CHELSEA v Stoke: Preview

Venue: Stamford Bridge
Date: Saturday, 5 April
Kick-off: 17.30

All is not well in our world.
Last weekend we lost at Crystal Palace and followed that up with a 3-1 defeat to PSG midweek. Crisis? It certainly sounded like it with much stamping of feet and tantrums being thrown – not least of all from Jose Mourinho who felt defeat in the Premier League made it impossible for us to win the title, whilst the PSG result was simply “ridiculous”.
Today, it’s back to Stamford Bridge and a visit from a Stoke side very much on the up, with a run of five games unbeaten and three wins in a row. Still, we would all do well to remember we’re still 2nd in the table and not out of the Champions League yet, so things are better so far this season than last.

MANAGER’S VIEWS
Going into this evening’s game, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho says “We lost there (at The Britannia). Obviously we lost because we made a couple of mistakes, one of the not many matches where we’ve made defensive mistakes. But we played them in the cup at Stamford Bridge and won 1-0. It was not an easy match, it was open until the end. So I can imagine that tomorrow is going to be difficult. They are fresh, they play one match a week, they have no pressure. They will fight for a result to finish the season in a more beautiful position. So I think it will be difficult.”
Confident Potters boss Mark Hughes meanwhile, says “If ever there was a right time to go to a club such as Chelsea, it is when you are going there as a team in form. Our current form is arguably better than Chelsea’s. From our point of view it is certainly the best time to be going, but what you find with top clubs is they bounce back very quickly. When questions are asked of them, more often than not, top teams and top players have the answers. We have got to be mindful of that and be ready for something of a backlash.
We went there in the cup and we did okay up to a certain point, but we weren’t able to force the issue. I’d like to think we can improve on that performance and ask more questions this time. We are playing better, in comparison to where we were in January. Going to Chelsea is never easy and Jose Mourinho’s record as manager of Chelsea is absolutely unbelievable.”

SQUAD NEWS
For Chelsea, Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah are available again after being ineligible in midweek, but Ramires serves the final game of his three-match ban. Samuel Eto’o (hamstring) isn’t likely to be risked ahead of Tuesday’s game although Ashley Cole (knee) returns to the squad following his spell out injured. Whether or not Torres will get a start after Mourinho’s tough talking midweek is debatable.
For Stoke, Robert Huth (knee) is injured and Oussama Assaidi (knee) is not yet back in contention. Jonathan Walters is available after completing a three-game ban.

TEAMS
CHELSEA (Possible line-up): Cech; Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta; Matic, Lampard; Salah, Oscar, Hazard; Ba
STOKE (Possible line-up): Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters; N’Zonzi, Whelan; Odemwingie, Ireland, Arnautovic; Crouch

LAST MEETING (PL)
Stoke 3-2 Chelsea (7th December 2013)

PREDICTION
Stoke hadn’t beaten us in 14 league games before their 3-2 victory in the reverse fixture in December and they still haven’t beaten us at Stamford Bridge in 7 league and cup games, failing to score in the last 6.
At home, we’ve won our last four In the league, scoring 14 times without response and 44 points have come our way at Stamford Bridge. Stoke meanwhile, have lost just one game from nine since the start of February, and will be looking for their fourth straight win today.
Of course Jose’s unbeaten Stamford Bridge record (60 wins, 16 draws) is bound to be mentioned (and very possibly tested) this evening. But will it be a case of Home Sweet Home at the end of the day? Your guess is as good as mine!

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