CHELSEA v Stoke: Preview

Venue: Stamford Bridge
Date: Saturday, 4 April
Kick-off: 17:30 BST

After the international bore break, we’re back to the Premier League today for the late game at home to Stoke City.
We were far from our best in our last game in the Premier League and despite an initial 2-goal lead, made hard work of it with the sort of sloppy defending that took a late goal from Loic Remy to get away with a last gasp win. Jose Mourinho reckons we need 6 more wins if we’re to take the title this season although the way we’ve been playing, we need a rocket up our backsides to get them.

MANAGER’S VIEWS
Going into today’s game, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho says “Hazard is tired because he played two matches in three days. He travelled and didn’t sleep because he arrived in Belgium at 5 or 6 in the morning after playing in Israel. We think he can recover in these couple of days, but he plays tomorrow (Saturday). That’s football. That’s what a season is like for a player who is important for both his club and national team. I want to play him every time and the coach of his country wants to play him every time. He is a team player that plays with the ball, creates, dribbles and players with lots of intensity so it is not a surprise that he can be a bit tired. But I believe in him, the team and his ambition to play. And I believe in his desire to help the team reach their season objective, so I will start with him.
Diego trained on Thursday and Friday with the group. He is not injured but I don’t know if I will start with him or not. I need to analyse the situation with him and make a decision. He dedicated himself to getting fit on his days off, working hard in the morning and afternoon. We can say that we did all the tests and scans to confirm that scientifically at this moment the muscle is fine. But in football you need the confidence to know you are free to express maximum intensity, and that’s our doubt.
We need six victories and one draw from nine matches. It is a good situation for us, and one all the other clubs would like to have. But it’s pure mathematics. We need to win six matches and draw one. We need to do that, and we haven’t done it yet.”

Stoke boss Mark Hughes meanwhile, says “We have acquitted ourselves well in big games on the road. We want to go down to London and put in another good performance. I don’t think Chelsea have been playing as well as they were at the start of the season, but they are still picking up results. They don’t have Europe to contend with now and maybe that will help them in their bid to lift the title. I’ve not won there as manager but enjoy going back to Stamford Bridge. It was a good place for me and I’ve many good memories.”

SQUAD NEWS
For Chelsea, John Obi Mikel (knee) remains out but there’s a suspicion Diego Costa may have had a miraculous recovery from the hamstring injury that ruled him out of international duty for Spain.
For Stoke, Victor Moses is ineligible to play against us but Marc Muniesa (hamstring) returns and Jonathan Walters (calf) is expected to be ok to play.

TEAMS
CHELSEA (possible line-up): Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Matic, Fabregas; Hazard, Oscar, Willian; Costa
STOKE (possible line-up): Begovic; Bardsley, Wollscheid, Shawcross, Pieters; Whelan, N’Zonzi; Arnautovic, Adam, Diouf; Walters

LAST SEASON
Chelsea 3-0 Stoke (5 April 2014)

OTHER STUFF
• Stoke have failed to score against us in six of our last seven league meetings
• Stoke have only earned 5 out of a possible 39 against us in 13 league meetings
• Chelsea have drawn three of their last four league games at home
• Stoke have suffered consecutive defeats in the league
• Chelsea are the only team in the four divisions of English football with an unbeaten home record in the league this season
• Stoke have only lost five of their last 16 league games
• Chelsea have conceded just six goals in their 14 league games at Stamford Bridge.
• Stoke have conceded a league-high 16 goals from set pieces this season.
• Stoke (along with Burnley), are the only Premier League teams not to have received a red card this season.

PREDICTION
It’s Stoke, so it’s a fair bet they’ll come with the intention of kicking us round the pitch and if there’s any red cards, they won’t go the visitors way judging by the season’s stats. The outcome of this is going to be dependent on us keeping our cool.

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