The International break is finally over as Chelsea host Stoke City at Stamford Bridge. The leaders will be looking to do a double over the Potters after their 2-0 win at the Britannia Stadium in December last year. Also, a win can potentially hand them a 9-point lead at the top with Man City not playing until Monday.
TEAM NEWS, INJURY UPDATES AND SUSPENSIONS
Diego Costa pulled a hamstring in the last outing at Hull City and has been a major concern for the hosts. However, the Spaniard was involved in training and is in line to be fit enough to start the match. Also, midfielder John Obi Mikel (knee injury) is scheduled to be assessed after a month on the sidelines.
On-loan Stoke winger Victor Moses is ineligible to face his parent club, but Hughes is keeping tabs on Jonathan Walters (calf) and Marc Muniesa (hamstring) to be fit for the trip to West London.
Stoke City are yet to score in six of the last seven Premier League matches against Chelsea. The Blues have won 10 and lost one of their 13 league meetings with the Potters. The Blues have conceded 8 goals in their last 22 league matches at Stamford Bridge, keeping 16 clean sheets in that run. Adding to the fact, Chelsea are the only side in England unbeaten at home. Peter Crouch has scored seven top-flight goals this season that earned Mark Hughes side nine points. On the other hand, Diego Costa’s 19 league goals have earned Chelsea eight points.
PLAYER VS PLAYER BATTLES
DIEGO COSTA vs. RYAN SHAWCROSS
Given the fierce nature of both the players, it would be more of a physical battle, and officials can play a central role.
IVANOVIC, AZPILICUETA vs. DIOUF, ARNAUTOVIC
The Blues full-backs are in for a tough test against the pace of opposition wingers. Both full-backs like to attack more and final third being more of a familiar place for them; it is to be seen how they cope with the stones turned their way.
CAMERON vs. EDEN HAZARD
Considering the recent form and talent, Cameron may get a nightmare of a game-time as he bids to face the Belgian magician, Eden Hazard. It will be a tough ask for him to keep the little maestro quiet throughout the game.
GARY CAHILL, JOHN TERRY vs. PETER CROUCH
Two Englishmen up against another Englishman. John terry will be motivated following his 1-year contract extension, but Cahill will be more of a concern as the latter has been suffering from a dip in form. Crouch’s height can give him the upper hand in this battle.
Chelsea are unbeaten at Stamford Bridge with Jose Mourinho’s side looking to get the better of the visitors to cement their position at the top. The home side have failed to register a win in their previous two home games and will be hoping to break the streak with a bang. Diego Costa is expected to score and Fabregas to assist. However, fans will be more pleased to see Oscar, Willian and Cuadrado getting their name on the scoresheet. Last but not the least, Eden Hazard is expected to, well everyone knows, do what he does best, create chances for his teammates.
Stoke City will be on the back-foot as the Potters bid to avoid three back to back defeats. Stoke are expected to deal with the home side using possession football looking to hit the Blues on the counter. If the visitors are to salvage anything from the Bridge, their goalkeeper, Begovic has to be in top form. Adding to the pressure, the visitors are searching for a win at the Bridge since 1984.
LAST 5 PREMIER LEAGUE MEETINGS
Stoke City 0-2 Chelsea 22/12/2014
Chelsea 3-0 Stoke City 05/04/2014
Stoke City 3-2 Chelsea 07/12/2013
Stoke City 0-4 Chelsea 12/01/2013
Chelsea 1-0 Stoke City 22/09/2012
PREDICTED STARTING LINE-UPS
Chelsea: Courtois (GK), Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (C), Azpilicueta, Matic, Fabregas, Hazard, Oscar, Willian, Costa.
Stoke City: Begovic (C), Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters, Adam, Nzonzi, Diouf, Ireland, Arnautovic, Crouch.
Chelsea 2 – 0 Stoke City
TIME: 04:30 GMT / 22:00 IST
VENUE: Stamford Bridge
REFEREE: Jonathan Moss
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Edited By: Vikram Vadiganeni