out for tomorrow.
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Edited By: Ankur Bhatt