Venue: Britannia Stadium
Date: Saturday, 12 January
Kick-off: 15.00 GMT
After another avoidable defeat midweek in the Capital One Cup, it’s back to the Premier League and a trip to the Britannia this afternoon. And whilst we usually come away from there with something, Stoke are a lot stronger at home this season.
Ironically, Demba Ba has done fairly well since failing a medical at Stoke two years ago, scoring four times against them in four Premier League games, so if he gets more than ten minutes at the end of the game today, he might just make them regret that a little bit more.
Going into today’s game, Tony Pulis seems intent on winding us up focusing more on voicing his hopes to see Rafa stay than the game itself, insisting “Rafa needs the opportunity – and it isn’t weeks or months, you have to give people time. Chelsea have got some fantastic players. But the instability of the club is partly to blame in lots of respects. You’ve got to let people get on with their jobs and do the job in good times and bad times. Manchester United have bad runs, Manchester City, but you have to stick with what you believe.
Hopefully they’ve picked their manager now and will give him the opportunity – and it isn’t weeks or a few months, you have to give him a few years in the job to put everything in place to build a club. You can’t do it on a weekly or monthly basis. He’ll be hoping it’s not a short-term thing. Stability within a club breeds success – and continued success. I think they had that for a period with Mourinho. Rafa doesn’t need this pressure. It’s pressure the players don’t need and it’s pressure the club don’t need. That’s all stimulated by constant change. I’m not in charge there, I have no feelings for the club. But I know they have a very rich owner who wants to see them win and win.”
For Stoke, Marc Wilson (leg) and Rory Delap (hernia) remain out although Pulis has no new injury concerns.
For Chelsea, Oriol Romeu and Yossi Benayoun (both knee) are still absent and John Terry (knee) managed a run-out for the U21 side this week although is unlikely to be risked. Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel are both away with the African Cup of Nations although there’s an outside chance Cech could return.
STOKE (Possible line-up): Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Wilkinson; Walters, N’Zonzi, Whelan, Adam, Jerome; Jones.
CHELSEA (Possible line-up): Turnbull; Azpilizueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole; Luiz, Lampard; Oscar, Mata, Hazard; Ba
Stoke 0-0 Chelsea (14th August 2011)
Before today, we’re unbeaten in our last eight away to Stoke in the league and cup and they haven’t beaten us at home since 1975. Rafa though, has yet to prove he could care less about records we might have had before his arrival and he’d need to take this one seriously enough to start Demba Ba for either of those runs to be extended. If, as we probably all fear he starts Torres again, we’ll be lucky to come away with anything.